Sandra Mather first encountered Blythe House back in 2006 when she was a student nurse at the University of Derby, visiting the hospice to learn more about patient therapies and out-patient clinics, including palliative medicine and lymphoedema.

Sandra

Sandra, who is now a district nurse with the Bakewell and Baslow Team for Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust, regularly refers her own patients to Blythe House’s 24/7 Hospice at Home service, for palliative and end of life care in their own homes.

The Youlgrave resident has a former Blythe House employee to thank in part for her nursing career: Ruth Brown, who set up the Hospice at Home service back in 2016 and only recently retired in March 2021. Ruth inspired Sandra to go to university as a mature student and study to become a nurse.

Sandra said: ‘I have known Ruth for a very long time and it was her who inspired me to undertake my nurse training when I was a patient at Youlgrave and she was a mature nursing student at the practice. Ruth spoke so passionately about her role; it was one of the reasons I decided to study nursing myself.

‘I have always kept in touch with Blythe House throughout my career and work very closely with the Hospice and Helen’s Trust in my role as district nurse, alongside Dr Louise Jordan who’s a GP at Baslow Health Centre and a founding trustee of Helen’s Trust.’

The Hospice at Home service is now supporting Sandra’s own family, after helping her step mother, Lillian to die peacefully at home in February, and providing ongoing care to Sandra’s dad, John who has end stage heart failure.

John and Lillian

Sandra explains: ‘Lillian’s illness progressed very quickly – she became symptomatic in October 2020, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer: an unknown primary source and liver metastases. Lillian was a healthcare assistant during her career, so she knew what was coming; things really started to escalate from Christmas and she was in and out of hospital.

‘Prior to her illness, Lillian was Dad’s full-time support and they had been married for 23 years. As well as heart failure, Dad has also been diagnosed with kidney failure and he too, has had cancer in the past. Dad was very independent and could do a lot of things for himself, but Lillian would help him to dress and get him ready for bed. Sometimes during the night, Dad would wake up disorientated and Lillian was always there to say “go back to sleep, John.”

‘My husband and I moved in to support them both when Lillian became too unwell. Her illness was a huge shock to everyone as she was fiercely independent. During the last week of her life, I called upon Blythe House and Helen’s Trust to see if they could step in to provide night-time sits. The sits supported my husband and I to go back home and have a change of scenery, get a good nights’ rest and to enable me to cope with the day-time care for them both.

‘Lillian did have, what I would call, a “perfect death.” I am a big believer in having a good death, in my role as a district nurse. She looked beautiful; she wasn’t agitated or in pain. It was the best it could have been. She died peacefully at home on the 6th February 2021.

‘After Lillian died, Blythe House and Helen’s Trust started to provide respite night-time care for Dad. Dad is “fast tracked” [some people who are close to the end of their lives may be referred for Continuing Healthcare on the ‘fast track’. This is a streamlined process for people whose health is rapidly deteriorating and who require end of life care] and we were able to access support from local care agencies. However, I waited until Blythe House and Helen’s Trust had the availability and capacity to provide care for Dad because I wanted their continuity and compassion.

‘Healthcare assistants from the hospice support my family with four night-sits per week; they’re a God send to me personally, as they enable me to continue working as a district nurse. My sister, who is an infection control nurse at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, and my daughter who’s training to be a Nursing Associate at Derby University, also help to look after dad; we are a family of nurses.

‘The night-time sits provided by the hospice help me to have much-needed time out, go home, have a change of scenery and a full night’s sleep. The hospice team is so flexible; they always try to accommodate my working pattern and space out the sits depending on my shifts, so that I am not exhausted. Furthermore, the continuity of care for Dad is just fantastic; all the healthcare assistants have developed a therapeutic relationship with Dad and he enjoys the rapport and their company. They’ve all got their own sense of humour and ways of working, and nothing is too much trouble for the team; they all go that extra mile and always go beyond what is expected.

‘In my professional role as a district nurse, I know that I can call upon the Hospice at Home service for support too. One day, I rang the team at around four o’clock in the afternoon, about one of my patients who was very near the end of their life. I said “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you could pull something out of the bag for a night-sit tonight?” I left it with them, and they arranged it all. They do amazing things like that. That patient died that night – but knowing their family was supported, to take the pressure off and to make losing someone the best it can be – that’s all you can ever wish for.

‘At home, we also have support from a hospice Community Volunteer called Charlie. He visits once a week to chat to Dad or read to him. He’s really quite amazing. The afternoon visits give me chance to go out and do shopping, walk Dad’s dog, Patch, or catch up with jobs at home; knowing Dad’s in very safe hands. Life would be hectic without Blythe House and Helen’s Trust, and I wouldn’t be able to manage. I’d be exhausted both physically and emotionally.

‘As a district nurse, I continually encounter end of life patients in a professional environment, but now I am living it myself and it is heart breaking. Lillian has left a big void since she died, but we’re carrying on, and the hospice is enabling us to do that.

‘Both Dad and I donate monthly to the Hospice to enable others to receive excellence in healthcare and comfort in the own homes.’

Find out more about our Hospice at Home service and how it could support your family.

Joy Stephenson’s husband, Chas started to attend Blythe House following his diagnosis with a rare form of blood cancer. Joy was also offered carers support from the hospice, before Chas sadly died in January 2021 after receiving Hospice at Home care.

Joy, from Hayfield, explains: ‘Chas and I met as students and our first date was when he asked me to go for a walk after dinner while we were on a geology field trip in Tenby – the rest is history as they say! We were 20, and married four years later in Aylesbury where we were both working and went on to have three lovely children. We later moved, first to Warwickshire and eventually in 1972, to High Peak, where we brought up our children and have lived here ever since. We celebrated our diamond wedding in April last year but sadly, Covid and Chas’ health problems, meant it was not the big family affair we would have hoped for. He was part of my life for more than 65 years – we couldn’t have dreamt all those years ago that we would be so fortunate.

‘Chas had a variety of apparently unrelated health problems over a period of several years before a routine blood test, ordered by his dermatologist, led to a diagnosis of myelodysplasia [a rare form of blood cancer] early in 2015, followed about three years later by a diagnosis of vascular dementia. The dementia diagnosis was surprising because he didn’t fit the normal profile of a sufferer – he didn’t smoke and was extremely fit and active – a long distance walker and fell runner. He was never happier than when he was out roaming over Kinder Scout and the wider Peak District. He was still walking long distances most days until about two years before he died – not being able to be out on the hills was so frustrating for him but he continued to walk locally most days for as long as he could.

‘Following the blood cancer diagnosis, Chas became increasingly transfusion dependent and any knocks which caused bleeding meant frequent trips to A&E for platelet transfusions to stop the bleeding. Eventually it became clear that he was not benefitting as much as he might from his blood transfusions but he needed to make the decision to stop for himself. I found it difficult to broach the question of when is enough, enough and he always sidestepped any attempts to discuss end of life care with me.

‘Two people came to the rescue: firstly the consultant at the hospital who was able to ask, and get a thoughtful response. He arranged for Chas to sign a ‘do not resuscitate’ DNR form, and then the wonderful Dr Sarah Parnacott who was able to have a good conversation with us and fill in a ReSPECT [Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment] with him, with his end of life wishes clearly stated. Essentially, this meant being cared for, and dying, at home.

‘The hospital consultant made the referral to Blythe House; and then followed almost two years of what I can only describe as an amazing and wonderful partnership between us and the marvellous staff at the hospice. I won’t pretend that it was always easy – initially we weren’t sure what to expect and it isn’t easy handing over so much of your life to other people, and to allow them to take such an intimate part in your lives. However, we were immediately given a warm welcome. At the beginning, Chas was quite resistant to going: “I don’t see why I have to go there?” But, he always enjoyed his time there and I could have a few hours to myself knowing than he was such good hands.

‘One really good thing was the opportunity for him to spend some quality time in the company of other men and the chance for a good natter. Not only was Chas pampered, but my needs were also being cared for – a chance to talk about my worries and concerns, and the offer of complementary therapy, so I was able to have some relaxing pampering too. We very quickly came to realise that the whole ethos was to meet the needs of us both, and to anticipate when that help needed to be stepped up.

‘I think the most difficult thing was when to accept the offer for that support to come directly into the home. Inviting strangers into your home to take over much of the caring role was hard. On the one hand, I felt I was abdicating responsibility and I wasn’t sure what to expect. On the other hand, I was becoming exhausted and realised that I was struggling to cope. I shouldn’t have worried; the carers were so experienced and sensitive to our needs and they became welcome friends and always seemed to know exactly what was needed. More importantly, I came to understand and welcome their input, especially when they always seemed to know the right time to step up the amount of care we needed; I never needed to ask. Night care became the next issue, our nights were becoming increasingly disturbed and it was difficult to see how it would work, but of course, I shouldn’t have worried. At first, it was one or two nights a week but this gradually needed to be increased as Chas’ condition worsened and then we came to rely on it.

‘So what do the Hospice at Home healthcare assistants do? The answer is everything and anything that is going to help all the family. At its most basic, helping with washing, showering and dressing, and then helping to get ready for bed. But it becomes much more than that; applying ointments and creams, changing beds, dealing with washing, preparing food and then feeding if necessary.

‘Their advice becomes invaluable – especially on helping to adjust to a constantly changing situation and above all making sure that I was ok. This became an issue for us as I started to develop health problems of my own and they were there for me too. They delivered all this care with compassion, sheer hard work, friendship, love and, so often, much-needed good humour. Above all, they allowed Chas to maintain as much dignity as possible and to die at home surrounded by love with me and my daughter beside him.

‘Does this do them justice? Probably not! I can’t find the words to express what they meant to us. The family and I will never forget them, and will be forever in their debt. Thank you.’

Find out more about our services and how they could support your family.

Remember someone special as part of our Sunflower Memories month. 

Throughout June, you can dedicate a flower in memory of someone special, and make a donation to support local hospice care and services.

For a suggested minimum donation of £10, a sunflower in the virtual hospice garden will be dedicated to your loved one, and you’ll receive your very own sunflower plaque bearing your relative or friend’s name, to plant in your garden at home.

All the money raised during the month-long commemorations will go towards providing free palliative and end of life care to local patients.

Dedicate a sunflower in memory of someone you love.

Steven (left) with grandma Heather, brother, Shaun and mum, Sue

This Sunflower Memories Month, Steven Searle from Buxton is remembering his beloved Grandma, Heather.

Blythe House’s Hospice at Home service provided care and support to Heather Buxton – who had kidney failure and cancer – earlier this year when she was discharged from hospital. Heather died in February, in the comfort of her own home in Chinley, with her family beside her.

Her grandson, Steven, explains: ‘Grandma had always been in good health. She was 81-years-old and except for a few issues and sometimes feeling unwell, she was generally fit and healthy. However, in November 2020, she collapsed in the bathroom at home and, my Grandad, Les called and asked me to help. Grandma was taken into hospital.

‘The next morning at about 5am, I received another call from my Grandad as the hospital had rung and said that sadly Grandma was dying. Thankfully, though, Grandma underwent a procedure to insert a tube into her side, to help support her kidney function. This was a success and Grandma’s recovery went well.

Steven’s grandparents Les and Heather with daughter, Sue

‘After spending nine weeks in hospital, Grandma was allowed home in early January and this is where the assistance from Blythe House started. Foday Kamara, the minister at my Grandparent’s church and a volunteer at a hospice, first suggested that Blythe House’s Hospice at Home service would be able to help.

‘Grandma had support from healthcare assistants (HCAs) during the morning and evening, helping with bathing and personal care, amongst other tasks. The healthcare assistants also provided overnight sits so that my Grandad and my Mum, who had moved into her parents’ home to help care for Grandma, could get a proper night’s sleep.

‘It wasn’t just the personal care that the HCAs were brilliant at. They provided so much advice and support around pain management and controls so that we could make sure Grandma was as comfortable as possible. It is a very intimidating thing having to look after someone who is so poorly, but they were on hand to answer questions and could point us in the direction of whom we would need to speak to about different aspects of Grandma’s care. The personal relationships that they struck up with not just Grandma, but the whole family, were equally brilliant.

‘The day before she died, Grandma was very distressed and screaming in pain. The HCA, Anna, stayed much longer after her shift ended, to help Grandma to feel safe and as comfortable as possible before we were able to arrange for some more medication.

‘Later that night, Hayley, another HCA who came for the night sit, made my Mum aware that sadly Grandma was dying. Mum was able to be there and hold her hand until the very end. Grandma died peacefully just after midnight on 19th February.

‘It was so important for my Grandma to be at home. After spending nine weeks in hospital, during the coronavirus pandemic, she was sometimes very emotional and distressed. It meant everything to be able to get Grandma home and to have the care in place from Blythe House, because that is where she wanted to be. It meant everything to me and my family to have her safe at home; nobody wants to think about their loved one dying in an isolated environment on their own.

‘As a family, without Blythe House, we wouldn’t have coped. We were a family in need, and although the whole situation was traumatic, to see Grandma so poorly, it was made one hundred times better by the Hospice at Home service and its amazing HCAs.

‘I am planting a sunflower this June in memory of my Grandma, and to support Blythe House to raise as much income as possible for this vital service.’

Dedicate a sunflower today to remember your loved one.

Stanley, 10, and Lydia, 6, from Chapel-en-le-Frith started to attend bereavement play therapy sessions at Blythe House in late 2020, after their Daddy, Stuart tragically took his own life.

Lydia, Stanley and Stuart

Lisa, Stanley and Lydia’s Mum, explains: ‘Myself, the children and all the family were devastated by the news of Stuart’s death. I didn’t know how to deliver the news to Stanley and Lydia about their Daddy, but I sought support from Winston’s Wish [a charity that Blythe House works closely with and uses resources from]. The charity provided a book to help me to understand how to explain what had happened to Stuart.

‘Later on that year, several family members and friends suggested I contact Blythe House for some counselling support for the children. Stanley started to attend first, with Lydia beginning sessions not long after. They both just absolutely loved coming here, and made really good bonds with their counsellors.

‘The pair of them brought items to their sessions to show to the counsellors and to talk about, for example teddy bears made from Stuart’s shirts, and cushions that I got them for Christmas with his photograph on them.

‘Stanley really embraced the arts and crafts element of his play therapy sessions. Art was never one of his main “strengths” but he has loved making things that remind him of his Dad. He’s drawn things, made a sand jar with different coloured layers representing different memories, and filled out an activity book called Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine, made especially for bereaved children.

‘He was studying space at school, and during one of his sessions, Stanley made a rocket out of play dough. His counsellor, Annabel asked him questions like “If this rocket could go to visit Daddy, what would it say?”

‘Before he started the counselling sessions, Stanley had feelings of anger and struggled to express his emotions. Annabel supported Stanley to find strategies for how to cope, and now, he seems so much better and much more content.

‘Lydia loved her sessions with her counsellor, Rachel. She made keyrings with coloured sands and enjoyed playing with the doll’s house. I think Lydia just loved having free rein of the play room and enjoyed being able to do what she wanted to in that space.

Lisa with Lydia and Stanley

‘When the children finished their programmes, the counsellors gave them presents including Easter eggs and other treats. It was such a lovely gesture and we were so grateful.

‘We’ve never gone through grief, but as a family we are getting through it together. We haven’t been afraid to share our feelings. The situation has obviously been made much worse with the pandemic and the lockdowns. We haven’t been able to see our family and friends as normal, but we’ve been keeping in touch as much as possible.

‘I truly feel if the children hadn’t have been able to continue going to school – having that routine and seeing their friends – and coming to Blythe House, that they wouldn’t be doing as well as they are doing now. Christmas time was hard, as it’s Stanley’s birthday the week before too, but we made sure to speak about Stuart during Christmas Day with his parents, and we all had a lovely day, despite the sadness of his absence.

‘To other parents or carers of children who may need support, the first thing I’d say is contact Blythe House in a heartbeat. I can’t big up the hospice enough, and I know they’ve had an amazing time. It’s an outstanding, invaluable local service and I feel so grateful and lucky that it’s on our doorstep.’

(Cover photo is artwork created by Lydia during her counselling sessions).

Find out more about our counselling and bereavement support services for both adults and children.

Jackie’s husband Rob was first introduced to Blythe House in 2019 after finding out the previous year that advanced prostate cancer had sadly spread to his bones. Rob gained one-to-one advice and support at first, but as his health deteriorated, he began receiving care in the comfort of his own home.

His wife, Jackie, explains more: ‘After struggling on with severe back pain for some time, seeing a GP and a physiotherapist, Rob was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in spring 2018. Unfortunately, the cancer had metastasised and spread into his bones.

‘I persuaded him to go to Blythe House, where he had face-to-face meetings with Karen Clayton [hospice nurse], who he had a huge amount of respect for. He also attended the hospice’s monthly coffee mornings where he’d chat to Karen and receive valuable advice. On two different occasions, I found myself struggling or at the end of my tether and I just walked round to Blythe House and ended up speaking to Karen, and Louise Furmston, [community engagement lead], who were both fantastic. Blythe House is not just for people who are ill; carers and family members needn’t be afraid of reaching out for support.

‘Rob did really well throughout 2018, but around Christmastime, he became really ill; started getting pains in his shoulder and had episodes when he was unable to move. During 2019, he was in and out of hospital and in April 2020, at the height of the first national COVID-19 lockdown, he had a very severe episode and our doctor recommended Hospice at Home support from Blythe House.

‘The team sorted us out completely because we just couldn’t cope physically. They arranged to visit us twice a day in the mornings and evenings, to help wash and dress Rob or get him ready for bed. He recovered a little bit and we decided that we didn’t need the evening sits anymore, but healthcare assistants still came every morning.

‘It is a very lonely feeling seeing the person who you’ve lived with for more than 50 years deteriorate so quickly and become so frail. Rob was a very active and independent man – he did decorating, plastering, plumbing, electrics, DIY. He found the limitations caused by his illness very frustrating and upsetting. It was lovely to have different people come into our home, and for Rob to have someone, other than me, who he could chat to, as we were unable to see friends and family because of COVID. It was also great for me because it gave me much-needed time out as a full-time carer, and different people to talk to about worries or concerns.

‘I can’t begin to imagine how we’d have coped without Hospice at Home. I am quite tough-skinned but I sat and cried privately on many occasions because I just didn’t know how we’d have managed. It was just wonderful to know someone was there. Dr Sarah Parnacott [consultant in palliative medicine], was amazing. I text her one morning with a query regarding Rob’s medication; she replied straight away, and an hour later she was on my doorstep.

‘On the morning that Rob died, Julie, one of the healthcare assistants, had been round to shower and care for him. After she left, I went outside to hang some washing when I heard an almighty crash. I found him in a heap at the bottom of the stairs and called an ambulance straight away. I wasn’t allowed to go in the ambulance with Rob to hospital due to COVID-19, but after advice from Dr Parnacott, we had completed a ReSPECT [Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment] form and this was passed to the paramedics. Soon after, I received a call from a team member at Stepping Hill who informed me that Rob had become unconscious in the ambulance; he asked me to get there as soon as I could.

‘When I arrived at hospital, I had a chat with the consultant who told me that Rob had multiple catastrophic injuries and we decided not to lift his sedation. He quietly slipped away on the 30th August 2020. As tragic as his death was, I knew that it was the best thing. He was so miserable and frightened about what would happen to him over the coming weeks.

‘We have always been very healthy people – we didn’t do doctors, surgeries or help – so it hadn’t occurred to us to seek help from Blythe House. If it wasn’t for our doctor, and the hospice team saying “you can do this/ you can have this,” we wouldn’t have known. It would not have occurred to us to say “help!” without someone prodding us. What I’d say to other people who may be in a similar situation to ours, is just to be aware of the amazing services on offer at Blythe House; don’t hold back from asking for help. It’s not just the palliative and end of life care, but genuine advice and support too.

‘I’d like to say huge thank yous all round; we could not have managed without Blythe House; there was always someone to talk to, and to provide such important care and support.’

Find out more about our hospice services.

Blythe House and Helen’s Trust are delighted to have secured three places in the 2021 virtual London Marathon event set to take place on Sunday 3rd October. To find out more about how to get involved, click here.

Charlie Narejko took on the 40th anniversary and first ever virtual London Marathon in 2020 in aid of Blythe House, raising hundreds of pounds for local hospice care and becoming a Guinness World Record Holder in the process! (The final finishing total of 37,966 runners meant that the event was awarded the prestigious title for the ‘most users to run a remote marathon in 24 hours’).

Charlie, who’s a member of Buxton Athletic Club, explains more: ‘Running the virtual London Marathon was just the best experience. I was one of just over 37,000 awesome people from all walks of life to tackle the unbelievable distance. Thanks to the virtual event, I am now a Guinness World Record Holder for taking part which is amazing!

‘You don’t need to be an athlete to run a marathon, you just need to be awesome! Celebrate the finish line not the finish time. You do not have to run, you can walk, jog, run or whatever, just get the distance your way! The perks of a virtual event is no crowds – it’s your race! I chose to run mine around the beautiful Pavilion Gardens, all 26 laps.

‘I was running in memory of Buxton Athletic Club’s Jim Bradley so the Gardens were perfect. Home of our monthly timed 5k race. I’m sure Jim would have been proud. I even had a small socially distanced support crew to cheer me round!

‘I chose to support Blythe House as what they do and offer to our local community is truly amazing! Now more than ever our local hospice charity needs all the support it can get. By running the virtual event, you’re helping yourself, and you’re getting fitter. You’re also helping raise much needed funds for your local hospice and along the way you’re inspiring others to do the same!

‘If I can do this, anyone can! I loved it so much that I’m doing it again this year. Not all heroes wear capes…some wear Blythe house running vests!’

John Mountain started to attend Blythe House’s monthly prostate cancer support group in 2018, after he was diagnosed with the condition. Alongside other health issues, the Chapel-en-le-Frith resident has sought support from the hospice’s community volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, John explains more:

‘My Partner and I knew about Blythe House from its early planning stages back in the 1980s, but I started to get support and information approximately three years ago after I had been diagnosed with low grade, early stage prostate cancer, and began attending the support group meetings.

‘After discussions with other group members I decided on a treatment called brachytherapy (a form of radiation therapy), where small radioactive pellets approximately the size of grains of rice are implanted directly into the prostate, under a general anaesthetic. The surgery was successful and I was allowed home after an overnight stay. It was really helpful to discuss matters with people who had wide-ranging knowledge of the condition and had undergone the same treatment, which I would recommend to anyone who was suitable.

‘Prior to the prostate cancer diagnosis, I had also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease approximately six to seven years ago, which is being controlled reasonably well with medication.

‘I was also suffering mobility issues with spinal disc problems. I was seen at Salford Royal Hospital, and put on the list for some injections but with the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, everything was put on hold. The spinal issues got worse, affecting my mobility and I decided to pay for surgery, which was carried out in September and my mobility is slowly improving.

‘I sought support from Blythe House’s community volunteers during my recovery phase. All volunteers I have spoken to have been great; very helpful and friendly, and I know I can always rely on the service. Things would have been very different without their help in getting prescriptions collected from the pharmacy and delivered to my home.

‘For anyone who has difficulties and needs some help, I would recommend they get in touch with Blythe House where they will find all the help and advice they need.’

Find out more about how Blythe House could support you or your family.

‘If you’re going to make a will, why not do it when the solicitor is willing to donate the fees to such a worthy cause such as Blythe House Hospicecare?’

Ali and Scott Beswick decided to make their will with Cooper Sons Hartley & Williams during Blythe House’s Wills Month in 2019.

The Buxton couple have supported the hospice with various events and fundraisers after Ali’s mum, Julie received care at Blythe House following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2018.

Here, Ali and Scott explain more about the support Julie received, the importance of writing a will, and why they chose to do so during Wills Month…

‘We knew of Blythe House before mum’s diagnosis, and were aware of some of the services the hospice offers, like counselling and respite activities at the hospice and end-of-life care at home, but we didn’t know much more than that. We didn’t realise how varied the support and activities would be or how much was available, or the extent of the support groups.

‘Julie started to access the services at Blythe House in 2018 following her breast cancer diagnosis. She received various types of support including one-to-one and group sessions, and was able to access care and advice including speaking with a financial advisor about benefit entitlements; receiving weekly physiotherapy for her feet as they suffered from the effects of chemotherapy; complementary therapy including reiki; counselling; and talking to a beautician about hair care, head scarves and wigs.

‘Julie also took advantage of the craft facilities at the hospice and had a go at some painting, book folding and tapestry as well as joining in on the Writing for Life course which enabled her to put down on paper thoughts and feelings and discuss these in the group. The sessions also enabled Julie to meet other people who have become very good friends; there is nowhere like Blythe House where you can meet and catch up with others in a similar situation. Julie also attended (pre-COVID) the monthly breast friends support group at the hospice- offering a chance to be with other people who have had breast cancer.’

A positive prognosis

‘Julie is doing very well now and has been back at work for just over a year. Her treatment is now down to once every six months and if it were not for the current restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she would be doing pretty much everything that she was able to do before her diagnosis and treatment began. Her hair has come back too!’

Giving something back to Blythe House

Scott said: ‘Blythe House is a local charity that relies heavily on donations and fundraising to continue providing vital services to patients like my mother-in-law and families like ours. The charity is particularly close to us due to the support that they have provided to Julie and therefore, there was no hesitation to choose to run the London Marathon for the hospice (now sadly postponed until next year!) We have also taken part in the Glow Twilight Walk with our family, which was an amazing occasion.

‘When Wills Month came around, there was no hesitation; we needed to make a will and we wanted to continue our support to Blythe House and give something back ourselves.’

Making a will

Ali explained: ‘We became homeowners in 2016, got married in 2017 and had our little boy, Callum in November 2018. We had talked about making a will a number of times over the last few years but it was one of those things that we never got round to doing. I think we expected it to be a really long-winded process which we kept putting off, but when my mum received her diagnosis and when Callum was born (both in 2018), it really hit home that it was something we needed to have in place, for Callum’s future more than anything.

‘My mum picked us up a leaflet about Wills Month 2019 during one of her sessions at Blythe House, it was another reminder to make a will, and when we saw that the fees were being donated to Blythe House, we felt that if we were going to make a will, it needed to be then; so we did!’

Securing your future – making a will is so important

The couple said: ‘As uncomfortable as it is to talk about, death happens to us all and we will never know when “that day” will happen, so the sooner you make a will, the better. Having a will means that there are legal plans in place to determine what will happen to your assets (home, car, savings, everything else you own) and your family (children, pets etc.) when you are no longer here. We felt a strange sense of security and satisfaction when we made ours; as if we were securing Callum’s future.
‘The meetings with the solicitors and putting the wills together don’t actually take long, you just need to be in agreement of who you would like to act on your will (your executors), what you want to happen to particular items (or other assets) and who will receive them (the beneficiaries). Gather a list of the names and addresses of the beneficiaries and the solicitor will do the rest! Once you’re happy with the draft, you go in to the solicitor’s office for literally five minutes to sign the final document and it’s done!’

Kill two birds with one stone –write a will during Wills Month

‘Excuse the pun – kill two birds with one stone! If you’re going to make a will, why not do it when the solicitor is willing to donate the fees to such a worthy cause such as Blythe House Hospicecare? You never know; you or a family member may need to call upon Blythe House at some point; wouldn’t it be a good feeling to know that you have helped support the hospice to support you or someone you love?’

To book an appointment to make your will in October, call Cooper Sons Hartley & Williams on 01298 77511 quoting Blythe House Hospicecare.

 

‘I really value the support from the community volunteer programme; Blythe House is a lifeline for me and my family.’

Janet with Ali

Chapel-en-le-Frith resident Janet Brindley was referred to Blythe House by her support worker in October 2018, after she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease earlier that year.

Janet, who was a very keen walker, said that looking back and thinking about it, she knew things weren’t quite right with her legs when she would climb over stiles and jump down, she was ‘not as bouncy’ as she used to be. The former GP surgery receptionist also noticed changes when she was driving, as she struggled to react and put her foot on the brake as quickly.

‘I never expected to be diagnosed with motor neurone disease,’ Janet explained. ‘I was having a lot of scans and X-Rays in 2017 as I was experiencing a lot of back pain. It wasn’t the usual pain that you get from doing the gardening; it was more severe and my doctor originally thought that I might have a trapped nerve. I was referred to a neurologist and underwent more tests; before being diagnosed around Easter-time 2018, the day before my birthday, which was the worst present!

‘I was then quickly referred to Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust where I had different meetings with a consultant, social workers, physiotherapists, speech therapists – all different people telling me about my prognosis and supporting me.

‘When I was diagnosed, I was still walking around unaided. Then over the last 18 months, I have progressively gone from using a walking stick, then a four-wheeled walker, then I fell in May 2019 and fractured my ankle, and since then I have been using a wheelchair. At first, I was still maintaining my independence, but now, I am deteriorating and rely very much on other people; I cannot get on and off chairs or my wheelchair on my own, and need a lot of assistance. I have also noticed recently that my arms are not as strong as they used to be. I have the amazing support of my husband, David, who still works full-time alongside caring for me, and help from close friends who keep me company.

‘I knew about Blythe House before my referral as I attended a few sessions around 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Back then, I met with Ann Cawthorn [who is now a Blythe House trustee], who provided advice and support, and enjoyed complementary therapies, but I didn’t go to the groups as I was too poorly from my chemotherapy.

‘When my support worker suggested Blythe House in 2018, I was happy to go along to the Living Well service. I didn’t attend the service beforehand, but having been now, I know it’s absolutely not what I expected and I really enjoy going every Wednesday, and depend greatly on the support from the staff and other service users.

‘I think the physiotherapy service at Blythe House is marvellous. I am now very limited with choosing footwear that fits my feet as they have become very stiff and often swollen. I also wear a splint on my right ankle as this has become very weak since the fracture last May. You just do not even realise the types of things you’ll need to consider after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Tina [Blythe House physiotherapist] helps to manipulate my feet and legs; I didn’t see her for a few weeks and they felt so stiff, but after seeing Tina she really helps to ease the pressure and I feel so much more comfortable.

‘Through attending Living Well and chatting to my key worker about other support available, she suggested the community volunteer programme, where a Blythe House volunteer would be able to come to my home and help out with tasks and activities. I met Ali one day in the summer when I was at the hospice; we had a chat and Ali said she’d be able to support me however I wanted.’

Ali Dronfield-Boyd became a community volunteer in June 2018 after taking early retirement. She explained: ‘At that point, it was summer, so the first few times I went around to Janet’s house, I was able to help with activities like mowing the lawn, tidying the garden, planting flowers and pruning the roses. It was lovely as Janet was able to sit out in the garden with me, and we could natter away as I was getting on. I always say to Janet that I don’t do things for her, I do things with her.

‘Another task we carried out together was to help make the kitchen more accessible to Janet in her wheelchair, so we moved the tea cups and mugs from the top shelf of a high cupboard, to a low-down drawer which Janet is able to quickly and easily pull open. I also moved a table from outside to in the kitchen; it sits at just the right height for Janet’s wheelchair meaning that she is able to do some artwork including hand painted coasters. I also do the ironing, as this is something that Janet can no longer carry out.

‘The best thing about all the support is the companionship that Janet and I have struck up. We are in a similar age group, we have similar aged children, and have been on holidays to the same places; we remember a lot of things and like to reminisce.’

Janet added: ‘It is so nice to have someone you know coming over to provide regular support. Even if there’s not a lot to do, it’s just nice to chat; like having a good neighbour over. I really value the support from the community volunteer programme; Blythe House is a lifeline for me and my family.’

*Feature image shows some of Janet’s hand painted coasters

More information about the community volunteer programme.