Early in 2011, 78-year-old former cabinet-maker and widower Frank Brandom was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which has now spread to his bones. Despite the fact that the disease is progressing, however, he says that the Hospice has transformed his outlook from bleak to positive and he is completely pain-free compared to 18 months ago when he was in so much pain he couldn’t walk, sleep or even sit comfortably…
Here he describes what the Hospice means to him…
“It was my GP who suggested that the Hospice could help me. I wasn’t sure at first. I didn’t know quite how they could help, but now I don’t know what I would have done without them.
As soon as I made contact, I found a group of friendly, compassionate people who make me feel welcome.
The main thing I would say is that the Hospice gives me peace of mind. Since I’ve been in touch, I know I have somewhere to go and someone to talk to when I need help.
In April 2014, I started seeing the Hospice’s specialist prostate cancer nurse Tina Smith at her three-monthly specialist clinics. As good as my GP and my hospital were, they didn’t have the time or the expertise that Tina has to sit down and talk in any depth about how I really was and how they could help me.
She supported me brilliantly and through her, I started having physiotherapy to help keep me mobile and also attending a regular Friday morning Wellbeing group where I can meet with other prostate cancer sufferers and we can socialise, have a quiz, relaxation and physio sessions and talk to the professional staff about anything that is concerning us.
I even met a former colleague in the furniture trade at the group, who I hadn’t seen in 30 years since we worked at Durrants together in Berkhamsted, which was a real tonic.
I’ve attended a fatigue management course to help me cope with the tiredness that is the side-effect of the hormone drug therapy I’m taking. I’ve even had acupuncture to help me relax and for the last six months, I’ve had regular weekly visits from Caroline, one of the Hospice’s Community Specialist Nurses, in my own home.
The Hospice bridges the gap between me and my doctors and consultant. I’m still seeing my GP and am still under the care of Stoke Mandeville Hospital and The Churchill Hospital in Oxford, but Caroline’s visits give me a chance to talk about my care and in between her visits to me and mine to the Hospice, I know that if I have any concerns I can just pick up the phone. It’s great to know that someone is looking out for me.
One of the main things the Hospice has done for me is to help me with my pain management. I had terrific pains in my lower back and hip after my first lot of radiotherapy, which was affecting everything. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sleep - I just couldn’t get comfortable and it was affecting my state of mind. I just didn’t know what to do with myself.
But the Hospice offered me advice, talked to my doctors on my behalf and really helped me. They adapted my medication and unbelievably, I am now pain-free. The effect it has had on my state of mind has been incredible.
It means I can get up in the morning without having to worry about whether I can move my leg and I can go to bed at night, knowing that I can turn over without pain suddenly gripping me.
But the biggest difference the Hospice has made to my life is in my outlook. Before, it was pretty bleak, but now I have a much more positive frame of mind, knowing I can make the most of the time I have left and be useful again.
The Hospice has been a lifeline to me over the past few months and I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who needs support.”