Terry Darby was a fit 71-year-old, playing golf twice a week, renovating the family’s farmhouse in Wales and enjoying an active retirement when out of the blue, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2016.
Time was short, but with the Hospice’s help, he and his family were able to make the very best of their last 10 days together, as Terry’s son, Brian, 38, explains…
“Dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in August last year and we really weren’t prepared for it. He was a fit, strong 71-year-old who just six weeks before, had been happy renovating a bathroom and playing 18 holes of golf with his fellow golfers and friends at Aldwickbury Golf Club.
‘Two to three months’ was the initial prognosis from the doctors at Watford General Hospital. It was a shock and Dad’s first reaction was an emotional one, because he was going to be separated from the people he loved. ‘I’m going to miss your girls,’ was the first thing he said to me after the diagnosis - these girls being my daughters, age five, three and our new born, who was one month old at the time.
Our larger than life Dad, who loved life and was loved by so many – it didn’t seem real.
The 17 days he was in hospital was a difficult time. With stretched resources, cancelled appointments, a near two week wait for a biopsy, delayed results and what felt like a new doctor every day without a clear plan meant that, despite the hard working staff, the system seemed to be failing us whilst time was running out.
Through an informal second opinion we learned that Dad’s prognosis was weeks rather than months and that palliative care was the only option.
We knew about the Hospice of St Francis because my Dad’s mum, Wendy, passed away in the old Hospice on Shrublands Road 27 years ago. We were overcome with relief when a bed became available for Dad.
Within minutes of arriving at the Hospice, one of the specialist doctors, Katy Bruce, spent time individually with my Mum, my sisters Hayley and Rachel, and me. She explained the situation, detailing Dad’s medical condition and helping us understand what was coming. We were just in a different league of care. The staff, volunteers, facilities, beautiful surroundings, and the dignity and peace it afforded patients and their loved ones proved transformative for us.
The patio doors from his room opened onto the gardens and it gave my parents real pleasure to enjoy the view, sit with loved ones or just watch their grandchildren play. My mum was also able to stay the night and enjoy being with Dad in such a caring and peaceful place.
On the one Sunday that he was there the kitchen staff even arranged for us to have a family roast dinner. The Hospice’s care showed everywhere – right from the moment a volunteer met you at the door. It was obviously a special place.
Dad was comfortable, at peace and able to be himself. He bantered with the staff, even referring to one nurse as his own ‘personal Rottweiler’. He was also able to ask ‘how to make the most of the situation’ he was in. For that I am so proud of my Dad and so grateful to the hospice for creating such an environment.
The day before he died, Dad asked the consultant if it was to be his ‘Goodnight Vienna’ moment that day but she told him he was far too lively to be in danger. He later told me that the ‘train’s departure had been delayed’ - it was great that that he could be himself to the end, and a credit to the Hospice.
The following day, late in the afternoon, he passed away, with Mum, his brother, my sisters and me at his side.
It’s hard to explain how grateful we are that Dad spent his final days at the Hospice, which transformed the last 10 days of his life and our last days with him. It really was a little bit of heaven before his passing.
A year ago, if you’d asked me to donate to a hospice, I probably would have said there are more worthy causes for people who are going to live. However, now that I’ve seen the effect this Hospice had on Dad and on our wider family, I am converted. This special place helped us make the most of Dad’s final days and we are eternally grateful to all the team at The Hospice of St. Francis.
We are thrilled that all three Captains of Aldwickbury Park Golf Club (where Terry enjoyed being a very active member) - Doug Stokoe for the Men, Gill Lee for the Ladies and Mick Beaufoy for the Seniors - have nominated The Hospice of St Francis as their chosen charity for 2017, in recognition of the care that the Hospice has provided to several of their members and families over the years.
It was Dad’s wish, as well as ours, that others have the same opportunity that The Hospice of St Francis afforded us so over the next year we’re aiming to raise at least £10,000 for the Hospice. Along with the efforts of Aldwickbury Park Golf Club I know this will make a real difference to many other families.
One of Dad’s favourite sayings was: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” So here’s a link to our Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TerryDarby and a huge thank you for any donations you have made or can make.