Grandmother, Beryl Roberts, 74, from Bovingdon, who has ovarian cancer, is one of just over 300 patients looked after in their own homes by The Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, which cares for people with life-limiting illnesses from across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
Beryl explains, “I had been receiving treatment for my cancer diagnosis at Mount Vernon Hospital when they suggested that I establish what help I could receive from my local hospice, The Hospice of St Francis.
“I didn’t know what to expect initially, but now after 12 months, I have built up a really strong rapport with the community nursing team; they have been so supportive and I can’t thank them enough.
“I liked my community nurse, Juliet, straightaway. She came over for a chat and came up with a whole list of ways the Hospice could help me. These included simple pieces of equipment that I’d never even thought would benefit me, or I’d be eligible for, and which have helped me enormously with my quality of life.
“One of the symptoms of my disease is dizziness and the Hospice immediately arrange for a new rail for my shower which gives me something to grip if I feel light-headed. They’ve also provided a trolley so I can wheel my meals into my living room from the kitchen so I do not have to carry hot plates to my table and a walker to help me walk up the road to Bovingdon village. Not only does this piece of equipment help me cope with my fatigue levels, making walking easier and less tiring, it also enables me to retain my mobility and independence, meet friends in the village and do my own shopping.
“The Hospice has also given me support with nausea, experienced as a result of having chemotherapy. Juliet has looked at my medication and made adjustments to help with this.
“The Hospice also recommended I apply for a disabled parking permit, which has been absolutely wonderful. With my breathlessness, being able to park right near the door saves me quite a lot of stress.”
“As well as continued support from Mount Vernon, I receive phone calls twice a week from the Hospice community nursing team to check I’m ok and they also liaise with my surgery to exchange health updates. I feel the Hospice, my surgery and Mount Vernon operate as a complete support back up for me especially at the weekend if I have problems with my chemotherapy and need reassuring. It’s a trio of total wrap-around joined up care, with each of them knowing what the other is doing, which gives me great confidence.
“The Hospice has also referred me to the Hospice’s Spring Centre for specialist complementary therapy. The chemotherapy has caused some nerve damage, particularly in my hands and feet, and the Hospice has arranged for me to have some reflexology at the Spring Centre. This was so relaxing, helped stop the cramps I was feeling in my feet and has been hugely beneficial for my wellbeing. I also receive regular visits from one of the Hospice’s Healthcare Assistants Alysha, who massages the ends of my fingers, which helps relieves stiffness. Shortly, I also hope to attend a fatigue workshop to help with another of my symptoms, breathlessness.
“I have lived in Bovingdon for over forty years and whilst my family, a son and five grandchildren, isn’t far away, I do live on my own. I do get help from many friends locally and members of my local church rally round, but I do feel wonderfully supported by the Hospice and am so appreciative of the specialist advice they give me. If I have a health query or concern, I know I can pick up my phone and will hear a reassuring voice on the end.
“I’ve supported the Hospice for years by keeping one of their home boxes by phone and donating old clothes to its shops. However, although I know of friends and relatives who’ve spent their last days in one of the Hospice’s beds, only recently have I understood the full scope of how the Hospice team can help someone like me who is managing a life-limiting diagnosis whilst trying to live life to the full, independently.