Retired paediatric nurse Lesley Kinch, 58, from Watford, was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November 2013 and in February 2014, underwent major surgery.
But just nine months later, the cancer returned and for the last four-and-a-half years, she has been having treatment, undergoing chemotherapy and continuing to be actively involved with her church - St Michael and All Angels in Watford - where she’s been a member for 22 years and run a toddler group on a Monday morning for the last 18 years.
Lesley is single and lives alone. Her closest family live in Stevenage. But despite her condition and the fact that she only has one leg after losing the other to a bone infection in 2007, she has always been fiercely independent and given support to others.
In January of this year, however, Lesley’s condition deteriorated and in June she was admitted to the Hospice to help manage her symptoms, control her pain, help her achieve some goals and help to plan the last chapter of her life. Here Lesley takes up her story...
“I’m quite independent and have wanted to fight the cancer since I was first diagnosed. There’s been lots of fight in me but since January of this year when we lost control of the cancer and the chemotherapy wasn’t working anymore, my care has been all about keeping me comfy and treating my symptoms. It took me 24 hours to get on board with my new situation – initially I felt very sorry for myself and kept asking why me? But, eventually, I accepted it and generally I’m positive although I can still cry and get a bit tearful at times.
I’d been in hospital for seven weeks before I came to St Francis and I was quite poorly. After being discharged from hospital I tried to cope at home alone, but I couldn’t manage at night. I was on my own and I couldn’t cope.
I was scared of losing my balance and I went downhill fairly quickly. A lot of it was anxiety.
As soon as they brought me to the Hospice, within a couple of hours I knew I was safe. I felt so at peace and relaxed, knowing I didn’t have to worry about anything.
They’ve relieved my pain and helped my breathing. I’ve enjoyed relaxing soaks in the Jacuzzi bath which have been so therapeutic and the food has just been wonderful – real home cooking! There’s a lovely view from my bedroom window of the beautiful gardens, seeing the blue tits and the robins feeding and the resident pheasant, ducks and squirrels at one with nature.
The care here is amazing, phenomenal. Anything I ask, it’s done for me. They really go the extra mile. I just can’t fault anything.
Despite my illness, I’m so grateful for what I have and my Christian belief is very important to me. I believe that when I die I will be with Jesus, meeting people who have gone before me and having fun. Religion gives me comfort and I have such a strong support network from my church in Watford, who have looked after me so well throughout my illness.
I absolutely love Harry Potter. I’m a little old to be a fan but it is such good fun! I enjoyed reading the books to friends’ children and I just adore the stories and one thing I wanted to do was to have a Harry Potter themed party to say thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last five years.
I am so appreciative of everything my small family and all my church friends have done for me. They have cared for me for such a long time – and thanks to the Hospice arranging a wheelchair-friendly taxi, I was able to make it to my special tribute party with just under 100 family and friends at the church.
They sorted my oxygen and medication so I had enough pain relief at the party and the outpouring of affection from everyone was so special. My new little ones from my toddler group came as well as older children who were part of it quite a while ago – they were all there with their mums and dads.
We had Butterbeer, Polyjuice Potion, Hufflepuff pizzas and Snitch scotch eggs - a huge buffet of delicious Harry-Potter-themed food. I wore my Griffyndor jacket, Hufflepuff scarf and Harry Potter T-shirt and I had a wonderful time. We also had a tombola to raise money for The Hospice of St Francis, Peace Hospice Care, Target Ovarian Cancer and St Michael’s Church.
We don’t talk about death as a society. It’s taboo, but my message to people is you can do a lot more than you realise and you need to try and be positive, not forgetting to do the things you want to do. There are still a few things I’d like to do but all in all I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m hugely grateful to the Hospice too for helping me to get into Brunswick Court Care Home in Watford, where I want to go when I leave here.
I have no idea how long I’ve got left - it’s difficult to know but I treat each day as a life-cycle. No one knows what might happen tomorrow so it’s important to live for the day and get on with it.
But one thing I know for sure is that I really appreciate the Hospice. It’s rescued me, made me feel safe and been absolutely fabulous and for that I can’t thank all its staff and volunteers enough.”
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