Brendan's Story

"We never felt alone. The Hospice was our crutch and guide."

Brendan and I married in December 2002. A year later, Rory was born, then Kieran, and in 2006 Tilly came along. When the children were born they became his world, his first proper family.

It was in May 2010 that he started getting stomach pains. Later that year a scan revealed a cancerous tumour blocking his bowel. Brendan had surgery and the tumour was removed. 

He was determined to fight at any cost so he could be around for the children. He loved them more than anything in this world. He fought so long to stay around for them, but in January 2014, a further scan revealed the cancer had come back in his lungs and it was terminal. We were reeling. Brendan wasn’t ready to die.

It was then that his oncologist put us in touch with The Hospice of St Francis where we both received counselling, and Brendan had regular physiotherapy. 

Until January 2016, you wouldn’t have known he had cancer, but then it began to take its toll. He couldn’t walk up the hill without getting out of breath. Fay, from the Hospice’s Community Nursing Team started seeing him as an outpatient. She advised him on how to control his symptoms, manage his pain and helped him to understand his medication. 

Even though there was so much happening, the wonderful thing was that Brendan was still Brendan. He still loved to go for his favourite steak and chips lunch at the pub and out for drinks with colleagues.

The Hospice really gave him the ability to stay at home, which was where he wanted to be. At any time, day or night, we felt we could call someone – we never felt alone. The Hospice was our crutch and guide.

But by early 2017, the cancer had spread to his brain. We decided it was time to tell the kids.

On 17 May we called an ambulance and by the evening we were all at his side at the Hospice. What was really special was that one of the nurses on duty that night has a child in the same school year as Kieran. She felt like family. At 4am they told me he was going, and I held his hand.

Rory found Brendan’s death very hard. But one day, after he’d broken down at school, I took Rory to his dad’s grave and read a letter Brendan had written. It talked about what Rory’s birth had meant to him and how he was his world. After Rory heard it, he knew he needed help. We went to the Hospice to meet Kimberley, a counsellor.

She invited Rory to Teen Drop In; he went and within two weeks it was just the fix he needed. I don’t think they necessarily talked about anything to do with grief, but it was just being with other children in a similar situation, eating popcorn, drinking Coke and realising you’re not the only person in the world who’s suffering. He went every other week for nearly two years.

Kieran was very angry and he had support every other week from the Children’s Team for a year. Tilly too had sessions with one of the Hospice’s Children’s Support Workers. They were great, giving them lots of coping techniques and working with them through art to express their feelings.

Last year, Tilly joined Teen Cooking With Chris, a therapeutic, six-week cookery course at the Hospice which gave us time together doing things we don’t normally do.

The difference the Hospice has made is that the children are able to be happy and as they grow up, I don’t think they will be scarred by their experience. I wouldn’t have been able to provide that security for them without the Hospice.


The Hospice has supported us all in one way or another since January 2014 and yet I only ever thought Hospices were places to die. The level of care and support has been far more than I’d ever have expected. The fact that we haven’t had to pay a penny for any of it is even more incredible - that this amazing resource at our fingertips is mostly funded by donations. The Hospice provides a special service. I feel very lucky that we live on the doorstep.

This year, we’ll be there, lighting a candle for Brendan and holding him close in our hearts alongside all the other families who have been touched by the Hospice’s incredible care.