Lucy's and Barry's Story | The Hospice of St. Francis

Lucy's and Barry's Story

Lucy reached out to share her discovery of Qigong

Lucy, a mother of two from Leighton Buzzard, reached out to us the end of last year to share her story, following a recent appearance on Chiltern Voice Radio, in November, wanting to spread the word of her newly found love for Qigong and share her experiences with the Hospice…

Growing up in Berkhamsted, Lucy, former Head of Languages at a local school, explains that it was in May of 2019 that a diagnosis shook the family. “Dad was diagnosed with aggressive bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). It was such a shock because he was always so strong and healthy,” she begins.

“I really wanted to try and help my Dad in any way that I could. I began reading extensively; deepening my knowledge of healing and the mind-body connection. Inspired to continue studying and learning, I also took the decision to train in Reiki to help my family and I through this extremely difficult time.”

Lucy’s dad, Barry (72), a keen gardener, began his treatment in the Summer of 2019. It was a very challenging and upsetting time for the family. In addition to undergoing extensive treatment, Barry presented with drug induced psychosis followed by delirium.

Over the course of the next few months, the family went on a horrendous rollercoaster, as Barry had multiple trips to hospital with sepsis infections, in addition to numerous scans and interventions to determine the root cause of his cognitive dysfunction.  This spurred Lucy on even more to increase her learning about the mind and body.  She says, “every day for months I would put on my ‘positive pants’ and I held on tightly to hope”. 

From January 2020 to March 2020 the family were in a land of limbo and confusion - complete and utter turmoil while they dealt with mixed messages between the consultant and the oncologist regarding Barry’s tumour.  “We really didn’t know whether Dad’s treatment had been a success or whether he still had cancer, and his cognitive disorder was an ongoing nightmare,” says Lucy. 

For a short while, the family had their hopes raised and felt they could finally breathe again after some news lead them to believe Barry would make a full recovery.  Lucy recalls the night they met up for a curry as a family and she remembers her Dad playing cards with her daughters, Mia and Lexi.  The girls said that it felt as though, ‘Grandpa was back’.  Devastatingly, this would be the last time the girls would see their Grandpa. 

A week later, Lockdown was put into place across the UK.  It was at this time that Lucy’s Qigong journey really began. Qigong became part of Lockdown life and offered Lucy a wonderful way to cope and to grow throughout the months to come. 

Sadly, by Easter it was becoming clear that her Dad’s health was declining and he was not making the recovery they’d hoped for.  Lucy and her siblings, Emily, Oli and Abi, felt helpless as they were unable to visit their parents and the only support they could offer was over the phone. Lucy says how she was so grateful for her Qigong practice that helped her to process such a myriad of emotions. 

Qigong, meaning life-force practice is an ancient Chinese art, which strengthens the body from the inside and encourages the free flow of Qi (energy) around the body.  This ultimate self-healing technique combines considered movements with breath and mental engagement.  “It helped me to find harmony at this incredibly difficult time", Lucy said.  “It’s such a powerful practice, promoting mental and physical wellbeing.  I practised every day (and still do!)”

Throughout April and May, Barry’s health began to decline and following a number of telephone consultations, he was admitted to the Wellington Hospital in London for treatment.

By June, it was confirmed that Barry’s health was deteriorating further whilst in hospital and the cancer was now terminal.  In discussion with her siblings and her Mum, Jacqui, the family’s wish was that Barry would spend the end of his life at The Hospice of St Francis.  “We all felt so strongly about having Dad back in Berkhamsted where we all grew up.  There was nowhere else we wanted Dad to be.”

After weeks of being unable to visit their Dad in London and after hundreds of hospital appointments, Lucy and her family were so gratified that he was in a wonderful haven of peace and found comfort knowing they would get to see him in the Hospice.  Due to the pandemic and lockdown rules, they were not all able to visit at the same time.  However, they all got to see Barry. 

It was the height of summer and the temperatures were soaring. Lucy reflects on the times she watched in admiration the Hospice staff, head to toe in full PPE – sweltering – carrying out their care for Barry and the other IPU patients. “All the staff were so incredible; they were like angels.  They couldn’t do enough for Dad and for us as a family, giving us so much comfort after all we’d been through.”

She recalls how the Hospice helped at a time when life was completely surreal, as though the family were ‘wrapped up in cotton wool’. “Dad was so calm and comfortable at the Hospice, and that helped us all to cope better.  He loved the gardens there and sometimes we would watch the birds.  We named the magpies, ‘Fred and Francis’.  The Hospice was like a beautiful bubble of love and hope.” 

Lucy thought back to a sunny afternoon when she sat outside with her Dad, sharing memories and chatting about what everyone was up to.  “I told him about my new found love for Qigong.  He had no idea what it was!  But he spurred me on to register for the Instructor training course.  He just wanted me to be happy.” 

After eight and a half weeks at the Hospice, Barry and his family had become very well known by the staff.  “The Hospice really is such a special place”, says Lucy.  On the evening of the 12th August, there was a huge thunderstorm when Lucy sat with her Dad. “Dad was so peaceful.  Something inside me knew he was holding on for the next day – which was my 10 year Wedding Anniversary.”

Lucy’s brother called at 3:30am on 13th August and broke the news that their father had passed peacefully with their Mum by his side. 

“I said my goodbyes at his bedside in the Hospice – It was 10 years to the day since he gave me away at my wedding. Walking down the aisle arm-in-arm.”  The family had a special little service for Barry with Ray, Head of Spiritual Care. 

“I can’t help but think how things could have been different without Covid-19, I have so much admiration and respect for everyone who works at the Hospice.”

Lucy was three weeks into her training to be a Qigong Instructor when her Dad passed away.  Rather than taking time out of the course, Lucy’s practice deepened and helped her immensely to manage her grief.  Despite signing up for the course less than 24 hours before it opened, Lucy was the first to pass!  She qualified as a Qigong Instructor in November 2020. 

“Qigong really helped me during an intense time – it made me feel so much better; assisting with my sleep, helping to manage anxiety and reducing stress.   It has shown me just how important the breath is.  Learning breathing techniques and Qigong meditation have been such a gift.  I also practice laughter Qigong – which is where I spend a minute a day laughing – it can help strengthen your immune system for 24 hours.  I just love Qigong!”

Chiltern Voice radio host, Amy, who was also the celebrant for Barry’s funeral, contacted Lucy after seeing an Instagram post in November of Lucy and her daughters practising Qigong. Lucy was invited to be a guest on her show to discuss how qigong can help to combat anxiety.

“I was so delighted to be on Amy’s show!”  Lucy says, excited to share her passion for Qigong.  “I really want to help others and show them the magic of this beautiful, transformational healing practice.  It’s given me hope and shown me that there is light through the darkness.” She concludes… “I look forward to volunteering at the Hospice and helping bereaved families and patients with Qigong. I am in the process of setting up my own classes and workshops for children, teens and adults.

Visit Lucy’s social media pages and website for more information on Qigong and her classes-Instagram @lucypgeorge, Facebook Lucy P George @qigonglucypgeorge, Website