Talking with Keith and his daughters, Naomi and Becca, you get a sense of serenity, togetherness and gratitude. There is something quite apt about a photo of Keith, a former Head teacher, sitting in the ‘Storyteller’s Chair’ in the Hospice’s garden, reading to his daughters from his self-published memoirs.
Keith, from Watford, started writing his memoirs when he was first diagnosed with cancer, having been able to reflect on his life during the Covid lockdowns. He has also gone on to host two exhibitions, in London and Watford, showcasing another passion, painting.
Having been given a palliative care diagnosis in December last year, a recent infection meant he was admitted to the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit at St Francis, which Keith describes as “A place where they put the patient first. It is a very positive environment, I just wish I was well enough to appreciate it. They’ve taken very good care of me, and both my daughters. I’m not sure what I’d do without them.”
Reflecting on his Hospice stay, Keith jokes, “The Jacuzzi bath is an added bonus.”
Before coming to The Hospice of St Francis, Keith also had a short stay at the Peace Hospice in Watford, where they were able to get on top of his pain control, enabling him to return home.
Having stayed alongside their dad at the Hospice, Keith’s daughters have shared his Hospice experience - “The staff are incredible. The patience and the holistic approach: they recognise the person’s wishes, and also support the family,” shares Naomi.
“Before you experience hospices you think they’re a place to die. But they’re actually there to support you to live. They give time to sit and talk. Dad said he wants to be at home for his final days, and the team have gone above and beyond to make that happen. They’ve done everything they can,” adds Becca.
Keith continues, “The transition from seeing the oncologist and surgery, then to a palliative care prognosis was worrying, but our experience of the hospices has been positive.”
“You get to call the shots and have some ownership of what’s going on. The environment in hospital can cause anxiety. It is the opposite here.”
The Hospice team have supported Keith’s return home, arranging a bed and additional equipment including a syringe driver to manage pain. His care is being handed over to the Hospice at Home nurses.
Keith pictured on the ‘Storyteller’s Chair’ in the Hospice gardens