Matt had just turned 40 when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Our three beautiful children were aged 4, 5 and 16. Our whole lives ahead of us and full of enthusiasm for the things we wanted to achieve. A cancer diagnosis was definitely not part of the plan.
Matt was determined to battle through and fight this. We went through five gruelling months of operations and chemo, and came out of it feeling, at last, optimistic, believing that the worst was now behind us.
Then we received the devastating news that the cancer had spread. Matt was now terminally ill. That was the moment all hope was taken away.
The cancer was very aggressive and over the next few weeks I watched the rapid deterioration of the man I loved dying in front of me, helpless to do anything to ease his pain. That’s when The Hospice of St Francis stepped in.
Matt was an incredible family man and took great pride in playing an active role in everyday activities with the children. As the cancer advanced he became very sensitive to sounds and smells, which made spending time with the kids more difficult. I didn’t want this to be the way his life ended.
When we got to the Hospice, it was bright, and the windows were open: we were made to feel so welcome. They took control – they reassured us that his quality of life could be better, and that we would be able to spend good time together as a family. They helped Matt to manage the pain. Matt’s symptoms would change every day, and it was a huge relief that the staff could change his medication levels instantly. Matt could talk to them, and they always had time to talk to us.
We felt very lucky to get a bed at the Hospice. I felt confident that Matt was now receiving the best care possible.
They gave Matt hope – not that he could be cured, but that they could enable him to make special memories by spending more quality time with our children.
Then Mother’s Day came around. When things had been looking better, Matt had booked a restaurant for us to go out for breakfast. It became obvious that it wasn’t going to be possible. But the kids are big on occasions like this and we wanted to make it as special as possible for them.
So, Chris in the kitchen made us delicious pancakes for Mother’s Day. After a while Matt went for a rest and the kids spent some time in the sunshine outside. The snowdrops were out, and Scarlett, our daughter, was running around. It took the pressure off Matt. He could see they were happy.
In a nutshell, it was the hope that the Hospice gave us – which sounds silly with a terminal illness – but we had the hope that we would achieve the things we wanted to achieve. They give you hope for less pain, a better state; a Mother’s Day breakfast.
I was in awe of the medical team and the level of dedication they had to Matt’s wellbeing. The medical care is fantastic, but it was the people in the place that made it special. Our families were always made to feel so welcome and everyone from the cleaners, catering staff, nurses, doctors and volunteers knew our names and checked in on how we were doing.
Matt formed strong friendships with nurses and many other staff. They never tried to get rid of the situation, they just had such a level of empathy and it was a beautiful place to spend the last few weeks of your life. That’s what blew us away. That’s what was so unexpected. It gave us a better end. I can’t rate it highly enough.
This year I’m taking part in Light Up a Life by dedicating a light in memory of Matt.
I hope you’ll join me.
Thank you for reading Matt and Rebecca's Story
Please click here if you would like to dedicate a light in memory