Wigan & Leigh Hospice
“We were given quality time during her last days”
Lisa Parr, 59, from Wigan, explains how Wigan & Leigh Hospice made a difference to her family when her sister became seriously ill
My sister, Angela Dainty was always the life and soul of the party and a real people person. There was so much joy and life about her, so when she started experiencing problems with her health last year, it was hard to believe she was seriously ill.
Angela’s symptoms began in October 2015, shortly after returning from a family holiday to Mexico. We’d had an amazing fortnight where Angela had been out in the sun all day with everyone else – jumping in the pool and seemingly perfectly fit and healthy.
After returning home, Angela, then 51, started complaining of a sore leg, then chest pains. Worried it might be deep vein thrombosis (DVT) caused by the long flight, we urged her to go to the A&E at the local hospital, where they checked her chest and assured her it wasn’t DVT.
However, a few days later back at home, she started to feel unwell, so she went to her GP,
who sent her for an ultrasound straight away. Then a consultant at Southport Hospital ordered some blood tests and a CT scan. We thought maybe Angela had picked something up in Mexico, so it was a complete shock when they told us they thought it could be cancer.
Over the next couple of months, Angela was in and out of hospital and had to start using a wheelchair, however, she had not yet been given a proper diagnosis. Because I have had cancer myself, I could see they were putting palliative care in place but she had no idea. She suspected she had cancer and was expecting to have a fight on her hands, but believed she would have chemotherapy and get better.
Then, on 8 December, the consultant sat down with myself, Angela and Angela’s son and explained she had pancreatic cancer and only had weeks to live. This type of cancer is largely incurable, and we were told chemotherapy would probably kill her, so to go home and make the most of her final days.
Even though I was expecting the diagnosis, none of us imagined we’d be losing her so soon and we all just fell apart. Angela started worrying how her children – Ross, 31, Sean, 28, and Zoe, 27 – would cope without her. Although Angela was very unwell, we immediately set out to make sure she could enjoy her final weeks as much as possible.
She always wanted to see her daughter in a wedding dress, so even though Zoe wasn’t dating anyone, we took her wedding dress shopping and took photos of Angela and Zoe together. Angela’s last wish was also to take her grandchildren to Disneyland Paris, so she did that two weeks before she died.
However, although we made many memories to treasure during that time, Angela was also clearly suffering. It was difficult to get her medication right to avoid the side effects while keeping her pain-free, so some days she was completely bedridden or would be awake at night in agony.
In February 2016, someone from Wigan & Leigh Hospice came to assess Angela and said there was a place for her there. Angela was adamant she wanted to remain in her own home, but we convinced her to try it for just a couple of days to see if they could manage the pain.
Straight away when we arrived at the hospice, we all knew she had made the right choice. The staff were lovely and treated Angela with such dignity, which straight away made her relaxed. They were also able to help tremendously with her pain and respond to it quickly by trying different medications or dosages. She was there for exactly a week and for the majority of that was completely pain-free and alert.
The hospice also allowed us to spend quality time together as a family, which was so important to us all. They allowed us to stay late into the evening, so we got to take turns at her bedside, and her children stayed overnight in her room.
Sadly, on 7 February, Angela passed away at the hospice, with all of her family close by. It was absolutely heartbreaking to lose my much-loved sister at such a young age and it is something we will never get over, however, we will always be grateful to the hospice for the difference they made to her last days.
Since Angela’s death, we launched Wigan & Leigh Hospice’s Dedicate a Daisy Appeal with my dad Billy Boston MBE, who was a well-known rugby player. We also purchased a bench for the hospice’s garden in remembrance of Angela and try to fundraise whenever we can. The staff work day in and day out to make the end of life for so many people comfortable and to give families peace of mind, which really makes a world of difference.
THE FACTS – Wigan & Leigh Hospice
- Wigan & Leigh Hospice provides palliative care to over 1,200 people in the Wigan borough every year.
- It is a registered charity, funded mainly through the donations and support of local people.
- The hospice delivers personalised care to address the physical, practical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of its patients and also offers support to patients’ families and carers.
- Care is delivered both within the hospice, on its inpatient unit, and at patients’ homes.
- Complementary therapies and counselling services are available for patients at its Woodview Centre.
- Over 800 volunteers work for the hospice in a wide variety of roles from reception and admin support, shop assistants, to driving vans and serving refreshments on the inpatient unit.
- For more information, visit wlh.org.uk
BIG GIVE UPDATE
The £52,032 raised by Wigan & Leigh Hospice will create a new separate entrance for inpatient admissions arriving by ambulance so they no longer need to come through reception, which will help preserve the dignity of patients and avoid unnecessary distress for those waiting