Press release: 25/05/2023
Interview with Jean Hanmer
“Dennis was a very private man. He wouldn’t have wanted any fuss or any attention but I’m sure he would be happy with me sharing just what the Hospice of the Good Shepherd meant to me during his final days and what I am sure it means to so many other families across Chester and Ellesmere Port.”
Handbridge mum-of-three Jean Hanmer met Dennis 22 years ago. They shared a happy and largely uneventful life together until Dennis became unwell in 2019 when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“Dennis proposed to me soon after and we were married between the two lockdowns in 2020. It was such a lovely day and despite the cloud hanging over us, we were really happy together.”
Dennis underwent various treatments but during September the following year he became increasingly tired and unwell.
“He went back into hospital on 21 December following a stroke. They discovered the cancer had returned and spread rapidly,” Jean continued. “Covid visiting restrictions meant that I was only able to see him once at Christmas. That was the only time I was allowed to visit during the first four weeks that he was in hospital.
“When I did finally get in to see him, the doctors suggested that he should be moved into a care home for the 24-hour that he needed. I didn’t feel that was the best thing for him, given his care needs.
“I then met the palliative care nurse and after assessing Dennis she suggested hospice care. I don’t think we realised at the time that the hospice was an option due to Covid restrictions but we were lucky enough to be referred quite quickly to the Hospice of the Good Shepherd.
“I can’t find the words to explain how relieved I was – I’d had some experience of how exceptional a hospice can be when my parents were at the end of their lives and I knew that this was by far the best option for him.
“That referral meant the world to me. It meant that I didn’t have to fight for Dennis anymore because I knew that was the very best option – not just for him but for all of us. I knew that we would all be looked after as a family. That’s the hospice way.
“What makes it so special? It’s the people and the care they provide that makes this place what it is: extraordinary. There is nothing like it available anywhere else but in a hospice. We knew we’d get through this with the support, and the love, of the hospice team because that’s what they give you: their love. It’s just amazing.
“Throughout the time we were there, it was always just as much about me as it was about Dennis. There was always someone there to talk to if I needed to and people were continually offering help and support.
“Again, it was such a relief to have so much of the worry taken away. We didn’t have to think about food, medication or anything else. That meant we could just focus during that entire week on being with Dennis, knowing that the team was looking after us as well as they were looking after him.
“It gave me and my family that time together without distractions. We all laughed a lot around his bedside and we cried a lot too but we had our own room and the privacy that went with it, something I doubt that we would have had elsewhere.”
Dennis passed away in February 2022. “People think that hospices are sad places. This is not a sad place at all and although I realise that it may not be the right thing for everyone, when my time comes I would be more than happy to be cared for here at The Hospice of the Good Shepherd.”
Jean added: “Even during that relatively short time, the hospice became such a focus for me and our families. We had become so embraced by the hospice team that I actually found it difficult to leave and go home.”
Since October last year, Jean has become a regular at Knit & Natter sessions, held regularly in the hospice’s Living Well Centre.
“I’m not sure why I came back but I know that I wanted to do something for the hospice team. Raising money by selling the things we knit makes me feel as if I’m giving something back. It’s also lovely being with such a nice group of people with different skills and backgrounds. It’s a comfort being here.”
It’s not just through her knitting that Jean is giving back to the hospice: “I’m thrilled to be taking part in this year’s Sparkle Walk,” Jean added. “It will be another opportunity to raise much-needed funds and contribute to the work of these amazing people in this amazing place.”
If you’d like to share your own hospice experience with us please email firstname.lastname@example.org