Press release: 31/03/2023
“I remember thinking what a lovely place the hospice is to spend your final days…”
Former Chester Chronicle journalist Carmella De Lucia shares her memories of a much-loved mum and the care she received from the team at The Hospice of the Good Shepherd…
2004 is a long time ago now. Almost 20 years in fact but to me, those years have passed by in a whirlwind.
So much has happened since then and yet in many ways it is like yesterday.
Back then I was 17 and knew next to nothing about the Hospice of the Good Shepherd. I had heard the name but it didn’t mean much to me. Not then, anyway. However, that summer it took on a whole new meaning, in the saddest of circumstances.
My mum Bridie was in the prime of her life. She had just turned 50 and with my dad was beginning to enjoy the stage of life when you can start to enjoy once your kids start growing up – like going on holidays with friends, having weekends away and such. An only child, I was getting older and starting to do my own thing, as were they. The years stretched ahead of all of us with exciting possibilities.
But as summer 2004 approached, Mum suddenly began to change. She became forgetful and uncharacteristically harsh. She’d swear she’d done something when she hadn’t and became very strange to be around. The GP didn’t seem overly concerned but she became so unlike herself that her colleagues at The Countess of Chester Hospital pushed for her to get a scan and on my 17th birthday in June 2004, she went in for one.
When she got dressed that morning we never imagined that would be the last time she would ever be at home.
The brain scan showed swelling behind her eyes and she was referred to Walton Centre in Liverpool. It turned out the reason she’d been acting so strangely was due to the aggressive grade 4 glioblastoma (tumour) in her brain. It needed to be removed but since it was stage 4, the prognosis was not good.
After surgery, she was unrecognisable and we never again had a proper conversation.
Having lived a somewhat sheltered life until then, I didn’t really fully understand the extent and gravity of what was happening. When one day my dad told me mum was being moved from Liverpool to the hospice, I was, rather naively perhaps, thrilled and pleased she would be much closer to us and able to come home once she was fully recovered.
It was only when I was told that hospices were all about that I realised this was not going to happen.
Visiting my mum for the first time at the hospice was quite surreal. I didn’t know what to expect as I’d never been near one before.
I do not recall much detail about mum’s time there, mainly because the few times I could actually bring myself to visit my mind has blocked out. But I do know she was treated kindly and respectfully which of course is all you can hope for.
I remember thinking it was a lovely place to spend your final days. Outside, the gardens looked pretty and there was always a friendly face around which helped somewhat. My dad visited and stayed by her side constantly and I will always remember the heart-breaking sight of him holding a sponge of juice to her mouth every few minutes so she wouldn’t get dry lips.
All in all, our awful limbo period lasted around five weeks before she finally succumbed on July 20. In the years since, I have always wanted to do something to thank the hospice for their good care of my mum but I’ve never really known what, and I’ve never quite been in the right headspace.
My dad has since gone on to be a Befriender at the hospice and has devoted much of his time to volunteering, as his way of giving something back.
But this year when I heard about the Sparkle Walk, I decided to go for it. It might have taken almost two decades but I finally feel ready.
So, on 16th June, almost 19 years to the day Mum had her surgery, I will put on my trainers and wear her name on my T-shirt with pride. just know she would be thrilled.
Do you have a story you’d like to share about the care or support your family has received from the team at The Hospice of the Good Shepherd? Please email us today: firstname.lastname@example.org