Joyce and Aiden's story

From the second Andy received his diagnosis, which is one of the hardest moments in our lives, his cancer journey was terrible. Every step of the way felt like a battle even for just the most basic things like needing an extra pillow and blanket in hospital as he was cold. We were constantly fighting our way through in the hope that he would get better and the days would get easier.

We had about a year of Andy being all clear and things seemed to improve. But shortly after Covid hit Andy couldn’t keep his food down again and I think we all knew then that it was back. Being told his cancer had not only returned but had spread, without being able to be by his side was heart-breaking. He was all alone and there was nothing I could do. Treatment was really tough on Andy and in the end he was so ill he decided that quality of life was better than quantity; he made the brave decision to stop treatment and enjoy the little time he had left with his family.
Andy first came to the hospice for respite care and from that very moment he said he knew where he wanted to be at the end. Our daughter had died at home at just 27 years old and he didn’t want to put us through that again. The hospice to us was a place we knew Andy would be cared for. He wasn’t ignored, everything he needed or wanted they would provide for him. Because of his illness he struggled to eat and while in hospital for a short stay he came home a whole stone lighter, which was terribly worrying! At Dove House he could pick his food and have anything at any time he was actually able to eat and most of all enjoy it. Things like that were such a relief.

Before coming to the hospice the problem was the care, he wasn’t being looked after, his needs were not being met, we couldn’t visit only video call we couldn’t advocate for him when he wasn’t able to, we felt helpless and his mental health was at an all time low.

From the moment we came to Dove House it was like the stress of everything we had been going through had been lifted. The hospice is relaxing and a lovely place to be. No one ever wants to be in a position where you need end of life care but I am so glad that the hospice is there to support families like it did mine. I don’t know what we would have done if Dove House hadn’t been there for us. They helped make the end easier to bare, not just for us but for Aiden too.
At home one day he said to me, “its time, it’s time for me to go into Dove House”, I think he knew the end was coming. The next day we were back at the hospice and because he had already been in for respite he wasn’t worried at all.

Despite Covid restrictions we were able to visit and that meant the world to us, especially our son Aiden who was just nine years old. We would come through the stunning gardens and take turns to be with Andy but also to take in the tranquillity that is the hospice gardens -chimes in the air and the noise of the water fall were both so calming, it certainly made visiting so much easier. Aiden would push Andy out in his wheelchair when he was well enough and they would watch the fish together. This is where Aiden’s love of the gardens began and I am eternally thankful for that as visiting the gardens after Andy died helped Aiden to see the hospice as a positive place and not consumed with grief.

Aiden is autistic so processing Andy’s illness was difficult especially when I was trying to manage visiting Andy whilst ensuring Aiden didn’t feel like he was being forgotten about. In the last week or so Andy didn’t want Aiden to see him so ill and only remember him like that so we came up with the idea of a star. Both Andy and Aiden would have a red wooden star of their own so that when they couldn’t be together they would be able to hold it in their hand and still feel connected. This helped Andy just as much as it did Aiden I think and towards the end of his life the star never left his hand. Andy was tired, tired of fighting and that week he died at Dove House with his star in his hand and his family by his side.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about visiting Andy at the hospice, I wasn’t sure I would be strong enough, but they made it so easy, calm and relaxing that actually I was there the whole time.
Not long after Andy died Aiden brought a bag of stars to give to patients at the hospice and their families so that they may bring them comfort like it did for him and Andy.