Lawrie's story

I first became ill in 1985. I was happily married, had a young family and everything was going right for me. I had a great physically active job with the council and I was really happy. All of a sudden I was struck down with excruciating stomach cramps that just kept getting worse. I was doubling over with pain at work. After three months nothing was helping, I went to the doctors. They put it down to stress, told me I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and to manage it at home with pain relief. But I couldn’t live like that; it was destroying my life. I tried herbal remedies but still nothing was working.

I finally found a doctor who was taking my illness seriously. He told me it needed dealing with as an emergency and I was admitted to hospital. Three months later I was discharged from hospital and looked like a skeleton. I nearly died. I discovered I had cancer and they had opened me up to try and take it all out. Four times in the end and then I developed septicemia. Life was terrible for myself and my wife. When you become a cancer patient you lose a lot of family and friends. They are frightened to death of it but so am I. I was a fighter, I didn’t know it, but I was.

I hadn’t seen my kids for three whole months.  I had just disappeared from their life and they had no idea what was happening. The first time my kids were brought to see me was amazing and heartbreaking.

I really did think I had the all clear and started to rebuild my life, I had no idea that the cancer was going to come back. I returned to work but soon enough my life became an endless merry go round of appointments and hospitals. I ended up losing my job due to ill health, I was devastated.

My dad and brother had both died from bowel cancer and they did genetic testing and it was discovered that I have Lynch syndrome which runs in families and means you are more likely to develop certain types of cancers. Keyhole cameras had just been introduced but no new treatments had come about. I had to tell my children that they needed to get tested for Lynch Syndrome which was really difficult. Three of them turned out to also have it and I am devastated. I feel so guilty for giving them it.

Up until that point I didn’t know Dove House existed. During Covid a doctor at Castle Hill recommended the hospice to help with back pain and that is how I was introduced to Aromatherapy with Caty at the hospice. It was so relaxing and from there my whole world changed. There was so much the hospice could offer and I never knew it was available. I thought a hospice was just somewhere you spent your final days and that was it, I had no idea how much support they could give you.

The best time to come to a hospice is the beginning of your journey, and not the end.

The therapy I was receiving from Caty was helping so much, I am so glad that I gave it a go. Caty also referred me to the Family Support Team as I was having a few problems and needed someone to talk to. I was in a state and didn’t know where to turn to. I was doing the best I could do at home but the mental stress of being ill was getting to me, the hospice recommended a respite stay on the Inpatient Unit. Everything down to the food was amazing and the calming garden was incredible and just what I needed. It gave me time to reflect on everything and helped give me a positive outlook on things.

The staff at Dove House have helped me so much, especially when my sister died of cancer, she had the same genetic Lynch syndrome that I have. She was living in a different country during Covid 19 and I was too ill to travel. I didn’t feel like I could grieve as I couldn’t be there, I was really struggling. Dove House arranged for me have a service in her memory at the hospice, it helped me emotionally. It helped me let go of the pain I was carrying. I didn’t know they were able to do that for people but they did and it was so important to me, it helped with my mental health. The hospice gave me peace and the opportunity to say goodbye to my sister.
The hospice supported me so much and helped me to help myself.

I look back now and I can’t believe how far I have come and that is thanks to Dove House. Now I know the hospice is there for me whenever I need them.