“Losing my darling husband Andrew to cancer last April was absolutely heart-breaking. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him dearly, but I’m just so grateful to St Elizabeth Hospice for enabling us to enjoy his final days together as husband and wife.
Andrew and I were incredibly lucky to spend 34 years of happy marriage together. After meeting on a blind date, we wed in 1984 and bought our family home in Hadleigh, which is where we brought up our two gorgeous children; Megan and Jack.
Andrew was always fit and healthy, which is why it came completely out of the blue when, in January 2017, he started complaining about having a lump in his throat. Initially we weren’t too concerned, but he went to visit the GP to get it checked out.
We could never have prepared ourselves for the results; the doctors had found a cancerous tumour and it had already spread. He was terminal and with chemotherapy we were looking at six to 18 months. It felt like the rug had just been pulled from under our feet and the worst part was having to tell Megan and Jack. We were all devastated, but we faced Andrew’s diagnosis together as a family.
Andrew’s work, Taylor Made Joinery, and my wonderful work colleagues at Hadleigh Community Primary School, were fantastic; they told us to go and make the most of the time we had together as a family and even fundraised to pay for us to make some memories together. He started chemotherapy, and over the following couple of months we visited all the places on his bucket list.
Being referred to St Elizabeth Hospice
In March last year the consultant broke the news that Andrew’s treatment was no longer helping and she referred us to St Elizabeth Hospice. A lovely hospice community nurse came to visit us at home to discuss our options. Andrew told her: ‘I don’t want to leave my wife.’, but he knew that when the time came he wanted to go into the hospice.
We all knew that time was running out and so many people wanted to come over and visit Andrew. It was a chaotic few weeks caring for Andrew and as his health worsened he could see that I was worn out and he hated the fact that I had become his full-time carer.
The hospice nurse visited and she could see the strain we were under. When she suggested that Andrew went to stay in the inpatient unit we were both overcome with relief. We had no doubt that Andrew was in the best possible hands and he was so happy that I wouldn’t need to worry about his care. I could go back to being his wife again.
Andrew had a side room with a sofa bed so that I didn’t need to leave his side. We would spend hours chatting, holding hands and cuddling. Memories like these are priceless for me now that Andrew has gone.
By coincidence, Andrew’s employers, Taylor Made Joinery, had been commissioned to create the wooden letters for the hospice’s Suffolk Remembers event and we bumped into a couple of his colleagues as they delivered them. It felt lovely to make that connection between Andrew’s work and the hospice.
Andrew’s last night
On Andrew’s final night, Megan, Jack and a few of our friends gathered by his side. It happened to be a Friday and Andrew had always called Fridays ‘pub night’, so we decided to order a takeaway and get some beers. I dipped a sponge into the beer and when I put it to Andrew’s lips he quickly sucked it up! It put a smile on all of our faces.
As Andrew calmly drifted off to sleep that night I held his hand and as difficult as it was, I gave him permission to go. I reassured him that we would all be okay and that Megan, Jack and I would take care of each other. Megan and I held his hands while Jack stroked his leg. Together we counted down each breath until finally the room went silent. Andrew had peacefully died.
We were allowed to spend as much time with Andrew as we needed to that day. There was no rush and everything was handled in such a dignified way. Before we left, the hospice team made sure that we knew that they would be there for us if we needed any bereavement support.
As we came to terms with our loss, I remembered about the hospice’s Suffolk Remembers event and I decided to dedicate a candle in memory of Andrew. Arriving at Felixstowe promenade on the night, the atmosphere was fantastic and I was overcome with emotion. The letters, which had been crafted by Andrew’s work, read ‘Suffolk Remembers’ and were beautifully illuminated with tealights, each one in memory of someone special. Everyone there stood in solidarity and took the opportunity to remember their loved ones with a smile or a tear.
This year, on 21 June I will be dedicating another candle to Andrew to celebrate his life, as well as support our amazing hospice. Without the hospice my husband Andrew’s end would have been very different.