Helen's Story

Helen’s husband Mike sadly died at the hospice in March 2017. Mike was referred to Bolton Hospice for pain management after his cancer diagnosis in 2016.

"Mike was a big strapping guy with a heart of gold. He was lovely, a joker, always having banter with his grandchildren and he was a huge Manchester United supporter. He was a character, he certainly was! Took the mick out of everyone, but that was Mike.

Mike was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last year. They couldn’t operate and he was too ill for chemotherapy. The doctor told us he had 3-6 months to live.

Mike came to Bolton Hospice for the first time in February after his GP referred him for pain management.

This is where my understanding of the hospice began to change, because I always thought hospice meant ‘dying’ – you go to a hospice to die. But that’s not the case. He came first of all to the inpatient unit for pain management because we couldn’t control the pain at home. It just wasn’t working. Almost immediately, the staff at the hospice had got his pain under control and after 2 weeks Mike seemed more like himself again. I can’t thank them enough for that. It is absolutely incredible what these doctors and nurses do.

He never wanted for anything. He had a beautiful room looking out onto the gardens and they treated him with the dignity that he deserved.

We got so much support from everybody, even Rinty the therapy dog! He loved seeing Rinty and the grandchildren even brought their dog to the hospice to see Grandad as well!

It was a home from home for him, he was comfortable and he felt safe.

After those 2 weeks of pain management, he came home and received excellent care from the Hospice At Home team and Macmillan nurses. Mike had told me he didn’t wanted to die at home because it would be too much for me to cope with afterwards. And he didn’t want to go to the hospital. So we kept him home for 3 weeks but his pain was getting worse. It was totally consuming and I hadn’t slept for days and days, it was just getting worse by the minute.

So, we made the decision to bring him back to the inpatient unit at the hospice. Mike was a lot happier. We were visiting him 24 hours a day, his grandson is a barber and he used to come and give him a shave, and his great granddaughter used to love coming to see grandad and sit on his bed and play with her dollies. It was just normal. I felt sorry for those nurses sometimes because there were so many of us in that room – dogs as well! But they never ever quibbled, never complained.

I had never experienced cancer on that level. I know you hear about it all the time, it’s out there and people are suffering. But to actually watch it, and see the kind of care and support these nurses provide every day, they are just incredible. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for how they looked after him.

I couldn’t have wished for him to have his last days anywhere else.

My hospice experience changed my perspective on what a hospice is all about. I think a lot of people, myself included at the time, have misconceptions of a hospice as just somewhere you go to die. But it’s not that at all because it does so many other things. The hospice didn’t just look after Mike, they looked after me and my whole family and supported us all throughout Mike’s illness. The care and support the hospice can offer a family like mine is second to none."

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