Rebecca wanted to share the story of her sister, Jo and celebrate the amazing, personalised support the hospice gave to her and her family both during her care and following her death. Jo was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2009 when she was 40 years old. Rebecca told us that after battling eight years of treatment including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the pain became too much and Jo’s body was exhausted, and then thankfully a bed was found for her in the hospice.
Rebecca, Jo and Amanda
Rebecca’s memories of how Jo and her family were treated are still so strong: “The environment of Cynthia Spencer is like no other, a place of peace and tranquillity. Even as you are walking in the face of such a sad journey, the "earth angel" staff always have time for you. Nothing is too much trouble. They made Jo and all of the family feel valued and on Jo's 48th birthday (7th February) they allowed us to create a special birthday party for her. Jo was an extremely spiritual person and this was recognised and respected. She was given reiki healing, allowed an aromatherapy diffuser in her room and was able to build a fairy garden within the grounds. She used to love to go out in her wheelchair and see the glorious carpet of snowdrops maintained by amazing volunteers. She particularly loved feeding the birds, especially the little robin who would visit daily.”
Jo's fairy garden at the hospice
Rebecca recalls the amazing support from the volunteers: “I remember one particular day, Jo was dozing in the chair and the volunteer complementary therapist offered to treat Jo but she declined. The therapist then asked me, I was astounded. Why me? I'm not poorly! But she was so kind and said it was for families too. I didn't expect that at all. It was very emotional and I remember crying. I’d been supporting Jo every day for six months so to have someone offer a treatment to me was overwhelming.”
“Claire, the Family Worker gave Jo’s daughter, Holly a memory box for her daughter Ruby (Jo’s granddaughter) while my own daughter Madeleine (then 11) was given a teddy and a blanket to help in her bereavement journey. The whole team were able to guide us through the path of losing Jo but made it as beautiful as possible. Sally Anne, from the Chaplaincy team would come to see Jo and talk through her wishes.
Rebecca's daughter with Jo
“On the day of her passing, the staff called me and I got all of my family together. We were placed in a quiet room with Jo, provided with support and care when needed but allowed to spend all our time loving her until she peacefully passed. The staff then placed Jo in the chapel with snowdrops by her hair. The staff cried with us too. Afterwards they allowed us to visit and sit in the chapel, light candles and to visit Jo's fairy garden. As a family we will be forever in the debt of the amazing staff who help make such a devastating time in your life so beautiful. I do believe a little piece of Jo still walks amongst the snow drops there.”
As Jo’s cancer had spread, her condition had become more complicated resulting in her having a colostomy. She passed away on 19th February 2017 from renal failure.
The support didn’t end after Jo’s death as Rebecca recalls: “Sally Anne came to our home and talked us through the order of service and how to create a "spiritual" burial for Jo rather than a religious one, and conducted the funeral for us which members of the nursing team attended. She provided after care counselling for us all, particularly Jo's husband, daughter and myself. We always felt informed, protected, individual and supported. Claire and Sally Anne were pivotal in this while Dr Bhav and Dr Reema took the lead role in her medical care and explained everything to us. We are forever in their debt. Claire provided me with leaflets to help support my daughter and explain grief’s journey.
Rebecca and her family now support the hospice charity in raising money having taken part in the Bubble 5K event at Abington Park and have made donations through Facebook Fundraisers: “The hospice is our charity of choice and if we can help in any way we will. If we can help one person in receiving the care Jo was given then I know one family will be supported and the person passing will be given the best loving care and non-judgemental, compassionate support.
Rebecca fundraising for the hospice
“The hospice is a little piece of heaven on earth. You made the hardest time in our lives beautiful. Those are the memories we treasure. You gave Jo a quality of life so we could say goodbye to her... until we meet again. Or as we say in our family, Mizpah.”
Jo at the hospice