This week is Hospice Care Week (5 - 11 October 2020). Here, Margaret, who recently stayed on St Catherine's wards shares how the local charity helped her.
"I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at East Surrey Hospital a few months ago. After my diagnosis I went home but the news knocked me for six, like it would anybody. I live alone and was in awful pain - I'd never known anything like it, and my daughter, Janette, was really worried about me.
Nobody could come in and visit because of COVID so everything was all on my daughter and my illness was getting worse. I was in so much pain and I wasn't eating and drinking as everything just tasted like tin. I laid on my bed alone for four days, unable to do anything, before I was sent back to hospital. They checked me over and sent me home again but then I started being violently sick.
Janette had been speaking to Jackie, the Welfare Advisor at St Catherine's during that time, and she put us in touch with other people at the hospice. We were told someone would call me, but Janette said I couldn't speak very well, and we wanted someone to visit me. I just wanted someone to hold my hand and tell me it would be okay. The hospice arranged for a community doctor to come out and see me at home. They took one look at me and told me I needed to come into the hospice. I was completely dehydrated.
I was a bit wary when I heard the word hospice, but I was so depressed and in so much pain I didn't care what happened when I first came in. I honestly didn't think I'd go home from here again.
Today, I'm like a new woman
After eight days at the hospice I feel completely different. I'm a different woman today to when I came in. As soon as the doctors and nurses here got their hands on me, well, I've never known anything like it. I can't fault any of the staff - the doctors, nurses, cleaners, cooks, they're all absolutely marvellous. I didn't believe a place like this, that could help you so much, existed.
I call the first doctor I saw here my wonder woman. She came in and just sat with me. All the doctors and nurses take the time to sit and listen which makes so much difference. They answer my questions in plain English and they're so patient. One doctor explained why I kept being sick at home, and they always let me know what medication they're trying and why.
All the staff are so attentive too - Honest to god, I've never known such attentive people. Every morning the cleaning staff come in. They're so friendly - 'Morning Margaret', How are you? How are you feeling?'. Nobody can do enough for you.
I feel so happy and safe here - They're getting everything right for me
The doctors have tried all these different things to help me feel better. I've had injections and now I can have tablets as I can swallow them. In just eight days they've nearly got my pain plateaued and pretty much under control. When I first came in, I wasn't sleeping through the night because I had a pain in my neck. It was my nerves, but the doctors have tried a new patch which has helped take that pain away. They're getting everything so right for me.
When I wasn't sleeping a nurse was always there for me in the night too. I'd ring my bell, and someone would come. They'd ask me if they could get me anything, if I'd like them to sit with me or if I'd just like to go back to sleep. I've never felt in anyone's way or like I'm annoying anybody. I know there's always other patients for the doctors and nurses to see but they never rush me.
I can taste food again too
Since I've been here, I began to taste fruit again. The cooks made me milkshakes and I could taste strawberry in them. Since then, they've made me anything fruity and I've enjoyed sorbet, ice cream and hot chocolate. The menu's here are marvellous and the way they present the food is out of this world.
I've even managed my first solid meal again when I had roast lamb for Sunday lunch. Coming from Yorkshire I couldn't resist it! I couldn't wait to eat it, and I thought, whether it tastes of tin or not, I'm going to eat it. It took me about an hour to cut it up small so I could swallow it, but I wasn't going to let it beat me. Boy did I enjoy it! It had everything on it, absolutely everything. I've never had a roast dinner like it. Thanks to the hospice, my taste buds came back that morning. I took a picture to send to my children and I said, 'look what I'm eating now'. They couldn't believe I was eating again. Now, I can taste everything. I'm like a new woman - I'm eating and drinking again.
We've had so much support
Jackie, the hospice Welfare Advisor, has given Janette so much advice and support - she's been marvellous. When I was diagnosed, there was so much paperwork to handle but I was too ill to manage it, so it all fell to Janette. Neither of us had any idea where to start. It hit us like a bullet, but we knew we had to get things in order. Jackie has helped us so much - I don't know where we'd be without her.
The whole hospice helps you, it's not just the doctors, nurses and the cleaners - but the admin staff too - Everybody is there to help and I'm so grateful the hospice is around.
I'm a new person - I feel alive again
People think hospices have one meaning but nobody should feel frightened to come here - no matter when or for what. Until you need a place like this you don't stop and think about it, but there's no better place to give your money. I've never experienced care, understanding and patience like this - the hospice has made a new person out of me in a week.
I'm awake now, chatting and I'm alive again - When I first came here, I wasn't aware of things but now I'm aware of life again.
I sit in the chair by the bed after my shower, and I've even been able to get out into the hospice garden to sit and read my paper. Before I got ill, I loved my garden, so it was lovely to get a bit of fresh air. When I came back in, I was immediately offered a drink, 'What would you like Margaret?', the staff wait on you hand and foot.
The hospice's help has made such a difference to my family too. It's eased Janette so much to know how well I'm being looked after. She visits me every day and when I spoke to one of my sons, who lives in Cornwall, he told me it means so much to hear my voice again and to hear that I'm eating. My other son has visited me here too.
I've accepted my illness and spoken about the future with my family. I've been asked the question about where I want to be for my final days, and I want to be here at the hospice.
Thank you doesn't feel enough
I felt so alone until St Catherine's came on the scene but once the hospice had me in their pipeline things started to pick up. I started to feel a bit happier in myself - safer. Even nurses here have noticed the difference in me in a week. Once the doctors got their hands on me, everything just lifted.
I never thought I'd leave here, but now the doctors are talking to me about going home to try it again and I'm so happy. They're said if anything turns again at home, or if I'm worried about anything, I just need to get it touch. I wouldn't be frightened to do that because I know they'll be there for me.
The hospice has helped me so much - I'll always be grateful."
Your support has never been more needed. To make a donation to support St Catherine's, so they can continue to care for more people like Margaret in the future please visit: www.stch.org.uk/donate or call 01293 447361.