Phillip Morre Can it really be a year since I wrote my entry “A quiet start to 2013”? It doesn’t seem it, but there are so many similarities about my situation now and then, although with important differences, happily. This year has seen the Christmas period pass by without my family suffering any illness, which has meant that we were able to enjoy some happy times together on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.  A year ago our celebrations were delayed by the dreaded norovirus.

Another difference has been the weather.  As I write, we have yet to be hit by major snowfalls here (although I hesitate to speak too soon).  But there have been big storms and flooding in so many parts of the country without causing too much distress in our immediate locality.  How terrible it has been for those who have been so badly affected – and still are, of course:  apart from the initial devastation caused by floods, there remains the lengthy and heart-breaking clearing up operation.  I just cannot imagine how it must feel to be so badly affected, and particularly at Christmas time.

One of the things that has stayed the same, however, has been some uncertainties about my health. A year ago, I was just about to change from a medication which had really proved to be very effective for almost a year.  I have since been receiving another drug which has been quite beneficial for almost a year but which is now not really doing the job.  So another possibility is being considered which could shortly be available.  To assist in the decision-making, I recently underwent three scans (in two days!) to try to see how my cancer is progressing.  One was a CT contrast scan, another a bone scan and the third was an MRI brain scan. (I wonder how many times the folks involved have heard people joking, as I did, that it shouldn’t take very long to scan my brain!).

As always, I was impressed and grateful for the care taken to put me at ease and to explain what was happening, just as I am impressed and grateful for all the care I receive from the NHS. It really couldn’t be better.  Hopefully my consultant will now be fully informed as to what is going on inside me, and able to identify the best way forward. If it takes me through another year, that will be fabulous.

Another thing that has been similar to last year is news of the deaths of friends and relatives. In the middle of November my only brother died after a short illness, and that certainly marks the end of an era.  A Christmas card from another friend informed me that her husband had passed away, and some faces from the Day Hospice have now been lost. All of these deaths of friends and hospice patients are bound to happen given the increasing age and/or frailty of so many I know, and the important way for me to cope is to look back at the happy memories of times past.

Well, what of other news from the hospice?  In previous years we have enjoyed a special Christmas lunch, and received a visit from Father Christmas.  However, this year saw a change:  a fabulous lunch as ever, but no Father Christmas.  This time we had a visit from a magician who was extremely entertaining, and kept us baffled and amused.  Some of the time we felt that we could understand how he was achieving something, but we couldn’t see him doing it.  Very good indeed!

There are also some new faces that have joined us.  As usual, that brings new conversations and interests as they are assimilated into the group, which remains a wonderfully supportive set of people.

Another reminder of Severn Hospice’s work has just come through my letter box in the form of the Yearbook 2013-14.  This year sees the celebration of 25 years of caring, and there are many photographs showing staff as they were then and as they are now. Two things strike me about these.  One is the amazing continuity demonstrated by folks who have clearly been inspired and dedicated to work here for a quarter of a century.  The other notable feature shared by all those photographed is their happy smiling faces.  In one of my earliest blogs I wrote about a certain amount of trepidation on my part when I came to the Day Hospice for the very first time.  I said that I was so reassured to be met by a huge smile of welcome from one of the nurses who came to greet me, and smiles of welcome still hold good today.

And what of my future as the New Year unfolds?  Well, just like last year, I have some uncertainty over my continuing treatment.  That will hopefully be clarified when I see my consultant in a couple of weeks for the results of my scans and a discussion of medication.  What is cheering for me is that I am able to sit here and write this when things could be much worse.  Another cheering factor is the interruptions which occur as I am writing, as friends ring to check up on me and to wish me all the best for the coming year.  How do you measure the value of that support?!  Long may it continue.

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