Matt was a devoted father of two young boys when he died at the age of just 39.
A visit to the doctor, with what he thought was a simple stomach-ache, led to a diagnosis of stage 4 bowel cancer.
Over the coming months, while Matt, who was an IT programme manager underwent rounds of chemotherapy and operations, he, his wife Katy and his young family found us to be a great source of comfort and support.
Our clinical teams told them everything they needed to know which meant they could focus on being a family.
Initially, when they were told that Matt had been referred to the hospice, they were apprehensive. They knew little of what hospices did and were fearful of the phrase ‘hospice care’.
But they quickly came to realise that our staff would offer them the opportunity to live life as well as they could and make memories that Katy and their small boys, Jake and Ben would treasure.
“Matt was only 37 when he was diagnosed,” said Katy. “He had gone to see the doctor on his own as he thought he would be ok. But then he called me at work to tell me he had cancer. There was a lot of wanting and hoping that he would be one of the lucky ones, but he wasn’t. It was stage 4 – it floored us.
“He had to tell his parents that it was going to kill him. No one should ever have to do that.”
Between his bouts of treatment, Matt was determined that life would carry on as close to normal as possible. With Katy, he took the boys to theme parks, they went out for lunch and did as many things as a family as they could.
But time was not on their side and Matt died less than two years after he was diagnosed.
“He came to the hospice in 2019 for a week,” said Katy. “We came to see what was on offer – it certainly didn’t feel like it would be the final time. His stay in the hospice was not just comforting for him, it was for us and for anyone who came to visit him.
“The people were all so lovely, the atmosphere was very different to that in the hospital – there was more compassion and that made you feel welcomed. The staff were so honest, they told the truth in a very empathetic way.
“The social workers really helped us too. We hadn’t told the children too much about Matt’s illness, they knew he was poorly and had appointments to go to but that was it. But the social workers helped us with what to tell the boys when the time came, they were so supportive, and they really helped us with the process. They made it so much easier than it could possibly have been.
“And they have been there for us since Matt died. He passed away six months before the pandemic began – but we were still able to make it to a couple of the Elephant Never Forgets sessions for the children and I went along to a bereaved parent group. Both helped hugely, I was able to speak to people who had walked in my shoes, and even during lockdown, and we couldn’t meet, I knew the social workers were only at the end of the line, and I could phone them whenever I needed to.”
Since Matt’s death, Katy has raised more than £25,000 for charity, beginning with a collection at his funeral and with the help of friends and family, she organised a black-tie ball and Matt’s friends hold regular poker nights.
“I will do whatever I can to support Severn Hospice,” said Katy. “I never thought we would need to use a hospice, you don’t at our age, but then we did and everyone we met helped us in some way or another. They lifted a weight off Matt’s shoulders and allowed him to carry on being the brilliant dad and husband that he was. To them, he wasn’t just a patient, they really cared about him and that made the world of difference.”