A 19-year-old student has been inspired to train as a counsellor after receiving support from the hospice which cared for her dying father.  Maya Schofield, from Thornhill, Cardiff, was devastated when her father Vernon was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013. Alongside her mother Lynne and younger sister Cara, Maya supported her dad through his illness until he sadly passed away in September 2015.   Maya’s Dad was referred to City Hospice (previously George Thomas Hospice Care) for palliative care at home, and both he and the rest of the family received counselling to help them come to terms with the diagnosis.  Maya takes up the story:

"Can you imagine just how terrible and shocking it is when a 15 year old daughter is told that her Dad has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is going to die in a matter of months?  At that age your parents are the rocks around which you live your life – you just can’t imagine life without your Dad. You become so scared about what will happen to you and your family without that reassuring presence of your father being around, and wondering how your mother will cope without him. 

Once Dad had been told of his diagnosis, and referred to City Hospice, we were told about the counselling service offered to patients and their families – and the whole family accepted!”

Cara explains that her father attended counselling sessions at the Whitchurch-based City Hospice in Cardiff: "With Dad, I don't think he thought that he was really going to die. I think we came to terms with it before he did. He went for a counselling session on his own and it did really help him. He didn't want to talk to us about his condition  all the time because he knew it would upset us.  His biggest worry was that he would be leaving us: how we were going to manage without him, and cope with him not being around - it was never really about him."  

Maya and her mother had individual counselling: "The Hospice was incredible.  I was offered individual sessions on my own and we had other sessions with my whole family.  Each session was tailored to whatever I wanted it to be. That was great because it stopped it feeling like a clinical process." 

When Maya’s father died, the Hospice continued to support the family through their grief.  Maya’s sister Cara joined a children’s counselling group, finding comfort sharing her experience with other children who had also lost a parent. 

"I continued counselling until six months after my father died," said Maya.  "But the effects of that counselling are ongoing. I know City Hospice's doors are always open to me and my family and we know we can always call or email the counsellor if we need support.  I'm quite an emotional person, so when my father died in September 2015 it was good to have a third party to talk to about my feelings."

This autumn, Maya started a four-year counselling course and is looking forward to being able to give others the same sort of help and support she has received. "I'm always helping people. I'm always the one my friends come to talk to when they have problems," she said.  "I really hadn't been sure what on earth I wanted to do with my life. But losing my Dad put a lot of things into perspective, and made me realise that helping people was my passion.  I wanted to help people who were going through what I had been through.

I asked the counsellor from City Hospice about her career, and how she had trained, and decided that was exactly right for me!  If I can help people to achieve even a little bit of what she's done for us, that's enough for me.  I want to provide that amazing help and support for people and families just like she did for our family and does for so many others every week.  I know what it's like to lose someone very close to me and I think that personal experience will be vital if I'm going to talk to someone who is going through what we've been through."