Being diagnosed with a life-limiting condition is hard on both the person concerned and their family and friends. However, that’s why we’re here and why our doctors and nurses do the jobs they do. They look after and support those who need them the most and do all they can to make sure patients are as comfortable as they can be.
This experience is true for City Hospice patient, Roger Palmer, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2015 and has been seeing Clinical Nurse Specialist, Kath, ever since.
“I’d been getting some pretty bad pain in my spine, so I went to my GP and he sent me for an X-Ray. The doctor then thought that the X-Ray should be investigated further and sent me for an MRI scan. I had to wait a few weeks to get the results but when I went, the doctor said ‘Look, I’m sorry I’ve got some bad news for you.’ At first, it was thought to be Myeloma, which is how it appeared on the scan. However, after further tests, I was told it was prostate cancer which had spread to my bones.
Roger and his wife, Sandra, spent a lot of time in and out of hospital at appointments, being given lots of information. Roger said that, with Sandra’s permission, he wanted to know how long he had left. “The hospital said it could be months or up to two years. That was two and a half years ago and it was definitely my lowest point.”
This is where Cardiff’s local hospice got involved.
Sandra said that getting the cancer diagnosis before Christmas really took its toll on both Roger and herself. “City Hospice stepped in with a visit from Dr Helen Fielding and a nurse called Kate who were both so lovely. We were both really low at this time and although they could not undo the diagnosis they were both so realistically optimistic. The doctor examined Roger to check that the cancer hadn’t caused any damage to the spinal column and was so reassuring towards us, giving us lots of information to help us understand what was going on and giving us an advice sheet just in case any spinal problems occurred. They were just very thorough, careful and positive too.”
Meeting Clinical Nurse Specialist, Kath, really helped the couple. Kath was called in to help manage Roger’s pain and has been a great support ever since.
Roger said “It was quite funny when we met Kath because she said ‘I’m your palliative care nurse’ and I thought ‘It’s a bit early for that!’ Then she explained that palliative care doesn’t mean you’ve got six weeks to live and then you’re on your way. She explained that she was there to help with my pain control, which is what she’s done but she’s done so much more than that. She’s a friend really.”
And it wasn’t just managing Roger’s symptoms that the couple appreciated.
“Kath kindly put us in touch with the Welfare Rights Officer, who was really lovely and got us a Blue Badge for parking which has been so helpful. She also offered us financial advice which we were really surprised about as no one had asked us about it before. We wouldn’t have known about that service otherwise. She made us aware of financial help we could have if we wanted it and emphasized that we were entitled to it.”
Sandra wanted to add that not only has Kath been a great help, she’s been an extra person to ask advice from when needed. “Kath is another link, an extra person you can ring if you’re concerned about something. She’ll give the best advice and you know there’s someone at the end of the phone. She’s been brilliant. For example, Roger needed additional medication on the same day that it had been prescribed. She arranged for me to pick it up that afternoon which was so helpful. She’s been that extra person to turn to. Whatever ill health you have, you always need your Kath.”
Going through something life changing like Roger and Sandra means that support from those around you is so important. “We’ve just tried to be as positive as normal. Our faith as Christians has been a tremendous help. There’s not as much to fear as some people might think. We’ve also had tremendous support from our friends at the church and our non-Christian friends and of course, our family, have been brilliant.”
Alongside the supportive people mentioned, Roger says his lovely wife, Sandra, has been his nurse and his shoulder to lean on. “We’re originally from the same area of Cardiff and both went to the same church that we still go to now. We met in the youth club at age 15 or 16 and have been married for 48 years. We’ve got a fantastic family and we’re very close which has really given us a great feeling of support.”
The couple have been so positive and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by those supporting them.
“When we asked about how long I had left, the doctor originally gave us up to two years. I asked another doctor what he thought of that. He said 4-5 years but it could be 7. Every time I go for my treatments, they comment on how positive I am. I’ve just had my 70th birthday and that was a milestone we set ourselves and I think it’s fair to say that our next one is our Golden Wedding Anniversary in two years’ time. And then I get to 75, then 80. It’s good to have milestones.
Keeping positive is important as is trying to do things as normally as you can and to keeping active with things you enjoy doing. Music is really important to me and we go to concerts a lot which is great.”
That positivity has shown through Roger’s creativity in a compilation of poems, prayers, stories and reflections called ‘Seeds of Hope’. They’ve amazingly raised more than £700 from donations for the books. “At our church the other Sunday, we had about 60 people at a service where I reflected on ‘Bread of Life’ (one of the poems). We decided that the offering from that service would go to City Hospice. It raised £180. It’s amazing to have that support network.”
We are so grateful to both Roger and Sandra for sharing their story. Roger said “If sharing our story helps to promote the work of City Hospice and it helps people who are in the same boat or similar situation, that’s fine. We hope it helps.”