My beautiful wife, Debbie, was diagnosed with cancer back in 2011.  After a punishing course of treatment at Velindre Cancer Centre, we thought it had gone away, and that we could return to the life we had lived before the cancer, and were looking to the future with hope again.  Tragically, in 2015, the cancer reappeared. So began another round of treatments, even more gruelling and challenging than the last time. And made all the more difficult because the flame of hope we all tried so hard to keep burning, began, little by little, to fade away.

City Hospice (at the time called George Thomas Hospice Care) was a light in that terrifying darkness, to an extent that it’s almost impossible to put into words. When you love someone as much as we loved Deb, every glimmer of positivity becomes magnified a million-fold. Just to see her feeling better - in her heart and mind, even if not her body - was a gift it was impossible to put a price on. It was a gift that everyone at the Hospice gave, and gave again. Everyone at City Hospice took incredible care of Deb, but I’d just like to express my thanks to the following who were most involved in her care who included:  

Dr Margred Capel, the Hospice’s lead Consultant in Palliative Medicine, who was Deb’s beloved doctor. It’s hard to convey just how much Dr Capel meant to her, and continues to mean to us. ‘Above and beyond’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, nor words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘amazing’, even though they’re true. Amid all the horrors, and the growing realisation of what was coming, there wasn’t a single time when Deb didn’t come away from seeing Dr Capel without feeling better. I can’t thank her enough for that. And then there was Dr Fiona Rawlinson, another Consultant in Palliative Care, who was not only always there for us when Dr Capel couldn’t be, but who was always in the picture about what was happening, so could deal with any issues without delay.

Jo Vincent, the Hospice’s Medical Secretary, who organised such a multitude of things for us. Not only all the complex medical equipment Deb needed, but also all the things I couldn’t quite get my head around. Things like writing to our daughter Olivia’s university, so they knew what she was having to deal with in the middle of her exams, and to the tour operator, when we had to cancel the family holiday Deb had so desperately wanted to go on. Like a terrier, she never let anything go.  

And there was Sarah Bull, Head of Bereavement Counselling, who listened to us all with such compassion, who counselled and prepared us for the end with such sensitivity, and who continues to support all our children to this day.

Last, but certainly not least, Clare Jones, Deb’s Clinical Nurse Specialist, who was there for us every second of every fraught and distressing day. Who brought and administered Deb’s medication. Whose capable, unflappable, unwavering ‘can-do’ attitude was like a shot in the arm in itself. Who, in the week of Deb’s passing, could see what we couldn’t, and who calmly, but firmly, told us to bring our son Rich home from Scotland, so he would be able to be there to say goodbye. No words can express how much that meant to Deb. 

But since words are all I have, I must use them. Caring, compassionate and cohesive don’t sound much, but, together, they encapsulate the ethos at City Hospice. A team of angels on earth, who move heaven and earth, to make their patients’ lives as comfortable and pain free as they can, and doing so many little things to make the big thing they are facing that bit more bearable.

When Deb’s cancer returned, I must have spent thousands of pounds trying to find a way to save her. I was so desperate to keep her with us I would have sold the shirt off my back. The point when I realised nothing could save her was one of the darkest in my life.  So I equated the word ‘hospice’ with a place of no hope. Just thinking about it was like staring into an abyss. I was so wrong. City Hospice was a place that gave us hope. Hope that Deb’s last days could include laughter as well as tears. That, as a family, we could cope with what was to come. We were enveloped in love and care, by people who asked for nothing except the opportunity to comfort and support all of us, right through Deb’s final days, her passing and beyond. And what struck me most, and still does today, is that what they gave us was priceless. We are all so grateful.