Our Story

May 2013 was when our lives changed.

After passing blood my husband, Vernon, saw our GP, tests showed significant anaemia with no obvious cause.  He was referred that week to UHW for tests and a scan and the week after a urology consultant advised he had a large tumour on his left kidney which was likely to be malignant.  There were also 2 spots on his lung which were not thought to be of any significance.

The following Monday Vernon’s kidney and a 10cm tumour were removed.  The surgeon was confident that the surgery had gone well and the prognosis was good.  No chemotherapy or radiotherapy was required.

In October 2013, following a routine check up, we were stunned to be told that the spots on the lung had developed into a secondary cancer and we were told that Vernon could receive chemotherapy medication with the aim of giving him “many more months, if not years”.  Vernon underwent debilitating chemotherapy, but despite this, his cancer spread to his right leg.  He received a titanium replacement femur and after physiotherapy he regained mobility and fitness to a degree although his leg was never the same.  The final hammer blow came in February 2015 when it was confirmed that the cancer had spread again, this time to the liver.  We knew time was finally running out.  Despite this we continued to live a relatively normal life, even taking our final family holiday to New York in June.  But by then his symptoms were getting very difficult to manage with increased agitation and confusion and we were told he had weeks, maybe months left.  This meant a referral to the community palliative care service provided by George Thomas Hospice Care.

Whilst it was traumatic to know that this very referral meant we were in the final straight of our journey, it also meant that we were in the hands of an experienced, skilled and knowledgeable group of people who were putting Vernon and the family at the centre of everything they did.  George Thomas acted as our advocate when services didn’t go well, when medication wasn’t provided promptly or by suggesting alternatives to ease the side effects, when others simply weren’t listening to what we needed and what we wanted.  Our nurses Karen and Cara helped us navigate the difficult health and social services landscape and were, importantly, always there at the end of the phone, whenever we needed advice.  There is nothing more lonely than waking in the early hours with your loved one in pain or fear and not knowing what to do, GTHC gave me that safety net for which I will always be grateful.

And more fundamentally GTHC provided us not only with the practical help we required, but also with the emotional support we very much needed.  From Dr Capel and Counsellor Sarah Bull helping us explain sensitively what was to come to our (then) 10 year old daughter Cara, to Sarah’s ongoing support to our Maya and I through individual counselling sessions and, in Cara’s case, the children’s bereavement group, even to bringing some light relief through opportunities to have reflexology, attend rugby matches and even to see Beyonce!  Crucially, I know the door is always open, GTHC help doesn’t have an expiry date and I’m reminded of that when on a Monday my phone rings and its Sarah “just checking in with me”.  That means a lot.

And in return you want to pay it back.  Instead of funeral flowers we asked for donations to GTHC, I make a monthly direct debit to support the organisation and the three of us even participated in “Gung Ho” a 5k inflatable obstacle course (in the rain!) from which Cara raised over £500 for GTHC.

Vernon died peacefully on 22 September at UHW.  It has been the most difficult few years, of course, and it will continue to be a long road without him in our lives but we are looking forward and George Thomas has played a key role in us getting where we are today and where we will be in the future.  This support should never be underestimated; I am in no doubt whatsoever that people need GTHC and that GTHC needs your support to keep on doing what they do so well.

Lynne, Maya and Cara Schofield