A woman who lost both her parents in the space of just a few weeks has paid tribute to a Whittington-based charity that helped care for them in their final days.
Rachel Langman first got in touch with St Giles Hospice in 2011 after he mother Jane was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The charity also supported the family when her dad Dennis when he became ill.
She is now urging people to help the hospice continue its work as it celebrates 30 years of caring for patients with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.
Rachel insists the care her parents received from the St Giles Hospice at Home team and at the Compassus Centre meant they were able to spend their final days with dignity.
Her first contact with the charity came after doctors had told her mum that nothing more could be done for her. But rather than living out her final days in hospital, Jane wanted to be in the familiar surroundings of her own home.
“I was determined to give mm her last wish and I came to the hospice pleading for help,” explained Rachael. “The very next day we were delighted when we took delivery of a bed at home.
“I was so happy when Dad and I told her she would be coming home. She gave me a big hug, said thank you and that she was so proud of me.”
For the next week, Jane was cared for in her home by the St Giles team, who came every morning and evening to wash her and get her ready for the day and ready for bed.
“I know Mom was so thankful for that extra week she got to spend at home thanks to St Giles,” Rachael added. “The Hospice at Home support was above and beyond – I couldn’t have asked for better support for our family.
“In such a short amount of time it gave us so many memories. She would tell me all the names of the butterflies passing by the window and now whenever I see a white butterfly I think of her and that special time we had together.
“My Mom was my best friend and seeing her go through what she went through was one of the hardest things I’ll ever experience, but St Giles made it easier to cope with. When I look back and remember the strength she showed throughout her battle with cancer it makes me stronger.”
By the time Jane’s funeral came around, her husband Dennis had also become ill and was suffering from severe weight loss.
The day after her saying goodbye to her mother, Rachael took her father to hospital and the following day the doctors told her they thought he had a secondary tumour on his liver. Subsequent tests discovered a preliminary tumour on his oesophagus which was inoperable, and the family was told that making Dennis as comfortable as possible was all that could be done.
Her father’s final weeks were, however, filled with happy events – as while he was in hospital Rachael’s boyfriend Ben went to visit him and ask if he could marry her, proposing a week later.
“We set our wedding date for seven weeks’ time in the hope that dad could be there to see me walk down the aisle,” Rachael recalled. “But as time went on he got weaker and we made the decision to have a blessing in the church as we started to realise dad wasn’t going to see us get married.
“Dad was so happy seeing us bless our future and I will always treasure that memory.”
The next day Dennis was admitted to the Compassus Centre in Whittington, where he spent his final four days.
“When we first arrived I was absolutely amazed by how wonderful, friendly and calm the building felt, and to know it was all being run on donations was just incredible,” She added. “Dad had his own private room and he seemed very comfortable and relaxed there.
“I think dad was always worried about his family having to care for him, and having that stress being taken away from us also helped him feel more relaxed.
“While dad was in the hospice it had a positive effect on the whole family. We had so many happy memories being there with him, talking and laughing about times gone by.”
After her dad passed away, Rachael, who had also lost two grandparents in the same ten-month period, found it difficult to cope, but was supported once more by the team at St Giles.
She said: “Slowly life started to get better. My husband said that every time I came back from a counselling session it looked like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
“It’s been a difficult journey that is still ongoing but with the help of everyone who has stood by me, I know I will get through it.”