When Wendy Lord realised her breast cancer couldn’t be cured, she took control of her end-of-life care. She found out about Saint Francis Hospice and the care and support it provides patients and their family at the community group Tea and Talk at Toby’s. Here her loving sister Leonore Lord-Patterson shares her story.
Wendy was my big sister, a mother, a daughter, a little sister and a friend to many. She was also my rock. She knew me like no one else will ever again.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, it was terrifying for all of us.
My mum had had breast cancer and had a mastectomy, and we thought that it would be the same for Wendy but Wendy had a much more aggressive and painful cancer and we realized we would not grow old together.
Wendy found out about Saint Francis Hospice when she attended one of its community support groups – Tea and Talk at Toby’s.
It helped her to go and talk to other people who were living with cancer. She didn’t have to put on a brave face all the time. Then she also started going to groups at the Hospice for support.
I think my sister knew more than we did in taking control of her own end of life care.
The support she got from Saint Francis Hospice was on a whole different level and the support that extended to the whole family was very profound and what we needed.
Wendy stayed at the Hospice twice and the final time was in December 2019.
By that time, she was in tremendous pain, losing the capacity to speak and her quality of life was deteriorating while she was at home.
We knew she needed 24hr professional help and it was time for her to go to the Hospice.
We made a phone call and within 24 hours she was able to go into the ward. As a family, we knew that at the Hospice she would have the care she needed.
We knew we were having to deal with the start of her final journey and losing a very important person in the family. She was the light in the family.
But we also had some of our happiest memories whilst she was in the Hospice
It was Christmas and Christmas at the Hospice was a special time. There was a lot of cheer and there were lots of Quality Street sweets and people around us were having Christmas dinner! It was a surreal time. But our life was about going to the Hospice to spend time with Wendy. We knew it was Christmas but we were very much focused on the moment.
The care was consistently phenomenal. Wendy had a massive thing about cleanliness. She was always asking for a bath and to have a soak. Everyone gave her a lot of love and the nurses were supportive and considerate to what she wanted and what she needed.
Some of the good times were the late conversations we had without someone looking at the clock because they had to go. She loved a Jack Daniels and Coke and we were able to have a drink from the drinks trolley that came around in the evening and have a giggle together.
Wendy didn’t want to go. Her whole instinct was to be here for her two children.
She was able to keep working from home until a few months before she died, and she was able to see her son Daniel’s 18th birthday.
She wanted him to have counselling and when she knew he would have counselling, she knew he was going to be ok and she was able to pass on Christmas Eve.
We were there at the end. We were there for her last breath. I feel absolutely blessed to be there at that time and to have that time to say goodbye.
Tea and Talk at Toby’s is a support group for people affected by cancer. It meets on the first Monday of every month from 10am to 12pm at Toby Carvery, Shenfield Common, Ingrave Road, Brentwood, CM15 8DZ. To find out more call 01708 758 649, email email@example.com or visit sfh.org.uk/orangeline