Here Brian, 74, kindly shares his story with us:
“I’d never believed that our lives were preordained but a series of chance events and mutual friendships brought Sylvia and I together at a Christmas party in 1964. We hit it off straight away and both knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.
We married in 1966 when Sylvia was 18 and I was 20. We started a family and had three children – a daughter and two sons. We worked hard and had a great life, and were always there to support each other when times were tough. Over the years we became grandparents to six wonderful grandchildren and were able to retire when we were still relatively young. We enjoyed plenty of trips out and weekends away in our touring caravan. And when Sylvia conquered her fear of flying the world was our oyster!
Then in 2013, Sylvia was referred for a scan after suffering with stomach pains. Our lives changed when the consultant broke the news that she had an abdominal sarcoma – a rare form of cancer. After recovering from major surgery we were able to enjoy life again until, three years later, a scan revealed the cancer had metastasised to her lungs.
Over the next few years the cancer spread to her bowels, brain and spine but Sylvia soldiered on through treatment and we continued to go to every appointment together. Everyone loved Sylvia as she had a great sense of humour, the amazing ability to laugh in the face of adversity and always radiated warmth and kindness.
We were advised to get in touch with John Taylor Hospice and received a visit at home from Clinical Nurse Specialist Debbie Gregory. She was lovely and we all got on so well. We discussed Sylvia’s wishes and she said she didn’t want to die in hospital or at home but in the hospice. So Debbie invited us to visit and have a guided tour, after which Sylvia’s mind was made up – that’s where she wanted to spend her final days.
The time came when we needed more support and the Hospice at Home Team stepped in along with District Nurses. Nigel Button from the hospice could see we were struggling and phoned his team. And within 15 minutes a sister from John Taylor arrived at our door and began making arrangements for Sylvia to go to the hospice.
Sylvia was struggling to communicate by then but she knew what was happening and where she was going and she was happy her wishes were being fulfilled. While Sylvia was at the hospice I didn’t leave her side. I got to know all the staff and everyone genuinely cared and made us feel special and comforted. Our family was able to visit at any time and spend precious moments with Sylvia and I got to be there for her. We were together, just as we’d been our whole lives.
My beautiful English rose passed away peacefully on 23 January 2020. I talk to her every day and I miss her so much. At Sylvia’s funeral it was standing room only in the crematorium which is testament to how loved she was. Sylvia had asked for donations instead of flowers and we were able to donate £531 to the hospice.
Before visiting John Taylor I thought a hospice was somewhere you go to die but now I know it’s so much more than that. For a time the hospice was like my home and it’s a very special place. I feel such a connection to the hospice and to the people – I love everybody I’ve met there. I’ve made several donations this year and have set up a regular monthly gift to support their work. I’ll never forget the kindness and compassion they extended to me and my family.”