At age 72, David has been a day patient of Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care since he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2008, an incurable lung disease caused by asbestos exposure when working as an apprentice carpenter as a young boy.
Despite the terminal prognosis, David has a positive outlook, “I have been very fortunate in life. I was in the military services and I saw a lot of friends seriously injured and worse. I am lucky, as despite the problems associated with pulmonary fibrosis, I can still move about and do things. A lot of people don’t live till they’re 72 years old.”
He continues, “I can’t change having this disease, and I have two choices. I can choose to sit in an armchair and wait to die or I can make the best of it – enjoy what I can in my life while I can. Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care has been tremendous in helping me to do this.”
David comes to Day Hospice every week to do just that. He participates in ‘Brush with Art’, one of the therapy sessions, and says, “When my daughter came up last week, a nurse showed her all the pictures around the ward and she said: ‘Dad, I’d love you to paint me a butterfly that we can frame and put in the lounge’. I think she wanted to say in memory of me, but didn’t want to say it, so that’s what I’m doing.”
He continues, “When I come to Day Hospice I mix with people who may not have the same disease as me, but they are the same as me. You spend time talking to people and realise that you’re not the only one whose life has changed due to illness. I meet new people, share a bit of humour and enjoy chatting.
Everyone here is so happy. The patients are happy because it’s passed on by the staff and volunteers. They can’t do enough for you. It’s so easy to relax and enjoy yourself. If anyone has doubts about going to Day Hospice I would say this to them: give it a go, I did and I really enjoy it. It’s not going to cure you but you can enjoy the company of those who are making the best of what they have. The staff do so much at Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care. The food is delicious. Everybody is wonderful.”
David is also keen to take part in some of the Hospice’s ‘Wellbeing Workshops’. One in particular is the ‘Managing Fatigue’ course designed to help maximise energy levels. “I get very tired with my disease and have problems with breathing and sleeping, so this will be a great help to me.”
Despite David’s steadfast determination to remain positive during his illness, he does have one worry. “I was terribly concerned about leaving loved ones behind, how they would cope during the illness and once I am gone. My family are my only worry but I’m resolving that with the support of Phyllis Tuckwell.”
With his wife David has a daughter and two young grandchildren. The Patient and Family Support team at Phyllis Tuckwell provided David and his family with advice and support on coming to terms with his illness and how to talk to the grandchildren about the subject.
David says, “Bringing my grandchildren to the Hospice so they can familiarise themselves with the environment, and giving them the time to sit down with a counsellor to talk through what is happening, was invaluable. The staff also talked to us about practical issues such as getting my affairs in order and thinking about where I would like to end my life – at home or in the Hospice. These are the things that weigh on my mind and knowing Phyllis Tuckwell is there to support me and my family all the way is reassuring beyond words.”