We have been caring for Jack, who has bowel cancer, for two months now. Jack is 93 and served in the Navy during WWII. His daughter Ann sadly died three years ago, and was also cared for by Phyllis Tuckwell.
“I joined the Navy in 1942,” says Jack, “when I was 17. I forged my birth certificate to get in! I was sent to Whale Island in Portsmouth Harbour, where there was a gunnery school, and I did a course in gunnery. That was in 1943. When I completed it, they put me on HMS Sutton, which was a minesweeper. I was on that for about a year, right up until the D-Day landings. We were out all night long that night, sweeping for mines. It was a bit scary. When the war ended in Europe, they sent me to Hong Kong, to help send home all the prisoners of war from Stanley Prison. That took quite a while. We did so many boat trips and plane trips.”
Jack left the Navy after VJ day. “We all got de-mobbed, and that’s when I started to learn how to drive a bus. My first job was shunting them, parking them up at night. Then I met my wife, she was a bus conductress, and she suggested that I train to be a bus driver. So I did my training and passed my test, and we became driver and conductress on the same bus. In those days you could have a bus ride for a penny. We got married soon after that and had two children, a daughter and a son. My son lives on the Isle of Wight, but my daughter, Ann, died three years ago. She was cared for by Phyllis Tuckwell too.”
Ann’s daughters Yasmin and Leila visit Jack regularly, and Yasmin brings her two-year old daughter Anna to see her great-grandad.
“Everybody at Phyllis Tuckwell is amazing,” says Yasmin, who used to attend our Brush with Art therapy sessions with her mum. These sessions form part of our Living Well service, and are held at the Hospice in Farnham on a Monday afternoon. They offer patients and their families the chance to engage in a creative activity with others in a similar situation, where they can chat, express their feelings through art, and feel as though they are getting away from their illness for a time.
“Mum used to look forward to Monday afternoons,” says Yasmin. “We’d get sushi and go for art therapy, and that would be our thing. I have really nice memories of being there. I loved it. The Hospice is one of those places where you walk in and you just feel safe. You’re in a bubble with all these kind, caring people. They care for Grandad at home, and when they come to see him, it lifts him up a little bit. It just boosts your morale having that support. It’s important.”
“When I was referred to Phyllis Tuckwell, I was introduced to Annabelle,” says Jack. “She’s been coming to see me here for about two months now, and she’s been a diamond. The carers come in every morning and they put cream on my legs to stop the itching I was getting, and it’s stopped now so that’s good. Annabelle prescribed that cream and it’s wonderful. She’s an angel!”
Annabelle is one of our Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs). Our CNSs are often the first members of our team to see a new patient and are pivotal in assessing each individuals’ needs and the needs of their families. They can refer patients on to other services within PTHC, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy or complementary therapies, and can also offer complementary therapies, counselling, and practical support to patients’ families and carers.
Annabelle referred Jack for some complementary therapy sessions, and he was visited by Jenny, one of our Complementary Therapists who works in the community, visiting patients and families at home. Jack has had hand massages and Reiki, which are just two of the many therapies which we offer to help ease symptoms such as pain, anxiety and fatigue, and promote wellbeing.
“I’ve never had so much fuss made over me!” says Jack. “They’re all lovely. It’s nice that they come here. I can’t walk far because of my knees. 200 yards and that’s my lot. I’m frightened of going too far away from home.”
“Phyllis Tuckwell has been a lifeline for the whole family,” agrees Yasmin. “It’s that support that you don’t get in the real world! Having somebody to come and help Grandad at home, it’s like gold really. Because he lives on his own, I try to visit as often as I can, but now he’ll say to me ‘Jenny’s coming round for my Reiki today so I don’t need you to come for a cuppa, I’m busy!’ It’s something that he looks forward to; it breaks up the week. And it’s support for us family members too, because I worry about Grandad. Just knowing that other people are coming round to help, it takes a little bit of that strain off.”
As well as caring for Jack and Ann, Phyllis Tuckwell have also supported Yasmin too. “I’ve just started counselling and it’s amazing” she says. “You go there and for that time you’re safe, you don’t have to worry about anything. Everything’s so fast and aggressive now in life, but with Phyllis Tuckwell everything slows down a little bit and you’ve got that kindness and caring around you. The fact that everybody’s supporting you, it’s priceless.”