Mary & Brian's Story

“When the urology team at the Royal Surrey suggested referring me to Phyllis Tuckwell I felt relieved,” says Mary, one of our Living Well patients.

“I had bladder cancer and had just found out that it had spread to my bowel too. The surgeons had told me that they couldn’t remove it, and that it was a case of coping with what I was able to as best I could. They said that the team at Phyllis Tuckwell would be able to support me, and suggested I go there to have a look around.”

Brian, my cousin Mike, and I all went along to the Hospice to be shown around. Mike’s wife had died two and a half years before, at St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, which was the original hospice started by Dame Cicely Saunders, the pioneer of the hospice movement who assisted the Tuckwell family in establishing a hospice in Farnham. Although it was dreadful that Mike’s wife had died, she had had a wonderful end of life experience at St Christopher’s, and when we came to Phyllis Tuckwell I felt immediately comfortable that this was the place I’d want to be in those circumstances, and the other two felt exactly the same. So it was a great comfort to come here.”

“We found it very helpful to be shown around the building,” agrees Brian. “You see Phyllis Tuckwell from the road and you know what it is, but you have no idea what’s in there. When you’re shown all the various departments, you discover that it’s bigger than you thought it was, and to get in and have a look around was very interesting and helpful.”

“Brian and I both had a counselling session to start with,” continues Mary, “and then I met with one of the Occupational Therapists, Lisi. She was a wonderful lady – and she came to see us at home. We live in a bungalow right in the middle of the village, so it’s close to everything, and it has a big porch and handrails all over the house to assist us. Lisi had some additional handrails fitted in the shower room and over the bath and they’ve been a fantastic support, we’ve been really grateful for that.”

“I also saw Sue, one of Phyllis Tuckwell’s physiotherapists,” continues Mary. “Because of the cancer, I had had four operations between November and February, and I was worried because I was getting very stiff. I was frightened that if I did any physical activity, I was going to tear something internally. Sue was wonderful. She talked me through it all and reassured me that the exercises that were given to me were safe. That was a huge help. She showed me some exercises which I could practise at home – I still do them now.”

“Sue also suggested that their Tai Chi sessions might help me to feel less stiff. I had done a lot of Tai Chi and pilates with U3A, so I was keen to try the sessions. Brian was invited along too, which was important to us. I really appreciate the fact that every time that I’ve been offered something at Phyllis Tuckwell, Brian has been included. One of the biggest things for me is knowing that when I pop off, someone will still be supporting him. Our children feel exactly the same. They’ve both been to the Hospice and had a good look around. They know what it’s like and can see how it has helped both of us – we’re both getting a bit ancient and we know we need help! So we started coming to the Tai Chi sessions, which was good because I thought Brian needed it more than I did actually! It was so relaxing and so lovely, and I still use the techniques I learnt. I feel I can do anything I want to and I don’t feel that I’m going to tear anything. I’m moving, I can bend right down, I can pick things up off the floor, and I can walk a lot faster than a lot of people. The other day we went for a walk and I walked for nearly six hours with just an hour for lunch, and the others were all more tired than me by the end of it!”

“As a carer I was very impressed by the fact that I am always included,” agrees Brian. “It’s very easy to forget that carers are there as well, but that’s not missed here. The Tai Chi was beneficial for me as well as for Mary, so I was pleased to have been invited along.”

“We’ve both had some massages from the Complementary Therapists as well,” continues Mary, “and they were lovely. And we went to the Meditation and Mindfulness sessions as well. I still regularly use the methods they taught us to relax; they were very helpful. I really enjoyed the make-up session too, with the bag of goodies – Brian didn’t come along to that one though! It was great fun and the thing that really impressed me was that nobody at all mentioned cancer.”

“Brian and I both remember when Phyllis Tuckwell first started,” Mary smiles. “We’ve supported it from the day it opened. It never entered my head that I might need it myself, but I had visited people here over the years, at the time when it was just about end of life. It’s opened up so much since then – now it’s about living for as long as you can, with as positive an attitude as you can have. They help you focus on living well and making the most of every precious day that comes along. The Living Well service really has been a life enhancer and has filled me with hope.”

Everyday we need to raise over £25,000 to provide our services free of charge to our patients and their families. Please make a donation today to support the important work of Phyllis Tuckwell.