Ron, who attends our Living Well sessions at the Beacon Centre in Guildford, was referred to Phyllis Tuckwell by his doctor.
“My specialist said he couldn’t do anything more for me,” explains Ron. “He told me my prognosis and I had to face up to a different sort of life from then on.”
“When I was told about Phyllis Tuckwell, I didn’t know anything about it, so I was a bit on edge. I got a telephone call from a very nice lady at the Hospice, saying that she would like to invite me to the Living Well sessions there, but then later on in the day she phoned again and said there was a space at the Beacon Centre in Guildford, which is nearer me as I live in Guildford. She asked if I’d like to go there instead, and I said that would be wonderful because I haven’t got to travel far to get there.”
Ron started attending our Living Well sessions, which support over 600 patients a year and are designed to help them, and those closest to them, to manage the impact of their illness, cope with changes, improve their wellbeing and remain as independent as possible. The Living Well team is made up of specialist palliative care professionals including Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Complementary Therapists, Psychologists, Counsellors, Social Workers, Welfare Advisors, Dietitians, Chaplains, Doctors, Nurses and Health Care Assistants, who together provide a range of therapeutic services to promote physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Support is tailored to each individual’s needs, and may include helping patients to remain as mobile as possible, feel more in control, make choices about their current and future care, and develop coping strategies to help manage their illness. Our individual sessions and support groups run over several weeks, in a relaxed and friendly environment, both at the Beacon Centre in Guildford and the Hospice in Farnham.
“I met Chris, once of the counsellors, and he told me about all the things that they could help me with,” continues Ron. “The first thing was a course on anxiety, which was good as I was a bit on edge. It was called Managing Mood, Stress and Anxiety. I found it very helpful. When somebody tells you that there’s nothing more they can do to help you, it stops you breathless for a second and you think to yourself ‘I’ve got to change, I can’t do the things I used to be able to do’. Every one of the patients in the room had probably been told by their doctor that they’ve got some illness they can’t do any more with, so each one of them has got to think about what they’re going to do in the future, knowing that it might not be a long one. Being told they can’t do anything else for you takes some handling, just for a few weeks, until your mind tells you that that you’ve got more time than you think. That’s why the sessions on anxiety and stress were so absolutely wonderful. They explained everything to us and how we can cope with it all, and even do everything like we did before – and that’s exactly what I do now.”
Chris suggested that Ron start with the Managing Mood, Stress and Anxiety sessions first, and then move on to other sessions afterwards. “And that’s how it’s worked out,” says Ron. “Since January I’ve done many sessions on different things. The most recent ones have been an exercise group and a session on breathlessness, which I’m very pleased with. The groups are wonderful, they really are terrific. No-one ever leaves the room sad. It becomes like a club. Everybody’s pleased to see you and at the end we all say ‘see you next week’, it’s that type of place. It’s wonderful. Some people might have cancer, some might have another thing, but we all get together as a group and we just talk as if we were in somebody’s front room. At those sessions I’m not just a patient, I’m Ron again.”
“The breathlessness group is very nice because the Physiotherapist who runs it explains all the things that I wouldn’t know about breathing. She’s taught me a lot – lots of things that are helping me. The exercise groups have been very helpful too. They keep me fit and show me I can keep fit at home too. I can take the things that I do at the Beacon Centre, and relay them to my own home. They’ve shown me all sorts of exercises which have helped me, and which I still do to this day. I think that the exercise group is tailored absolutely perfectly for me. I try to have a walk every day, seven days a week, even if it is a struggle sometimes. Even if it’s only a few steps, I’ll get out. Sometimes I can’t, but I don’t think I would have pushed it unless I’d been to that group. I’m not afraid of doing things anymore. In actual fact, all the groups have been the same. I’ve been to several, all with a different focus, and after each group I’ve walked out the door thinking ‘I can’t wait to go back to that one’, because this is not like anything that I’ve ever seen before. They’ve explained to me that, even with my difficulties, I can still get out and do things that I didn’t think were possible. The wonderful people who look after us at Phyllis Tuckwell, they know that’s quite a big thing for all of us, not just me. When you’re told that the doctors can’t help you anymore, you think ‘oh my goodness gracious, what am I going to do?’ but that changes from the day you walk in to the Beacon Centre, to ‘I’ve got a future’.”
As well as sessions to help with his anxiety and breathlessness, Ron has also attended Living Well sessions on getting a good night’s sleep and managing fatigue, and has taken part in creative therapies, such as pottery.
“The thing that really stood out for me was the cheerfulness I noticed the day we were painting pottery. The laughter we had that day has carried on every day we’ve come. While you’re at the Beacon Centre, everything that you’ve been thinking about your illness goes away, and for the whole time you’re there, you enjoy yourself.”
“When I first came out of hospital I didn’t think I had a long future, but with the help of Phyllis Tuckwell I’m doing well. I honestly think I’ve got a longer future now than I would have had otherwise. I’ve taken note of everything they’ve told me, and I’m doing it and I feel better in myself. I’m doing these exercises and people say I look so fit for a patient with the amount of illnesses that I’ve got! I’m really happy about that. My friends say ‘how can you be up the Beacon Centre, looking as fit as you do?’ I haven’t had a hospital visit since I’ve been coming to the Beacon Centre. I’ve been able to manage any infections I’ve had myself.”
“Phyllis Tuckwell has made my life start again. When I first come to the Beacon Centre I was very anxious, but I left the same day as calm as could be. It was unbelievable to come here so on edge, and leave with such a peaceful mind.”
“The patients at Phyllis Tuckwell count as much as the staff do. I love to see their faces every week, and they love to see me too. It’s not a sad place in any way whatsoever. You’re told you’ve got a very serious illness and they can’t do anything else for you, but once you’ve arrived at the Beacon Centre and been in that room for a few minutes with all the other people, it lifts that out of your mind and you start thinking about positive things. Living Well means to me my life, really. It’s somewhere for me to come to rest my mind and think of the future, more than I would if I was at home.”
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.