Two smiling women facing the camera

Carole, Kim and Sam’s story

Carole says: My husband, Bertie, was referred to Dorothy House by his hospital consultant three months after diagnosis, and when we realised that chemotherapy was having no effect on his cancer. Up until that point life had been very busy due to all the hospital visits.

We had always associated Dorothy House with end of life care and I guess it hit home that Bertie wasn’t going to survive for very long. Our first visit to Dorothy House was quite daunting. We didn’t know what to expect and assumed that everyone we’d see there would look very ill and the atmosphere would be quite sombre.

But from the minute we entered Reception we were put at ease. Dorothy House had offered Bertie some reflexology and after his first session he left feeling very relaxed.

Over time, we both had massage and reflexology sessions and, as Bertie seemed to benefit from these sessions, I was shown how to massage him without exacerbating the pain. When Bertie mentioned that his sense of taste was poor, owing to medication and teeth removal, Dorothy House therapists offered him a mouthwash treatment, which really helped. We only ever had to mention that we were experiencing difficulties and a solution would be found to try and help us.

We were assigned a nurse specialist, and Derek was our saving grace during those last few months. He was always cheerful, honest and helpful. Derek was the person I could speak to and talk frankly to whenever I needed. I found it very hard to talk to family members as they were all trying to cope with their own emotions.

The one thing that Bertie wanted to do during his illness was to go on holiday to Mexico – a trip that had been booked before his diagnosis. The doctors were doubtful that he was well enough to go, but Derek made sure that we had every eventuality covered during the holiday and that Bertie could have his last wish.

When we returned from Mexico, Bertie’s health deteriorated very quickly, but Derek made sure that we had everything we needed to keep him at home during his last days. When a hospital bed was delivered to the house, Derek even helped move the furniture to accommodate it.

Dorothy House gave us the strength and support to ensure that my husband spent his last days in his own home with his family. We wouldn’t have been able to give him that on our own.

Bertie and Carole’s children, Kim and Sam, agree. Kim and Sam say: ‘Derek’s support and honesty when we were informed that Bertie’s time was short was amazing. I can’t really put in to words how much Derek helped us all as a family. He didn’t just help Bertie, he helped us all. He made it possible for mum and Bert to go on their final holiday. If he hadn’t been involved in the meeting with the doctors they would have said Bertie was unfit to fly. Derek knew that the holiday was the one thing that Bertie was looking forward to and was giving him a reason to carry on fighting. While they were having a short break after the Mexico holiday, mum had to call Derek for advice and he told her that time was short and Bertie needed to be back at home.

If Derek hadn’t been involved I know that I would have had to visit more often to support my mum who had become Bertie’s full time carer, but with Derek she had someone to talk to about their fears and concerns. Derek instantly put them at ease if they were worried about something – he just has that way.

Once Bertie started end-of-life care he become quite frightened and we – as a family –  weren’t able to reassure him, but as soon as Derek arrived and had one of his frank honest conversations it was like Bertie instantly found peace. Derek could also see the strain it was having on mum and he managed to arrange nurses to come throughout the night to look after Bertie.

We asked Derek from the beginning always to be honest and that is what he did. He also advised how to approach the conversation I was to have with my daughter who at the time was just 11 and very close to her Grampy. Derek said how lucky we were to have such a supportive family but we really would not have coped without him. He became our rock and I truly can’t put into words how much he helped us all.

We decided, as a family, that Dorothy House would become our charity of choice. We wouldn’t want any other family not to be able to receive the support we did should they be faced with the situation we were in.