I’ve always felt that to engage with something you really have to understand it. Also, if you want to encourage people to support you or your cause, you have to communicate its value and how it directly affects people’s lives.
Sometimes you have to start at the beginning and tell a story. The story of palliative care and the hospice movement can be simply told, through the life of one woman, Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement. A nurse, social worker and physician she received many honours and awards during her lifetime. But to me her work can be summed up in one quote that gets to the heart of what caring for those with a life-limiting illness is all about.
She said: “You matter because you are you and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”
In 1967, St Christopher’s Hospice, founded by Dame Cicely, opened and has been a centre for research into palliative care ever since – research that has impacted on the way those who have life-limiting illnesses and their families are treated worldwide.
Care, compassion, pain and symptom control and a life lived in the moment, with every moment mattering are the simple but profound elements of palliative and hospice care.
Concerns as wide ranging but fundamental as how will my family – especially perhaps my children – cope with my illness? How do I deal with work? Can I claim any benefits to support me and my family through the sometimes bewildering and emotionally challenging situations which may be ahead? They are all addressed.
This holistic approach and understanding, extending even to counselling and the Hospice at Home services, brings hope, comfort and practical support every day to individuals and families across Doncaster.
The St John’s Information and Support Centre, at Tickhill Road, is the lively hub of many of the services such as Hospice at Home, the Macmillan Nurses, Counselling and the Information team, helping people live with their diagnosis. As always with pioneering medicine and as a wider understanding of the issues and needs of those with life- limiting illnesses develops, new ideas and initiatives take treatment and care forward.
A fantastic example of this is survivorship. This new project, a partnership between Macmillan, the Department of Health and supported by NHS Improvement, is looking at ways to improve care and support for cancer survivors. A survivor is anyone living with cancer, with the emphasis very much on living.
The aim of this initiative embodies the essence of this specialised care, that everyone should have the opportunity to live as healthy and active a life as possible for as long as possible.