“I know every man says this, but Dolly was the perfect wife, really special,” says Malcolm Hammond.
“We were a great family unit and Dolly was the hub of that unit – she was the Mother Hen.”
Dolly was diagnosed with breast cancer late in 2011 and unfortunately, as Malcolm said, “The doctor came in and said ‘you’re not going to like me, I’m not going to operate’ - it was both incurable and inoperable.”
After several months of treatment at home and finally at a local hospital, Dolly was offered a place at Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, two weeks before Christmas in 2012.
Dolly’s younger sister, Babe, accompanied Dolly to the Hospice by ambulance and Malcolm followed on. When Malcolm arrived and first saw Dolly at the Hospice he said there was a miraculous difference. He recalled that Dolly said “It was like angels came and lifted me out of the ambulance and put me on a soft cloud.”
“After so many months of pain she said she was surrounded (literally) by angels. They controlled her pain and everything was tailored to her personally, she was treated as an individual, not a patient.”
What meant most to Malcolm was the change in his wife’s condition while at the Hospice. “When she went in, she didn’t know who or where she was,” he says. “But within hours and days, they had controlled everything so well she was preparing to come home. On Christmas Eve she walked into our home, with Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice having made all the necessary arrangements for her care.”
“Dolly wanted to return home for Christmas. It wasn’t easy at home because she struggled with the daily tasks, but it was important to her because, I think deep inside, she knew it was going to be her last.”
As Malcolm says, “If we hadn’t got into Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, I don’t know what would have happened. It was heart-breaking for me to see my beloved Dolly suffering in such a way, but the Hospice gave us a chance to talk to her and spend some real quality time together as a family – and for me to spend time with my wife. We really cherished this because before the Hospice, everything was simply so distressing.”
Dolly re-entered the Hospice immediately after the New Year and, true to her Mother Hen nature, the first thing she did was to go round to all the other patients who she had met before Christmas to check they were OK. She also went to see all the nurses, “her angels”, to ask about their Christmas and thank them for everything they did. She then went to her room and said “I want to go to sleep.” Which she did. She died on January 2nd 2013, aged 62.
The care didn’t stop when Dolly died, however. The Hospice is in regular contact with Malcolm, “always listening” to him and helping him “get through the difficult periods, available to talk to anytime.”
Malcolm said, “I don’t know if words can describe how I feel about the Hospice. Their kindness is something I have never experienced before in my life. They can tell you the most distressing news in such a way that everything sounds all right. Dolly loved the Hospice so much, she said she wanted to be there when she left me. And she was. I don’t think I can ever repay them – money is simply not enough. My children, both in their early 30s, and their partners seem to have picked up Dolly’s caring nature and we meet every couple of weeks to sit down and eat as a family. It gives me great pleasure to see them getting on with their lives, supporting me…and supporting the Hospice. One of them has just done a sponsored parachute jump to help raise money for the Hospice.”
Malcolm’s experience makes him think that everyone should give regularly to the Hospice. “I’ve recently been told that one-in-five people who die in our area die under the care of the Hospice, and one-in-three of us will be touched by their care in some way. So I know that most of us will be looking for Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice’s help at some stage in our lives, whether it’s for a friend, relative or ourselves.