The C word. Not particularly a scary word once you’ve encountered it and unfortunately everyone is touched by it at some point in their life. For me, it was my Dad, my hero, 1/4 of the family team. It’s two years since he passed away and three years since he was diagnosed with brain cancer, but anyone who’s bereaved will tell you it never really heals or goes away, it becomes a new normal that you adjust to as best you can. My Dad was so positive, so full of life, so in my head he’s always smiling, dancing, singing, being silly. Of course, life wasn’t as rose tinted as I imagine it sometimes, we argued (obviously) as clearly a teenage girl and her dad aren’t always going to agree on what age you can dye your hair, how late you can be out, what to wear, the importance of wearing full make up before leaving the house. There were also several appearances of the ‘face of doom’, but we soon ruined his attempts of being sullen by laughing at him or each other. Even now, my house is always full of laughter, singing, silliness. I can’t really imagine it being any other way.
If death, or loss, or cancer does one good thing it makes you appreciate family and friends – the people that stick by you no matter what. But being positive about it, isn’t possible all the time. You have the moments of this isn’t fair, I can’t believe this has happened and the biggest thing for me is, why not just bring him back? While that sounds ridiculous, because of course, he can’t come back, it crosses my mind many times.
The other C word in the title is Cornettos, these were my Dad’s favourite. To this day I have no idea why he ate them by the box full, they taste alright, but to Dad they were an essential part of his diet during his final 10 months. It didn’t matter he ate them by the box as according to Dad they were small, and therefore had no calories in them. Makes total sense. This is just one of the examples of Dad’s quirks and how he enjoyed his life, during his final months. It’s a time that shaped my family to who we are today and his humour and never ending optimism is what I’m pretty sure we’re all still powered on.
Despite all the support in the world, some days are hard and it’s okay to admit that. Sometimes the hard days turn into weeks and the weeks become months and it gets harder to get yourself out of the miserable mindset that you start to view life from. But everything happens for a reason and while I still have no reason that will ever be good enough to explain why my Dad got Cancer, there still is a reason.
However during Dad’s illness we experience SO much kindness, from friends, family or complete strangers. Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall embodies this kindness for me. It’s stupid to say people are kind, as we are all aware of that, but I’ve never witnessed kindness like the staff at Thorpe Hall showed to our family. Nothing was ever too much trouble, they’d care for dad, for us, made my brother a birthday cake so we could celebrate together as a family as Dad was too unwell to leave. I’ve never experienced a greater kindness than Thorpe Hall paid to our family, and while it was only ever Dad with the cancer, we were all given the same attention and care.
While the new hospice is perfect for its purpose, it is not my Thorpe Hall, but I don’t think Thorpe Hall is a building to me; it is the values and warmth in the people. It’s Ursula comforting me when I was crying, it’s Shelia making me a hot chocolate at 2am and dancing in the kitchen, it’s Ray checking on Dad, it’s Maria the ward nurse making my Mum laugh, it’s Rosmary offering to give massages and my Dad asking “is that legal?!” They are the heart of Thorpe Hall, the reason it is one of a kind, because other hospices on paper may appear the same, offering the same treatment and procedures, but the people could never be as loving, as caring, as kind. They are the family you didn’t know you had and we are so lucky to know them and so grateful for their ongoing support.