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The love of Saint Francis Hospice

Clasina Ball received her first cancer diagnosis at the tender age of 24. By the time she was 50, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, melanoma cancer, and Hodgkin's lymphoma — but had beaten them all.
Clasina
During treatment, Clasina became a familiar face at Saint Francis Hospice. It was a place she would grow to love. We'd pamper her with Reiki, massages and beauty treatments. Our Family Support team would comfort her through counselling.

Just as Clasina got the all-clear from cancer, the radiotherapy she received in the 1980s started to have devastating side effects. When Clasina was 55, she was diagnosed with multiple organ failure.

Clasina was on the operating table for a gruelling 24-hours while medics performed open-heart surgery, a triple bypass, and replaced her heart valves with mechanical ones. Clasina was coughing up blood and bleeding underneath her skin. Surgeons gave Clasina an incredible 120 pints of blood to keep her alive.

"Not many people come back from this," a doctor warned Clasina's daughter, Lauren.

Clasina was induced into a coma while machines supported her organs. After six weeks, the moment her loved ones had all been waiting for finally arrived: Clasina opened her eyes. Upon waking, she mouthed the words 'I love you' to her family by her bedside.

After seven months in hospital, Clasina had to learn how to walk, talk, sit and stand again. A year later, Clasina's health took a turn for the worse. In November 2018, she was given 48 hours to live.

"My Uncle George mentioned Saint Francis Hospice, and Mum's ears pricked up," recalled Lauren.

On her way to our Hospice, Clasina was glowing. She was singing and dancing to songs she could hear on the ambulance's radio.

"When Mum knew she was going to the Hospice, there was something different in her eyes," declared Lauren. "She didn't want to be anywhere else. My mum was really living for those last moments of her life."

Knowing that she wouldn't make it to December, Clasina's family brought Christmas Day forward. Clasina hadn't been able to eat solid foods for months. Within hours of arriving at our Hospice, she was devouring a Christmas dinner and gulping down beer.

As Clasina entered what turned out to be the final day of her life, our nurses bathed her and dressed her in fresh pyjamas. She passed a teddy around the room for everyone to kiss and pass back to her. Clasina told everyone in the room how much she loved them. Lauren and her family were convinced that the moment had come.

"This is it," Lauren said as her mum drifted off to sleep.

"I can see it; it's beautiful," gasped Clasina as she suddenly opened her eyes.

"What can you see, Mum?" Lauren asked.

Clasina wasn't ready to die just yet. She came back to tell her family where she had been and what she had seen.

"I went to heaven," came Clasina's reply. "It's so beautiful; you all need to see it too."

Clasina's grasp of her bear and Lauren's hands slowly loosened as she took her last breaths. She was just 60 years old.

"Mum's legacy lives on," beamed Lauren. "She installed it in all of us. Her death was beautiful. I didn't think someone could die in such a wonderful way. Mum got everything she wished for in death, thanks to Saint Francis Hospice."

Lauren, now 26, has grown to love our Hospice, just as her mum did. You will often find Lauren here, writing letters and poems for Clasina. On fine days, she will stroll around our tranquil gardens, enjoying the striking views of London. If it's raining, even sitting in her car by our Hospice means so much to her.

"If I can't sleep, then I'll come to the Hospice and talk to Mum. I'll watch over the village green and City lights in the distance. It's so peaceful here. Mum loved the Hospice so much. Being in the place where she passed makes me feel close to her. I feel so lucky."

You can help people just like Clasina by volunteering. We need people to do all different kinds of jobs.

If you'd like to find out more, please visit www.sfh.org.uk/volunteer, email volunteering@sfh.org.uk, call 01708 758614, or we'd love to see you at our Hospice or one of our stores.
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