Julie's haven of hope
Saint Francis Hospice doesn't only care for the person who is ill, but everyone around them. We offer therapy for families and friends — both before and after they've lost a loved one. One young person currently under our bereavement care is 17-year-old Eloise Long after she lost someone very close to her.
When Eloise's family returned from a holiday, her mum, Julie, noticed a pain in her stomach. Julie was sent for a scan but wasn't concerned. She was fit, healthy, and just 50 years old.
Before computers were commonplace, Julie acquired a knack to read what someone across the table was writing — upside down. As she sat opposite the radiographer, he began to write a report on what he had discovered. Julie managed to decipher 'stage 4 bowel cancer'.
A consultant confirmed Julie's diagnosis two weeks later. From the outset, her prognosis was heartbreakingly bleak: the cancer was inoperable. Julie had now entered end of life care.
"I've known this for two weeks, but wanted to spare you from the hurt," Julie revealed to her husband, Tim.
She accepted a course of chemotherapy — fully aware that it would only prolong her life by months — maybe a year. Julie clung to the hope of a medical breakthrough.
"She was a typical accountant: very matter of fact," Tim fondly recalled. "She was a real trooper and didn't want sympathy."
After recovering from an emergency operation to remove a blockage in her bowel, the Long family spent a glorious British summer together in 2019.
"Julie responded so well to the treatment that, at times, we would forget she even had cancer," Tim remembered.
As autumn turned to winter, Julie deteriorated. Her consultant was amazed that her body managed to withstand the chemotherapy for so long. But, that November, he told Julie and Tim that the cancer had progressed.
As she entered what would be the final weeks of her life in March 2020, the family discussed the delicate subject of where Julie wanted to spend her last moments. The family agreed on our Hospice. When Julie was safe on our ward, away from the chaos the coronavirus had created, Tim and Eloise could finally get some sleep at home.
"As we walked out of the Hospice, we let out a sigh of relief in unison," Tim explained. "The stress just seemed to melt away."
When Tim and Eloise received a call to come to our Hospice as soon as they could, one of our nurses, Jessie, was sat holding Julie's hand. Jessie left the room so that Tim and Eloise could be with her. They sat with Julie as she passed away. She was 52.
"Julie was an extraordinary person," Tim said. "She fought her illness and never gave up hope. I know that if it hadn't been for cancer, we would have lived a long, happy life together. We are eternally grateful for the Hospice's lovely nurses, who surrounded her with so much love in her final days. Being at Saint Francis Hospice with Eloise, holding Julie's hand, is a moment that we will cherish forever."
You can sponsor Jessie as she continues to create precious memories for our patients and their families. You can find out more about how you can help here.