Joanne's Story 

Joanne Elizabeth McCann was just 35 when she lost her battle with cancer. Here her husband Paul and her father Colin share their experience of hospice care in a special tribute to a remarkable young woman who managed to achieve so much in her short life.     

Joanne had worked as a primary school teacher for 14 years being Head of Early Years and had travelled the world. She met Paul her husband to be in 2010, fell in love and married in 2014.

And in July 2015 their beautiful daughter Annabel Rose was born.   

But the couple's joy was cruelly cut short when Joanne was diagnosed with a very rare type of pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer just two days after the birth and was transferred as an emergency admission to Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge for life-saving procedures and treatment.  

Joanne was referred to the Hospice a few months later for reviews of the medication in between her regular hospital appointments and over the next two years she received a wide range of support from the charity's specialist palliative care teams at her Brentwood home and at the Hospice.   Joanne and Annabel

Joanne's condition deteriorated in September 2017 and she was admitted to our inpatient unit for pain management and to get her symptoms under control. 

"It was such a terrible time as Joanne was very ill," said Paul.   

"We had no idea that people go in and out of the Hospice as part of palliative care."  

After a short stay on the ward, Joanne was transferred to the Royal Free Hospital for further radiotherapy and was also treated for a life-threatening sepsis infection.                                      Above: Paul, Joanne and Annabel

When she returned home she was visited regularly by Community Nurse Specialists from our Specialist Community and Crisis Support Service.  

Despite being so unwell and making frequent visits to the hospital for treatment and procedures, Joanne continued to be the best mummy she could to Annabel and spent time making memories with her daughter. 

"Joanne tried everything she could to be an amazing mummy to Annabel, making craft things with her, taking her to toddler groups, mini music, swimming, ballet lessons and to the park," said her father Colin, who lives with his wife Linda in Harold Wood.  

"She went on as many holidays and breaks as she could to enjoy her time with her family, going to Center Parcs, Menorca, Disneyland Paris and the shrine to St Bernadette at Lourdes in France.      

"Her brother Christopher brought forward his wedding to January this year so she could be there - she was a beautiful bridesmaid and Annabel was a flower girl."  

"Joanne was incredibly determined," said Paul. "She set goals and she achieved them for both herself and Annabel. "She was an inspiration to us all." 


On January 27 last year, her pain became unmanageable and she was admitted to the inpatient unit for a second time where she remained until she sadly passed away on March 2 with her family by her side. 

Above: Annabel and Joanne


"In the end she realised she could not deal with the pain she was suffering at home any longer" said Colin.  

"Joanne was given the family suite on the ward and myself, Paul or her brothers Christopher and Andrew stayed with her every night.


"Linda looked after Annabel and we took turns to bring her to see her Mummy every day." 

Joanne enjoyed spending some time in the Hospice's beautiful gardens with Annabel, who was also able to play in the children's room and take books to read with her Mummy in her room.   

"Joanne was a beautiful young woman, both inside and out, and endured her illness and many different radiotherapy, targeted nuclear and drug treatments with great strength and dignity," said Colin. 

Joanne and Annabel

"She was helped so much by the committed and caring staff to deal with the pain and discomfort and I don't know how we would have managed without the Hospice.

"She was incredibly brave and fought the illness until her last breath." 

In September 2018 her brother Andrew, who is the founder of Devote Records, celebrated her life by dedicating a music event in her memory and raising over £1,000 so that the Hospice can continue supporting patients when they need it the most.

Another important aspect of care the Hospice's Family Support Services team provides is pre and post bereavement counselling for adults and children.

                                                                                                                     Above: Joanne with her brothers

Both Paul and Annabel received support while Joanne was at the Hospice and in the months following her death and Colin is due to start counselling soon.

"Annabel went through counselling for a few months and she will probably re-visit as and when required so we can make sure she is dealing with her bereavement as well as it's possible to in the circumstances," said Paul.                        

"Counselling has made a huge difference to my life. 

"When you are in a horrible position, it is easy to just stop and to lock yourself away and think how terrible things are.  

"I am now in a position where I am back to work and being productive and I know I would not have been able to pull myself together if I had not had someone there to help me organise my life again and get back on my feet."