The magic of Saint Francis Hospice
When Denice Line returned from a holiday in Dubai with her husband Mick, she noticed a yellowish tinge to her cheeks. Suspecting it was a case of too much sun or something in the Dubaian water, Denice booked an appointment with her GP.
Tests revealed something much more serious. Denice had a rare form of cancer — in her bile duct. Denice was only 63 years old when she was given just 18 months to live. The tumour had grown on a major artery and was inoperable.
"She would have bled to death had they tried to remove it," Mick recalled.
Surgeons placed a stent in Denice's bile duct to help restore the flow of blood and other fluids in her body. Denice was terrified of losing her hair, but Mick eventually persuaded her to undergo chemotherapy.
"This could be our big chance," he would say to her.
Denice and Mick started to meet people living with the same form of cancer who'd been having chemotherapy for many years.
"They looked like normal people who were living normal lives, which was uplifting," Mick said. "I was hoping for a miracle, but deep down, I knew."
Mick left the life of a London cabbie behind to become his wife's full-time carer:
"I didn't have any experience of caring, and it was suddenly consuming my life. I had to pick it up as I went along."
Saint Francis Hospice's Hospice at Home team stepped in to ease the pressure on him. As Mick was immersing himself into looking after his wife, the couple's daughter was consuming herself with studying her mum's condition. Thanks to Kate's research, Denice and Mick were given new hope.
A surgeon at London's Princess Grace Hospital agreed to use the NanoKnife on Denice — a device that's unavailable on the NHS and still undergoing clinical research. Despite its name, the NanoKnife isn't a knife at all. Four thin needles were placed around the tumour, and it was zapped with 3000 volts of electricity.
Sadly, it was too late for Denice. The cancer had spread to her stomach. Doctors told Denice and Mick that there was nothing else they could do. As Denice's health declined, she once again had to be talked around. This time, it was to become an inpatient at our Hospice. Anticipating a sombre atmosphere and the smell of bleach, Mick and Denice were pleasantly surprised.
"I was expecting somewhere Dickensian," Mick admitted.
When Denice arrived at our Hospice, something changed in her:
"It was miraculous. As soon as Denice got to the Hospice's doors, she became happier. The Hospice seemed to have this magical effect. We couldn't believe our luck. The nurses treated her with dignity, respect and kindness. She was relieved that the grandkids wouldn't have to see their nan using a commode at home. You name it — she got it. Everything we could have wished for was all under one roof."
"Denice died in my arms," said a tearful Mick. "I know she didn't want to be anywhere else other than Saint Francis Hospice."
Denice's family recently raised over £300 for our Hospice by running 5k at Frankie's Festive Fun Run.
Our next challenge is Mission Mud, which is happening on 1st March. It's ideal for families, friends and work colleagues wanting to burn off the winter calories — all while having lots of fun and doing something amazing for people just like Denice.
You can register a team here.