A close knit family who are fighting cancer are urging people to change their perceptions of hospices as depressed or dour places.
John Hancock, 72, of Sunderland, was diagnosed with prostate cancer 16 years ago, but the disease has since spread to his bones and he has been attending St Benedict’s Hospice, in Ryhope, as a day patient for symptom control and respite care.
The inspirational former bus driver, who was given only 18 months to live three years ago, says he refuses to ‘lie down and die’, and cites St Benedict’s Hospice as playing a huge part in helping him to stay strong.
Throughout the difficult times, his wife Irene, 71, has also turned to the hospice for its cancer care support group and both have used the complementary therapies on offer, such as Reiki and aromatherapy massage.
Now the couple, who have five grandchildren, are urging people to change their perception of hospices as part of Hospice Care Week, which aims to raise the profile of hospice care across the UK.
Said John: “When I was first told about St Benedict’s I said I’m not going there, that’s where people go to die. But it’s about so much more than that as we’ve discovered.
“It’s like a family there. Being able to have Reiki or a massage, or a chat with people who understand what you’re going through, it takes your mind off things for a while. The complementary therapies are so relaxing you feel like you’re floating afterwards. It’s very uplifting going there.”
“I think people think it’s a sad place but it really isn’t,” added Irene.
“All the people there, whether they’re a receptionist, doctors, nurses, volunteers, are all on first name terms. When John goes in for respite I get a break, but I also love going for myself and having a massage. It’s a bit of ‘me time’. When people say ‘oh, you’re going to the hospice’ I say ‘yes, it’s great. I’m really looking forward to it’.”
Catrina Flynn, fundraising manager for St Benedict’s Hospice, said: “The Hancocks are an inspiration to many here with their positive attitude and we’re grateful for their support. Hospices are about so much more than the clinical support they offer as John and Irene have shown. We’re delighted to be taking part of Hospice Care Week to get that message across.”
The theme for this year’s Hospice Care Week is connecting care. Hospices will be highlighting the special role that hospices play in connecting individuals and families, connecting with local communities and connecting people with each other.
It comes as the UK this week came out top ahead of the rest of the world for end-of-life care with a study praising the quality and availability of services in the UK.
The study of 80 countries, carried out by Economist Intelligence Unit, said that, thanks to the NHS and hospice care movement, the care provided was second to none.
Pics are of John and Irene Hancock. They are also pictured with Dave Soulsby, staff nurse in day care at St Benedict’s Hospice, Ryhope.