This year marks 30 years since St Catherine’s Hospice opened. To celebrate its birthday year, the Lancashire Evening Post is backing the much-loved hospice’s Give a Gift appeal. Laura Wild finds out about the hospice’s past, present and future
When Patricia McKie arrived on the in-patient unit at St Catherine’s Hospice last year, she said she had never felt so wretched.
She had been given a diagnosis of bowel cancer that July and the devastating news that it was incurable.
The 68-year-old began chemotherapy to try and shrink the tumours – but it was this gruelling treatment which left the Chorley grandmother ‘in pieces’.
Patricia, who is currently back on the in-patient unit after a period back at home with her family towards the end of last year, said: “When I arrived at St Catherine’s last year I had never felt so wretched. I’d had a terrible reaction to chemotherapy and actually felt worse physically and emotionally than when they’d told me that the cancer was incurable.
“I was completely at the end of my tether. My skin had blistered and was so sore – every time I looked in the mirror I felt like bursting into tears. I’m not a vain person, but this was just awful, and I was in so much pain across my stomach and the bottom of my back.
“St Catherine’s was a lifeline for me – they put me back together.”
When Patricia was discharged, she kept in touch with St Catherine’s and returned each week for day therapy at the hospice.
She enjoyed the sessions where she could socialise and interact with others going through similar experiences, have complementary therapies such as massage and reflexology, and talk to the nurses about any issues. They have also worked together on a memory box containing things like letters, photographs and a bottle of perfume, for her family to remember her by.
Patricia said the support she received helped her to reach the milestone of celebrating Christmas with her husband David at daughter Julie’s house.
She said: “In July, the doctors told me I had between six and 10 months – from then on working towards Christmas and having that with my family was what was so important to me.
“But without the input of St Catherine’s and the treatment and care I got, I don’t think I would have made it. They got me back on track and helped me have one last beautiful Christmas.
“People think there’s only one way out of the hospice, but I went home again and although I have had to return again now, I was very happy to come back. You don’t need to be scared or worried about St Catherine’s. It really is a wonderful place.”
Patricia admits that it was hard to ‘let go’ at first and accept the support being offered. She has been a carer for her husband David, who has rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, for the past four years, and said: “When the doctor told me the news, I told him ‘I’ve not got time to be ill!’”
She added: “It has been hard to let go, but St Catherine’s have helped me realise that it’s okay to accept some help. Everything is focused around me, and what’s best for our situation – they really put you first.”
The hospice currently costs around £5m to run the hospice each year – of which a huge £3.7m has to be raised through charitable giving.
“Whenever I saw a collection tin out and about, I’d give a donation,” she said. “And many years ago I did a parachute jump and raised money for charity. It was the best thing I ever did.
“The 30th anniversary of St Catherine’s is the perfect opportunity for people out there in the community to get involved and take up their own challenge to raise money for the hospice. It could be anything. What’s important is that you’ll be supporting an amazing place which makes such a difference to the lives of people like me.
“Without St Catherine’s, I don’t know where we would be.”