A case study from one of our counsellors to illustrate the impact of this service.
Mary was initially referred to The Sara Lee Trust for counselling by her GP. She had an aggressive form of breast cancer that had metastasized to her lungs and bones. At this point her mobility was good enough that she was able to attend our counselling room at St Michael’s Hospice for her appointment.
Mary expressed terror at the prospect of dying, but talked more of her anger at her GP who had been slow to diagnose her cancer, and the hospital doctors who were unable to offer her curative treatment because her disease had progressed so far. Because of her disappointing experience in the hands of the medical team, she was initially very wary of engaging with our services, and it became apparent at the first appointment that she was highly anxious about being in the hospice environment.
When Mary failed to attend the next 2 scheduled appointments I called her and suggested a home visit which she accepted. In the comfort and safety of her home Mary was more able to relax and explore her fears of leaving her two teenage children and partner. Within a matter of weeks her condition had also deteriorated such that she was no longer physically able to leave the house. By this point enough trust had been developed for her to agree to trying complementary therapies and I arranged for one of our community massage therapists to visit her at home.
Mary later expressed how wonderful she found the aromatherapy massage. In the last year she had been prodded and injected, and experienced a great deal of physical pain. She was surprised and relieved to find that she could enjoy what she called “kind hands”. She relaxed and had a good night’s sleep for the first time in many months. Further massage sessions offered her some relief from pain, and she continued to sleep well after her treatments.
As my work with Mary progressed, she used to the time to prepare herself and her family for her death. In a situation where so much was out of her control, she took what control she could by writing letters and having important conversations with her loved ones. She also mended bridges with an estranged sister. As Mary’s pain increased and her mobility worsened, she became more willing to accept the help of other services. I made a referral to a Community Nurse Specialist who was able to help her with specialist pain relief and make further referrals for an Occupational Therapist who helped adapt Mary’s home so that she could stay there in her final weeks of life.
Mary died at home surrounded by her family. She suffered, and so did her family, but they believed that the suffering was eased significantly because of the holistic care she was able to receive at home.