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Although Steven Jackson “got used to the fact that it was going to happen”, losing his wife Nancy, and Mother to his three children was traumatic. As Elizabeth, Steven’s daughter who lives in Australia, and visits home when she can, states in her experience, “Grieving starts at the moment of diagnosis”.
Nancy had been troubled with headaches and even though this wasn’t something she complained about, Steven called the ambulance early one morning, on Saturday 23 July 2007 as his wife had a severe physical attack and he was initially concerned that she had suffered a mild stroke. After further tests the family were informed that a brain tumour had been detected and that this was operable, “So that was good news” explains Steven. Within a week Nancy had undergone successful surgery.
Nancy continued to be monitored by her medical professionals, Elizabeth shares “Mum was having regular having regular scans and was still clear”. It was just after celebrating the New Year in January 2008 that a scan showed that three tumours were now present; one operable, two inoperable.
As Steven recalls, “The most important thing, at the time, was that we were told that it was terminal, so we knew what we were dealing with. We were quite devastated. We drove to a lay-by and had a good cry; it was the only time we did it but it was a release from the shock.” Steven remembers Nancy asking him, “What do you want to do?” and him replying, “What do you want to do?” he said that Nancy responded “I want to die at home”.
Nancy chose not to operate but instead agreed to radiotherapy treatment to deter the tumours with the knowledge that this would allow the family time.
Nancy’s Dr visited them at home and explained that she’d notified the Macmillan Nurse, who then rang and arranged to visit them too. Steven states, “The Macmillan Nurse was very practical and pleasant and explained what would happen. We felt we could cope, so agreed to a visit once a month”.
Steven and his wife were due to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary in the October of 2008 but decided to do so in the July instead. By the October the Macmillan Nurse had started to visit every two weeks. Elizabeth shares, “I came over in the October and stayed until after Christmas.” By the middle of January, Steven explains “I was helping Nancy get dressed and she was beginning to have difficulty getting down the stairs using the handrail, so the Macmillan Nurse who was now coming every week, organised a bed for downstairs” Steven and his family had developed a special bond and trust with their Macmillan Nurse. Organised care was discussed to support the family and Steven recalls “The next morning, carers were coming in three times a day and overnight”.
Elizabeth used to call everyday from Australia, and remembers one call towards the end of March, saying to her Father, Steven, “I want to see Mum before anything happens”. Steven recalls the Macmillan Nurse always being very clear as to which stage of Nancy’s illness they were approaching and he remembers asking “Are we near?” and in response, Elizabeth arrived from Australia and within a week his wife Nancy was being cared for in the Nursing Home which the family had chosen and the Macmillan Nurse organised.
Elizabeth shares “It was perfect, Mum felt happy and very contented, we used to go everyday and could even take the dog to visit! It was a terrible time but the Macmillan Nurse was incredible and visited regularly”.
Steven said “She died on the 29th April, we were very upset” and Elizabeth shared “The whole journey was quite horrendous, Mum knew she was dying, and we were day-to-day living”. Steven remembers one of his last conversations with Nancy and her asking him “What are you going to do? Will you be all right?” Steven responded “Course I will” and Elizabeth shares “Mum was always very conscious of her family”.
“Macmillan were the rock, if I was out of my depth, if not sure how to handle, or needed a different angle” explains Steven, “The Macmillan Nurse was there to help” Elizabeth goes on to say “The point of contact was so confidence building, after the Macmillan Nurse had visited, Mum felt calmer, she felt very at ease” Steven shares that at the time he thought “You can give way, collapse, or carry on living” he felt comforted by the fact that the Macmillan Nurse continued to check how the family were managing and the aftercare given following their experience and loss of Nancy.
Steven says “I support Macmillan because you never know when you’re going to need them. I am immensely grateful for the advice received. The Macmillan Nurse didn’t do any nursing as some would think, but talked through what would happen and what to do and supported us. That was immensely important and quite vital at the time when you want to know it.”
Steven felt it important to share that during the period of coping with Nancy’s cancer the family also suffered further grief when both sons passed away, on separate occasions to non cancer related occurrences. The family, including Nancy remained supported throughout by their Macmillan Nurse. Whilst the family wish for their privacy to be respected, Steven felt that their story would not be complete without these further tragedies being included. Steven remains indebted to the Professionalism of their Macmillan Nurse, whose response to their needs, on so many levels, always remained constant both during and after Nancy’s illness.
Annette Ellison, a Macmillan Nurse within County Health Partnerships says
“We are in a very privileged position to help and support people during a very difficult time in their lives. It is our aim to help alleviate some of the worries and concerns people may have over their diagnosis, treatment and symptom management. Paramount is their needs and it is very important we respect their privacy and dignity and treat them as individuals.”
Explaining her role as a Macmillan Nurse, Annette states
“I am one of a team of three Macmillan Nurses based at Newark Hospital and we specialise in palliative care and work in an advisory and facilitative capacity; we work closely with the gp and district nurse and other health professionals. We provide help and advice from the point of diagnosis onwards and ensure the patient and family have access to information, treatment and support. We support those with a cancer diagnosis and other conditions.”
Annette shares “We can advise and guide people through different treatments, help with any symptoms they experience and provide emotional support. We source practical help, equipment and financial advice. We may see individuals once and address their current needs or more often as they feel necessary-our intervention is based on individual need.”
Steven’s support of Macmillan Cancer Support continues, and three years on since Nancy passed away, he feels it appropriate to share and hopes to encourage people living in the Newark area to help make a difference so more people affected by cancer can continue to receive support from the work of the charity.
As you may be aware, our World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is taking place on Friday 28 September and whether you are hosting a coffee morning, attending one as a guest or feel inspired to hold your own, we hope that by reading the Jackson’s experience, you will know how your time, energy and donations continue to make a difference here in your County of Nottinghamshire.
Thank you to everyone who took part in the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning in 2011, nearly £137,000 was raised in our centenary year across Nottinghamshire and throughout the whole of the UK over 10 million was raised because people made time to drink coffee, eat coffee and socialise!!
Everyday 822 people are diagnosed with cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support are here for you if you are the person who has been told they have cancer, the loved one, the family member, the carer, the friend, the neighbour, the colleague, the person who just wants to help others. If you have questions about cancer, we are here for you.
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