Cancer patient Elaine D. turned to the counsellors at our hospice when she realised the stress and isolation caused by Covid was making her anxious and depressed.
She says: “A diagnosis of stage four, terminal cancer was hard enough to deal with without Covid on top of it. I was locked down and felt like life was passing me by. It felt like all the joy had been sucked out of life and I had nothing to look forward to.
“Counselling has helped me sort out my jumbled thoughts. Now I can rationalise things better. Talking to people at ellenor has made me realise that I’m not dying from cancer, I’m living with cancer.”
The 67-year-old found it hard to ask for help, but she hasn’t looked back since accepting our support. Since the pandemic put a stop to face-to-face meetings at the hospice, our Living Well team has pulled out all the stops to stay connected with patients and their families.
Elaine says: “I have always been a coper, not one to make a fuss, but Covid really did it for me. I was told the cancer had come back and it was incurable and stage four, but I couldn’t see my three sisters and give them a hug, and I couldn’t cry.
“The first time I cried was during my biopsy, and after that I just think I went into a bit of a depression.
“Covid stopped all the things I normally do to cope. I couldn’t see anyone face to face, and it is hard to tell people bad news on the phone or via video call.”
When ellenor’s counselling service was first mentioned to her by the breast care nurse at Darenth Valley Hospital, she wasn’t convinced, but her husband Peter said he thought it might help her.
Elaine, a retired office manager, is now on a programme of one-to-one sessions via Zoom. Her counsellor has helped her come to terms with the relationships she has with family and friends and to understand how differently they might each react to her illness and prognosis.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and completed a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Sadly, her annual mammogram last March revealed the cancer has now spread to her bones.
“The difference for me is that I can’t look forward and think that when this pandemic is all over, I can go on holiday,” says Elaine.
She and Peter have always loved India. Her fascination with the country started when she was 18, when she lived there for a while with her parents.
“I have a long-standing love affair with India – it appeals to my spiritual side,” she says.
“I went to the Taj Mahal a couple of years ago, which was just magical. We had been planning to go back to India last October, but obviously that was cancelled. By the time we are able to go again, my illness might mean I am too weak.”
Although Elaine’s holiday plans are on hold, complementary therapies offered by our staff have helped fulfil her more spiritual needs. She has joined weekly Zoom meditation and mindfulness sessions with a small group of patients. Our Complementary therapist Sally Baker has also sent her an aromatherapy stick, created specifically to ease Elaine’s anxieties.
She says: “I’m not one to turn down an idea – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, I say.”
“I also do a fortnightly Therapies For The Senses session on Zoom, where we have explored things like Reiki and reflexology. We also chat and do quizzes and sometimes have a singalong.
“I have been supportive of the charity for many years as it is our local hospice. We were already doing their lottery and had helped to fundraise in the past. I guess they have just had to get more creative during lockdown to provide the wellbeing support that people really need during all of this.”
Elaine now feels more secure in the knowledge that we will be with her along her journey, helping her to live life to the full.
She says: “Now I know that it is not just me facing this. I can see other people are suffering and it seems less personal. My experiences with ellenor have taught me that it’s OK to ask for help. In the past I have been the one who helps others, but now I understand there is no embarrassment in seeking it yourself.
“Once restrictions are lifted, I’m looking forward to going to the hospice, so that there won’t be that scary feeling of anticipation and fear of the future.”
Elaine is also desperate to see the three sisters she has not seen since October last year, and to give them a big hug.
We are ellenor, a charity funded by the generosity of our local community, offering the best care and support to families facing terminal illness in Kent. We are the only charity in the county that provides hospice care for people of all ages – babies, children and adults - and their families. This includes pain and symptom relief, end of life care, respite, bereavement support and emotional and spiritual care.
Our Children’s Hospice Care, formerly known as chYps, is provided in the comfort of the family home and spans across North and West Kent and the London Borough of Bexley. Adults living in Gravesham, Dartford and Swanley, receive care in their place of choice, including their own homes, at our Hospice in Gravesend and in local care homes.