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Terminal cancer patient volunteers for St Barnabas Hospice

A Lincoln woman with terminal liver cancer has praised a local charity for its help in managing her end of life care.

Lesley Markham (63), received help from St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice, which she also volunteers for, after she was told she had just two years to live.

She was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, and underwent surgery to have her kidney removed.

However, despite the successful operation, five months later a scan discovered she had secondary liver cancer, and it had left her with just one or two years to live.

She said: “I wasn’t expecting to receive good news but I never expected to hear the word ‘terminal’ either. But with seven lesions on my liver and an even larger growth on my renal vein there was nothing more they could do. If they were to operate it was highly likely that I’d bleed to death.

“With no other options available to me I began palliative chemotherapy which is slowing the growth of the lesions.

“After all, I’m not ready to die yet. I still have things I want to do, people I’d like to meet and places I’d like to see. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived a full life with no regrets but I’d like to have just a little more time.”

In May 2013, she began sessions at St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice’s Day Therapy Centre in Lincoln.

The hospice helped her come up with her advanced care plan, which marks out what treatment she wants to receive, where she would live to receive care and ultimately her choice on where she would like to die.

She added: “It really isn’t as morbid as it might sound and actually it has been a real comfort to me. I can be confident that, even if further down the line I am unable to communicate, my wishes will still be carried out.

“Having an advanced Care Plan has taken away some of the uncertainty and has given me some control back.”

“At first, when St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice was mentioned I couldn’t understand how they could help someone like me. I thought the hospice is for people who are dying isn’t it? I mean, I know I’m dying but I’m not bed ridden or anything.”

Through the day centre, Lesley was also able to take up a number of activities, different therapies and socialising, which she enjoys attending regularly.

“I have taken Reiki and Tai Chi classes to help with relaxation and have regular meetings with the Occupational Therapist who has improved my sleep and helped me to control my anxiety which had often resulted in me waking in the middle of the night panic stricken that I was going to die.”

Giving back

Lesley remains grateful to the Lincolnshire charity for their help and support through her journey, which is why she chose to become a regular volunteer for the service.

While volunteering, she helps with administration support for the fundraising team.

Each year, St Barnabas must raise around £3.4 million to continue provision of its services to an average of 6,000 patients.

Lesley said: “We need this hospice. You never know what’s down the road for yourself or a family member and without it who would offer so much love at the end? You are more than just a statistic in a bed; you are treated with genuine care and respect and that is why people should continue to support the hospice in any way they can.”

“I applied to become a volunteer because of all that they were doing for me. I was desperate to give something back to the people and organisation that had helped me at a time when I needed it the most whilst I was still fit and able to do so.

“Volunteering has allowed me to return to the workplace with flexibility and an understanding that on the bad days I don’t have to go in.

“Meeting the people who work behind the scenes, so to speak, further confirmed to me what a wonderful place the hospice really is. I haven’t met a single person here who doesn’t care; in fact, the people here go beyond caring.”

“They rejoice with you when something goes well and offer support when times get hard.

“It’s like the hospice acts as your very own safety net, with arms open wide and a reassuring touch of the shoulder that says ‘don’t worry, we’ve got you.’”