Two years ago, I was told I had stage four lymphoma in my lungs and glands after being misdiagnosed with emphysema to start with. It was a massive shock and a horrible time, as my daughter in Australia was pregnant with twins and had also been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Thankfully she made a full recovery and the twins are now doing well.

I have suffered from Sjögren syndrome for over 20 years and the doctors at St Guys in London think that this is what has caused the cancer.

Despite being told that palliative care was the only option I was given six doses of aggressive chemotherapy starting two weeks after diagnosis. I was referred to the Hospice, but I didn’t want to go as I though it meant that I only had a few months left and was determined to fight. Eventually, a year later and with much sorrow, I let the staff on Shouldham Ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital make a referral.

When I first arrived I was full of fear and trepidation, only to be welcomed by a receptionist with the biggest beam in the world; it felt like a hug like a comfort blanket was being wrapped around me.  I soon realised that every idea I had about a hospice was completely unfounded.

I was put completely at ease during my very first appointment with Nichola Child who was extremely helpful and made me feel good again. She referred me to Nicky Dobson, a specialist palliative care nurse, who spent a few hours with myself and my husband and helped me understand more about my illness and how I was coping. It was also very helpful for my husband, John, who I have been married to for 45 years.

Nicky took my case to the Multi-Disciplinary Team Meeting which is held at the Hospice every week and allows staff from all teams to work out the best way to care for a person and their family. They decided that I should see Lauren, the physiotherapist and Helen, the Complementary Therapist. They have both just been amazing, although everyone I have met at the Hospice, from the housekeepers to the CEO, have been wonderful – they all make me feel so special. No one sympathises with me, instead, they empathise, which makes a massive difference.

John is also having Complementary therapy regularly at the Hospice. Knowing that they care for my family really helps put my mind at ease. When my daughter, who lives in Surrey, visited with my grandchildren, she was shown round to assure her that I was being cared for. She was really impressed. Knowing that John will be cared for too when the time comes has helped me to sleep better at night.

Recently I began to feel like I was getting worse as I couldn’t achieve what I used to be able to. The staff at the Hospice noticed straight away and referred me to Dr Lucas, one of the palliative care consultants based at the Hospice. Immediately, my fears resurfaced. I was expecting a doctor with a prescription pad ready and waiting; however, he like everyone else put me at ease instantly. He acted like he had all the time in the world to discuss all of my conditions and ended up prescribing me morphine patches to help with the pain.

I’ve been offered the use of a wheelchair recently but I don’t want that yet, I’m not prepared to give up and although my life isn’t what I thought it would be in retirement; visiting, travelling, doing… I am still trying to do as much as I can and think positively.

I now really enjoy coming to the Hospice every week. John and I often come for lunch in the café. I feel safe here and I find it so humbling that people in the local community collect and raise money for people like me.