Damian, whose wife Karen was supported by St. Luke’s Hospice before she died in April 2023, shares their story.     

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"Karen and I had a whirlwind romance. We met in London in September 2017, moved in together within months and, a year to the day we first met, we got engaged in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Karen was from Cork, Ireland, and was living and working in London.    

"We didn’t want a long engagement and so we started planning our wedding for the following year and dreaming of where we would spend our honeymoon. It was all really exciting and we had a lovely few months, spending time with family and friends.    

"In February 2019, Karen was trying on wedding dresses when she found a lump in her breast. The constant tugs and pulls that often comes with trying on wedding dresses was what alerted her to it. Karen’s doctor referred her for tests, and that same month, we were given the devastating news that Karen had Triple Negative breast cancer. She was just 35 years old. To say we were shocked doesn’t fully describe it.   

"Soon after she was diagnosed, Karen underwent rounds of treatment including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and breast conserving surgery. This continued, with regular trips to the hospital, more treatments and regular tests and scans, all to try and keep the cancer at bay. However, just a year after she was first diagnosed, a scan on Karen’s lung showed the cancer had spread. It was now Stage 4 and incurable.   

"This diagnosis came at the start of the Covid pandemic, which was like a double-edged sword for us. We cherished the time we got to spend together as we were working from home. However, it also stopped us doing normal day-to-day activities, and we had to be extra cautious as Karen was extremely vulnerable. Karen’s family from Ireland couldn’t visit for a while which was really hard. However, we felt fortunate that her treatment continued throughout, and so did the support of St. Luke’s Hospice who visited Karen at home.   

blonde haired lady smiling at camera with her arms folded

"We were initially referred to St. Luke’s Hospice in December 2020 and were supported by the Hospice for a couple of years. In that time, Karen had help to manage pain, with visits at home from the Hospice. A few times, I called the OneResponse service on the days where Karen’s pain was out of control. We always got help quickly and to have that support throughout was incredibly reassuring.   

"Having lived locally for almost 30 years, I knew of St. Luke’s Hospice so Karen and I were comfortable with calling on them for help. I know that’s not everyone’s reaction to the word ‘hospice’, and there were some close family members who got upset when we first mentioned it, thinking it meant Karen was going to die imminently.   

"But for us, the Hospice was a place to go for help, when we could no longer handle things at home and when we needed some extra support.  

"Karen and I got married on 5th October 2019 in Killarney, Ireland, and after a few failed attempts to go on honeymoon due to covid and health, we eventually made it to Santorini in July 2021. Karen continued with various treatments and regular tests and we lived life as best we could.  

"The situation changed drastically in October 2022, when Karen was having complications from steroid treatment and she had to undergo whole brain radiotherapy. Karen lost the feeling in her legs, and although she got some of it back, walking any distance became almost impossible.   

"By this time we had exhausted all viable treatment options on the NHS and looked at some private treatment with a new drug. It was really expensive, so we asked family and friends for help. We were overwhelmed with their generosity. Over £75,000 was donated to enable Karen to take part in the trial.  

"I called the Hospice, who helped arrange adaptations to our home to make life easier for Karen and I, like installing a shower seat, raised toilet and wheelchair ramps. Karen also had physiotherapy at the Hospice to help her regain movement. There was so much support we didn’t even know about, but we soon grew to understand more about the Hospice and just how much it does.   

"In December 2022, Karen’s health deteriorated rapidly, and she was admitted to the In-Patient Unit at St. Luke’s Hospice on the 5th January 2023. The day we left for the Hospice, I took a photo of Karen at home, convinced she wouldn’t be back.   

"At the Hospice, Karen was cared for around the clock and had help getting her pain under control. We had very honest conversations with the doctor and nurses, and we all believed Karen could pass away at any moment. She was sleeping more and more – up to 20 hours a day. I stayed overnight with Karen at the Hospice, worried I’d miss time with her and not be there when she passed. All her family flew in from Ireland and Geneva to see her one last time.    

"What happened next was so out of the ordinary, I can only describe it as a miracle. One day out of nowhere, Karen got up out of her bed in the In-Patient Unit, got dressed and said she wanted to go on a date! She grabbed the walker, headed out of her room to see the doctors and nurses. We were all lost for words. Karen still had more living to do.  

"Karen left the Hospice on the 17th of January 2023, and we enjoyed a few precious weeks at home. In that time, Karen went to Harley Street for more treatment, we had lots of close family and friends visit, and we went on a few dates of course.  

"Karen was a real fighter and fiercely determined. She wasn’t willing to give up at any point, doing tons of research on different treatment options and clinical trials.   

"Karen and I decided early on that if she couldn’t complete the trial, we would donate the remaining money to charity.   

"On the 2nd April 2023, Karen passed away peacefully at home.   

"She had only just started the clinical trial, and so we were able to donate the remaining money raised by our friends and family, as Karen wanted.  

"One of the charities we chose to support was St. Luke’s Hospice. Over a third of the money we raised was donated to the Hospice, such was the incredible appreciation we had for their services.  

"St. Luke’s Hospice supported us in so many ways, I cannot thank them enough. Knowing we could call the Hospice at any time was reassuring and comforting, especially when things got really difficult  

"Karen was supported by so many different teams at the Hospice and there was consistency at every point. I can’t pick out just one outstanding staff member or team, they were all exceptional and provided the best care. Nothing was too much trouble, Karen and I both felt supported and safe in their hands.  

"I don’t know what we would have done without the help of St. Luke’s Hospice. The care they provide for free is outstanding and it’s such a vital resource. I’m truly amazed St. Luke’s Hospice is a charity, but it is and that’s why supporting what they do is so important."

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It is thanks to the generosity of the local community and supporters that we are able to continue providing specialist palliative and end of life care to local people, like Karen and Damian.  

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