Wendy French, whose husband Jeremy was supported by St. Luke’s Hospice before he died in December 2022, shares their story.     

“Jeremy lived in Laindon, Basildon, all his life. Unusually he was born into, and died, in the same home. We had been married 38 and a half years. He was 19 and I was 16 when we first met. He loved his life and being a farmer – we have an active arable farm. We also worked hard to diversify the farm. Having grown up together, we were unified in everything we did. 

“Jeremy was a fit, sporty man who was great at all sports, particularly golf. A truly amazing husband, father, grandfather, son, brother and friend. We have two wonderful daughters, both married, with four grandchildren: three grandsons and one granddaughter. His family and friends were very important to him. He was fun-loving, always making jokes – everyone who met him loved him. He was incredibly enigmatic and charismatic, a man who drew anybody and everybody in when they met him. He loved his music. He simply loved life. 

“Jeremy was diagnosed with cancer aged 60 at the beginning of February 2022. He’d had an MRI scan for shoulder pain and followed by more MRI scans, CT scans, a biopsy and other tests. We were told it was malignant melanoma which, whilst not curable, we were told was treatable. The term advanced melanoma wasn’t used until very near the end. 

“Despite Jeremy needing palliative care, we never considered end of life care at this time. We believed perhaps he would have at least five more years or so to live - we certainly never felt that Jeremy would not be with us a year later. It wasn’t until the end that we understood it to be stage 4 malignant melanoma. 

“After Jeremy’s initial diagnosis, he suffered with a lot of nerve pain which he couldn’t get on top of. The GP suggested that St. Luke’s Hospice contact us. We knew of the Hospice, having attended quite a few fundraising events, however we never knew that the Hospice provided services that could support people within their own homes. 

“Jeremy was at first shocked when we had the Hospice phoning us. It took a lot to convince him that he required the pain management. Many think that receiving care from a hospice means dying soon so, when the Hospice called, he was initially mortified. This was soon forgotten once we began receiving their support. 

“The Hospice nurses came out, changed his drugs, supported him and it worked - he became pain free for some time. The Hospice then became his lifeline; St. Luke’s Hospice nurses became his guardian angels. Very often they would even be able to make things happen the same day, for example, to ensure that any required medication for pain relief could be made available. 

“Jeremy received immunotherapy in late March 2022. Six weeks after diagnosis his left hand stopped working and the doctors also advised they had to be cautious with his spine. He had two lots of radiotherapy on his spine to help relieve his pain. The immunotherapy was tough. Jeremy had a severe reaction to it and ended up in hospital after two bouts of treatment resulting in a stay in hospital. This would end up meaning no more immunotherapy. Lots of hospital appointments later and generally feeling much more tired from the cancer, Jeremy remained positive. 

“Unfortunately, in October, he then deteriorated quite quickly and after another stay in hospital we were given the devastating news that there was nothing further they could do. Jeremy was coming home to die. The Hospice now became even more pivotal to his care. 

“Jeremy often experienced a lot of pain. The Hospice’s OneResponse 24 hour support line, Hospice Community Services and Clinical Nurse Specialist team supported us. 

“I was reassured and relieved when anyone from the Hospice came out to see Jeremy, as I knew they would all be equally as compassionate, kind, caring, empathetic and understanding – they’re just amazing people. It was emotionally and physically draining so I don’t know how I would have managed without them. 

“Even if unable to visit Jeremy in-person, the Hospice’s teams remained a reassuring voice, someone to talk with who really understood. When someone you love is in that situation and you’re trying to care for them the best you can, it presents all sorts of emotions so, to receive both emotional and practical support from the Hospice was invaluable. The nurses were even able to discuss the topic of death with Jeremy to support him morally, on a much more personal level. They provided real continuity throughout his care. 

“Jeremy rapidly became very unwell and very vulnerable. At night – two or three nights at a time, he would struggle quite a bit with agitation. One night the nurses visited three times and between them were able to change the medication accordingly to help ease his pain. They were just wonderful with him. 

“Our family is incredibly appreciative of the Hospice’s teams, who made Jeremy’s last weeks at home all the better – a horrendous situation made as bearable as it could be. Seeing someone who had been a pillar of strength become so ill and vulnerable was difficult for the children and his family and friends so, witnessing them care for him so delicately was reassuring. The Hospice even organised for nurses to be present throughout the night for three visits during the final ten days of Jeremy’s life. 

“One of the times that I felt the Hospice’s nurses were most compassionate, caring and gentle was when Jeremy passed away. They were able to come out and dress him. They were so kind and they showed this to Jeremy, even though he was no longer with us. Jeremy died in our home on 7th December 2022. We held his funeral on 19th December 2022. 

“To anyone who supports St. Luke’s Hospice this Christmas-time, your donations could help give someone the support needed to die in their own home, when it otherwise might not be possible for them to do so. For many people this is incredibly important, as it was for Jeremy – it helped provide a pathway for him to go from this life to the next with as much support around him as possible, in his chosen surroundings. 

“For those who may worry about contacting the Hospice or wonder what it might mean, I would say please be reassured - I would urge anyone potentially in need of their services to just ring them. They are incredibly skilled, compassionate and caring people. Through almost any circumstance, they will be prepared and able to help you in the best way possible. 

“Jeremy and I had a philosophy – we didn’t make much of Valentine’s day, for example, or other days like this in particular. Jeremy and I aimed to make every day with each other as special as possible and it is with this sentiment that I will be remembering him this Christmas-time - I miss and remember him every single day, through every single minute.”