"She was a wonderful mother, a super mum and everything you’d want your Mum to be”. That moving accolade is how Erika describes her adored Mum, Anne, who very sadly passed away following her 15 year battle with thyroid cancer in spring 2018.
“Mum was born in Kent in 1952 and Carolyn was one of her best friends since her school days. Such was their friendship that some years later when the girls finished school and Carolyn moved to the Wirral, Mum wasn’t too far behind.
“I’m told that growing up in the 1970s, Mum was a vibrant soul, dressing up in her home-made outfits, flared trousers and platform shoes and going out and enjoying a busy social life with her many friends. She returned down south just before I was born in the early 1980s.
“Mum had the same strong bond with her own mother that she and I also shared so when my Grandad died, my Grandma Jean moved up from Kent and came to live with us. I had such a happy childhood living with them. They taught me so much about kindness, warmth and compassion. Both Mum and I were devastated when Grandma passed away when I was 16 years old.
“Mum made my childhood so special. She was creative as well as fun and made all my clothes, was great at knitting, baked beautiful cakes and I loved her reading to me which she did often. One of my earliest memories is of the birthday cake that my mother made for my 4th birthday – it was a maypole cake, with individual Care Bears at the end of each ribbon. It was amazing!
“Around 15 years ago Mum was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She had surgery and radio therapy that were effective but the cancer returned and she went through radioactive iodine therapy where she had to remain in isolation for a five days (which she hated). But in 2012 the cancer had returned again and this time it had spread to her lungs. I knew then that it wasn’t curable.
“She was lucky to receive great quality consistent care from the amazing Oncology Team at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford; she had the same consultant, Dr Andrew Weaver, for the duration of her illness and I feel that he and his team gave me 15 years with my Mum that I didn’t think I was going to have.
“Despite everything she’d been through Mum always had a smile and was graceful, kind, warm and amazing. Our two dogs Archie and Vinny helped us both through some very difficult times. Vinny in particular is a boisterous, nutty hooligan yet he could always sense when Mum was fragile and poorly and was incredibly calm and gentle towards her at those times. Having our dogs around gave Mum so much pleasure and love and they were great company for her too when I was at work.
“Mum was fiercely independent; she didn’t want to go into a hospice or hospital but there did come a time about a year ago when we knew she needed a bit more support at home. She developed some mobility problems because of a leg ulcer so her GP introduced us to Rennie Grove Hospice Care as she felt that the charity’s nurses would be able to help.
“Kim - one of Rennie Grove’s Hospice at Home Nurses – and her team were amazing. They enabled Mum to remain independent at home in her own comfortable surroundings in the cottage that she loved so much. Because of their practical approach, Mum became more accepting that things were not as easy for her as they used to be but she didn’t want me to shoulder too much responsibility either.
“Having the support of the Rennie Grove nurses was the ideal situation because it meant that Mum got the help she needed without feeling that she was leaning on me too much. They gave both of us comfort and support. The nurses listened to Mum, understood her wishes and did everything they could to ensure they were carried out with dignity and respect.
“People can be frightened of the words hospice and palliative care but Mum had a good team of support around her and I feel that the longer you can be under the care of these teams the better. They all seemed to work together and I think Kim had a lot to do with coordinating all the services that Mum needed.
“In her last 6 months of life, Mum’s condition had become complex as she was often in pain and had developed other complications. I remember one night when she was in severe pain. I wanted to call an ambulance but she wouldn’t let me. I didn’t want to go against her wishes yet she was in a lot of pain and it was the middle of the night. I didn’t know what to do, so I rang the Rennie Grove nurses in the early hours of the morning and explained the situation. They came over and saw Mum and were concerned that she may have some kind of Sepsis or other serious infection and said that she needed hospital care. It was because of their advice that Mum agreed to an ambulance and the Rennie Grove nurse made it easier for us as she spoke to the Paramedic, explaining Mum’s symptoms and condition making sure she got the care she needed.
“I’m very grateful that Mum had so much time at home and we couldn’t have done that without Rennie Grove.
“Mum was in and out of hospital a bit at this point as her condition had worsened and I was in a real dilemma. My partner James and I had a holiday in Sri Lanka booked for my best friend’s wedding but felt that there was no way I could go and leave Mum. However, Mum was adamant that I must go and her great friend, Carolyn, came down from the Wirral to look after her for the two weeks I was away.
“During our holiday James asked me to marry him – he had spoken to Mum before we went and asked for her blessing. Mum went into hospital again just before we came home so we landed and went straight to the hospital from the airport to see her. She greeted us with a big, beaming smile and asked to see the ring immediately! By now she felt safer being in hospital, and she passed away just a week after we got home.
“Kim from Rennie Grove phoned me after Mum had died and it was so lovely to know that it’s not just the patients that Rennie Grove’s nurses care about, it’s their loved ones and family members too.
“It is still very early days for me and I miss my Mum so much; it is especially difficult to know that she won’t be at our wedding next year. However I know I am so lucky that I had such a wonderful mother; everything you’d want a mum to be. That was my Mum.”