Glen was diagnosed with cancer in September 2015, aged just 36. A year later, he and his wife were given the devastating news that the chemotherapy had not worked and that his prognosis was terminal.
Sarah recalls: “The Rennie Grove nurses got in touch two days after we had that awful news and made their first visit a few days after that. Glen had become very withdrawn. He was in denial really – hadn’t spoken to any of his friends or told anyone what was happening. He hadn’t wanted to admit defeat but the consultant told him that although there was one more chemo treatment he could try, the likelihood was it would simply make him feel very poorly for the short time he had left. The consultant told me that Glen probably had until Christmas – she told me because Glen just didn’t want to know.
“Straight away the Rennie Grove nurse put me at my ease – and by the end of the visit I could tell Glen was feeling more comfortable. After another couple of visits I could see glimmers of the old Glen coming back. He became much more open to talking as the visits went on.
“For me, it was crucial to have that outlet. It was so valuable to have someone outside the family I could talk to. I could tell them anything I was feeling – I could pick up the phone at any time and speak to someone straight away and they would come round whatever the hour. In those early visits they recommended anti-depressants for Glen because he was so anxious – and those really worked. They gave me advice about how things were likely to progress. We talked about Glen’s wishes: he was adamant that he didn’t want to die at home – he was always thinking about me and the children and didn’t want our home affected by that memory. But although it was really important to him to die in a hospice rather than at home – he was desperate to be at home as long as he possibly could, spending time with me, Oliver and Lily.
“The nurses also helped me make sense of all the medication. I remember standing in the hallway with bags and bags of drugs and syringes and not knowing what to do with any of it. They put it all in order, explaining what we’d be likely to need when. They also helped me with his personal care. Towards the end he became bed-ridden, incontinent and unable to control his bowels, and I found it was the one thing I just couldn’t do. You never expect to have to cope with these things at our age – you just assume it’s sadly something that comes with old age. It brought it home to me that we were getting very near the end – I was just glad that Glen was not really with it when it started to happen.
“I remember the nurses saying we should consider moving Glen before Christmas because he was deteriorating quickly and we all wanted to make sure we supported him to carry out his wishes. But he was determined to get through Christmas at home – and he did. There were many, many out-of-hours visits from the Rennie Grove nurses – but we made it. Then we focused on New Year’s Eve. I remember the nurses coming in and it was like they were part of the family. In between advising on and arranging pain relief to try to keep Glen as comfortable as possible, they talked to everyone and helped other family members voice their own hopes and fears too and to spend some time with Glen while he was still able to communicate.
“The next day was Lily’s fifth birthday and there was no way Glen was leaving us now. He saw her turn five and then he even manged to keep going through his own 38th birthday the following day. He had always said he wanted to be at home for Lily and his birthdays and go to the hospice after that. On the morning of 3 January, the Rennie Grove nurse arrived having arranged an ambulance for that morning to take him there. It was the longest journey of my life and as soon as we got him to the hospice there was this huge sense of relief. He passed away peacefully 12 hours later.
“There is absolutely no way I could have enabled Glen to carry out his wishes like that without the Rennie Grove nurses. It is a constant series of shocks to be dealing with an illness that progresses so quickly, especially at our age.
“Their Family Support team and their specialist Children’s Therapist have been brilliant too – helping me talk to Oliver and Lily about their dad. At ages 10 and five respectively, they have dealt with it very differently. They’re both starting to talk about it a little more now – remembering good times and telling family stories. We’ve all got those happy memories to hold on to, thanks to Glen’s strength and selflessness and Rennie Grove’s support.”