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Carol’s story

Shared by Carol’s daughter, Ella.

My beautiful Mum, Carol Brown, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in April 2023. Her diagnosis came as a massive shock; she’d never suffered with poor health before, she was always the one looking after us when we were poorly. Mum was invincible in my eyes.

Mum worked in care and spent a lot of time at Sobell House visiting her patients. Because of this, she instantly knew in late June that the time had come and she needed round-the-clock care at the hospice. As you may know, when someone is in the last stages of their life, they can become quite agitated, but it was a relief to see that Mum calmed down as soon as she knew she was going to Sobell House.

Once we arrived at the hospice, I knew she’d made the right choice. I couldn’t believe just how beautiful the building was. I was quite worried that it would feel like a hospital ward and have a clinical feeling, but stepping in to Sobell felt like home, in a strange way, and the gardens made all the difference. Mum was even cracking jokes with everyone! Knowing she felt happy and at peace meant so much to me.

By the third day, as Mum slipped into unconsciousness, I started to feel very emotional and overwhelmed. The staff encouraged me to go outside and spend some time away from Mum’s bed, which truly got me through the time there. The gardens were just so peaceful.

I stayed with Mum 24/7 and slept by her side for nine days. All of the staff made me feel so comfortable; I cannot thank them enough for how supportive they were and how at home they made me feel.

Pictured: Carol fundraising for Sobell House
Pictured: Carol at home
Pictured: Carol fundraising for Mind

One memory that will stick with me for the rest of my life is a conversation I had with one of the doctors, who visited Mum’s room shortly after she was admitted. The doctor reassured Mum that she was there to answer any questions she had, but by this point, Mum was just happy to be comfortable, pain-free and in peace. I asked the doctor if we could speak outside, as I didn’t want Mum to worry, and she said ‘of course!’. I explained that I worked in funeral care and I just wanted to know exactly what was going on without any sugar coating. I asked lots of questions, some that were probably quite irrational, but she made me feel listened to and didn’t make me feel stupid in any way. I also explained to her that I wanted to stay with Mum even up until the point where she was taken to the mortuary, just because that’s what I knew and I didn’t want anyone else to do that; it felt like the last thing I could do for her. The doctor said that would be fine and she’d let everyone know.

From that point on, I helped all of the doctors and nurses wash Mum, change her, move her and that meant so much to me. Not one doctor or nurse made me feel like I was in the way or made me feel like I didn’t know what I was doing. I will forever be grateful that I had the opportunity to care for my Mum right until she took her last breath.

Mum fought so hard, but just three months after her diagnosis she passed away in Sobell House at the age of 44.

Mum was such a bright light in our lives. She always knew what to say, and how to make things better, which is why she was such a brilliant carer. Before she became ill she would do lots of charity fundraisers, and one of her biggest was completing a cycling challenge in aid of Sobell House. She didn’t have many requests when it came to the end of her life and her funeral, but the one thing she was certain on is that she wanted to be at Sobell House when she passed, and I know she was so grateful for that. We all were. When I came back to the hospice to hand in the donations we raised at Mum’s funeral, all of the staff remembered me and were so warm and kind-hearted. One of the nurses walked me back to my car, gave me a hug, and wished me all the best which meant so much.

Thank you so much to Ella for kindly sharing her family’s experience of Sobell House.

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