Alexis’ story is not only one losing Fae, her “vibrant, stylish, articulate and loving mother” but of truly learning about the special nature of hospice care: “I wasn’t familiar with hospice care and I had no idea what to expect. What I did find were professionals with time to explain to us what was happening, a calm peaceful environment and people who knew how to make my Mum comfortable during the days which were obviously going to be her very last ones.”
Alexis holding her Mum's hand, as she did every day at the hospice
In mid January 2017 Fae was diagnosed with lung cancer. This was very sudden and unexpected for her family and within days of her diagnosis Fae could hardly talk, walk or function. Alexis explained to us that once Fae came under the care of the hospice they later learned from the hospice doctors this very rapid deterioration was due to a rare poisoning of the body by the cancer.
Alexis said: “Those days were crazy, terrifying and bewildering. The deterioration seemed to be hourly. My family live locally in Northampton and were supporting as best they could and my heavily pregnant daughter and I would travel up the M1 from London to spend as much time as we could and to share the care. Although it was obvious something was very wrong as my beloved mother became more and more desperately ill by the day.
“She was so rapidly losing her cognitive ability that soon we realised that we were floundering with trying to keep her safe and look after her. I can’t remember who I called, but I called someone sobbing down the phone trying to explain that the deterioration was overwhelming our ability to care for her. The next day we were told that an ambulance would be arriving to take my Mum to Cynthia Spencer.”
Alexis' Mum, Fae
Quickly Alexis and her family began to feel the embrace of Cynthia Spencer’s care and how personalised it is to each patient: “At the hospice we were held, supported and enabled to carry on loving my mother at the end of her life as much as we had loved her during it. We were invited to stay for as long as we needed, but also encouraged to get some rest and felt reassured that there was time to leave her bedside. When Mum was no longer able to communicate with us she was still washed, and cared for by the staff. Before she became ill she was always immaculately presented and staff respected that and would comb her hair and change her nighties. Although she was no longer aware of us, her dignity was always at the forefront of her care.”
“On the 23rd January, just 10 days after that heart-breaking diagnosis of lung cancer we were gently told that all the family should come together and that my Mum’s passing was imminent. We were asked what music she liked so that soothing sounds could mingle with the many, many tears which were shed. Staff quietly checked on my mum in those final hours and we were given privacy in a safe space which mattered more than we actually knew at that time.
“When someone is so ill and their life is coming to an end, the one thing which we as loved ones can wish for them is a peaceful and good death. Even writing these words feels strange, but those days and moments leading up to the end of a loved one’s life will be the ones you remember the most before all those happy memories of a life lived have room to resurface once more.”
A lovely family photo
Following Fae’s death her family asked for donations to Cynthia Spencer rather than flowers at her funeral as they feel it was a fitting way to say thank you. Alexis added that “since my Mum’s death I will sometimes send donations to the Hospice in lieu of her birthday and Christmas presents which gives me comfort.”
The people who Alexis describe as ''Fae's legacy" - her great-grandchildren, Bella-Fae and Ellis Alex
At the time that Fae passed away, her granddaughter Katie, Alexis’ daughter, who she was extremely close to was six months pregnant and Fae’s first great-granddaughter, Bella Fae was born in April that year.