Lora Fowler’s experience of the amazing care given to her Mum, Jenny Starnes when she was a patient at Cynthia Spencer made an indelible impact on her. So much so that she has now become a member of staff, working as a Healthcare Assistant on the inpatient ward where her Mum was cared for.
In August 2014 Jenny was admitted to Cynthia Spencer following a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer in 2009. A subsequent diagnosis of portal vein thrombosis meant her condition greatly deteriorated and by early 2014 she was rapidly losing weight and had become extremely poorly.
Jenny herself had become a big supporter of the hospice having attended the wellbeing service early on into her illness and also spent time as a volunteer serving drinks in the hospice coffee shop. Lora recalls: “Mum was such a chatty and friendly person, working in the coffee shop and talking to visitors and families really suited her personality”.
In July 2014 Jenny received the news that it was unlikely she would survive until Christmas and sadly passed away on 3rd October that year.
Lora’s memories of her Mum’s final weeks and days at the hospice are very special to her. “During her last two weeks Mum was virtually in a coma and I stayed at her bedside the whole time, sleeping in a chair by her side so she wasn’t alone. Being in the hospice means that, as a daughter, I could really feel part of Mum’s care and spend precious time with her. She was even able to tell me exactly what she wanted for her funeral. On the day she died I helped wash her and dress her in her favourite nightie with pink teddy bears, I painted her nails and sprayed on her signature perfume. She has always taken great pride in her appearance so it was important I was able to do this for her."
“Each patient and their family is treated with such personal attention. They prepare the patient’s room so beautifully with fresh flowers and it’s so peaceful. You can spend as much time as you want to with your loved one and you’re not rushed at all.”
Lora’s children were given memory boxes by Family Worker, Claire Mould. Lora herself has kept a lock of her Mum’s hair which is her most cherished possession. Her children also wrote letters to Jenny and Lora’s eldest daughter, Josie who was 11 at the time, wrote a song for her Nanny Box which she was able to play for her before she died.
“Seeing Mum’s care first hand really made me understand how much I enjoy caring for people and I knew at that point that I wanted to be part of Cynthia Spencer so I could give that to other patients and families.”
Lora began by volunteering on the ward, giving out hot drinks, arranging flowers and spending time talking to patients. She said: “I treat patients like they are my own family. I want them to feel as special and cared for as my Mum was made to feel. I love singing, just as my Mum did, and occasionally I’ll even to sing to patients quietly too!”
Lora explains that the whole family are very musical!: “Mum and Dad were married for 49 years and were both keen singers which is why we decided to put on a musical variety show with the help of Northampton Musical Theatre Company, which they were members of, as a fundraiser to thank the hospice for their amazing care.”
“Jenny’s Moments” took place in March 2016 and included song and dance numbers and monologues. In total the event raised £5,437 from ticket sales, donations and a bucket collection run by hospice volunteers. The event was compered by our former Community Fundraiser, Sue Bownass who had been a friend of Jenny’s.
“Unfortunately my Dad passed away just over three years after Mum, having also been diagnosed with cancer. He had become very depressed after losing Mum so very quickly deteriorated and was in lots of pain. He’d been admitted to Northampton General Hospital and we were trying to see if we could get him into Cynthia Spencer but sadly he died before we were able to arrange it” Lora concludes.