A healing place
"A healing place. Somewhere that heals the soul and takes the rawness away so it’s possible to go on. That’s St Joseph’s."
Liz was married to Hackney man Andrew for almost 50 years, having met as 18 year old students, so when he developed the bone marrow disorder myelofibrosis in 2012, the impact was devastating for both of them.
As a highly successful journalist, having progressed during his career from local press to the Guardian and then to Channel 4, his skilful and incisive reporting on topics as wide-ranging as HIV, BSE, nuclear weapons and environmental issues meant he was highly regarded in the profession and had won numerous awards. In the words of Liz ‘the house was full of BAFTAS.’ He enjoyed a whisky too. ‘He could drink you under the table and still beat you to the story’, according to one former colleague.
Andrew was also the force behind the hugely successful Broadway Market initiative, raising considerable sums of money for local charities including St Joseph’s. For several months after his death, Liz continued this work.
Described by Liz as a ‘man of steel’ Andrew stubbornly refused to accept his diagnosis, putting additional pressure on his wife who found herself playing ‘let’s pretend’. However a referral by Andrew’s GP to St Joseph’s Hospice ultimately played a significant positive role for both the patient and his wife as his health deteriorated.
What surprised Liz about St Joseph’s was the joined-up approach, whereby both physical and emotional needs were skilfully addressed, both for Andrew and for herself. Having been introduced to St Joseph's Family Counsellor Jody, Liz found her support, her willingness to just sit and natter - as well as the occasional massage – was like ‘an emotional hammock’.
Once it became clear that Andrew’s treatment was no longer working and despite the excellent treatment at Bart’s it was impossible for the hospital to provide the depth of care that was needed, so St Joseph’s outreach workers visited him in his home. Still finding it difficult to accept the outcome of his disease, articulated by his oft used term ‘I’m not xxxxing dying’, the team sat round the kitchen table with Andrew and Liz for more than 3 hours, carefully and skilfully encouraging him to ‘unravel the knot in his head’. The outcome was that Andrew’s main concern was for Liz, but having finally opened up he agreed to be admitted to St Joseph’s.
Known for his love of whisky, Andrew was able to experience its taste for a final time on a sponge and, encouraged by the St Joseph’s team, Liz and their two adult sons were able to spend time with their father in their time-honoured fashion – over a few beers and ‘taking the mick’. It just felt like the right thing to do.
Liz had been through a hugely emotional journey with Andrew, but coming to St Joseph’s meant she went from despair to knowing that everything would be ok. Whilst devastated at losing her husband, the experience with the Hospice enabled Liz to accept that the end of life was part of the cycle of life and death.