When Stephen started feeling unwell, he went to his doctor. What they found would change his life.
A hospice is for the living; it is not for the dead.
"I was first diagnosed with throat cancer back in 2010. They treated it with a laser, and they thought that would sort it out. I carried on having laser treatment and monthly check ups, but it kept coming back."
Sadly, there was more bad news to come.
"Then in 2012, I started having a terrible pain in my back. The GP thought I had a trapped nerve or a trapped muscle in my back, but in the end they did some tests. That was on a Thursday. On the Monday morning they rang me and told me that I had prostate cancer. They said it was stage 4 and had already left my lymph nodes and had got into my bones. They said there’s nothing we can do."
Stephen found it difficult to deal with the news. "I thought, ‘what am I going to do’? What am I going to tell my daughters? How long have I got?
"I went for an appointment at the hospital and they told me I had six to nine months to live.
"Meanwhile, my throat cancer suddenly came back with a vengeance and in December 2012, I had to have a major operation to remove my entire voice box and the cancer in my throat. I was in hospital for six weeks, in intensive care for four weeks.
"I died once when I was in there, and they had to bring me back. I remember one of the nurses saying ‘it wasn’t your time’."
He struggled to cope and was advised to seek support. "When my cancer nurse suggested that I come to a hospice I thought ‘Oh my god, a hospice!’ But that was over 5 years ago now – and I have been coming to St Clare ever since!"
Among the many things on offer at St Clare are Hospice at Home team support. Following an operation on his throat, Stephen was having trouble eating. The Hospice at Home team made daily visit to care for him in his own home, supporting him until he could get back on this feet.
Day care groups at the hospice helped Stephen to plan for the future. “One of the best groups I come to is called Café Clare. At first I didn’t say much in the group, I would sit and listen to the other lads speak.
"Then, gradually, you start opening up. I can talk to people here. Like about my funeral, and what I want to happen when I am eventually dying. It’s not easy to live with cancer. People don’t understand it, especially my family. I live on borrowed time."
But Stephen never stopped living life to the full. His fellow group members even helped Stephen plan his wedding to his partner Josephine, in 2018.
Looking to the future, Stephen reflects his feelings about St Clare Hospice. "A hospice is for the living; it is not for the dead."
About Hospice Care Week
Hospice Care Week is a chance to join with hospices nationwide to celebrate the hard work, achievements and commitment of our hospice sector. At Hospice UK, we believe that everyone, no matter who they are, where they are or why they are ill, should receive the best possible care at the end of their life.