When Ken Sayer felt discomfort in his bowels, he wanted to get it checked out. ‘Dad was pretty good at going to the doctors, for a man!’ joked his daughter, Heidi.
Tests revealed that Ken had pancreatic cancer. Fully aware that chemotherapy may only prolong his life by months, possibly years if lucky, Ken happily accepted a course of treatment.
He remained upbeat and was determined to get through it. Ken decided that if he had an exact life expectancy, he didn’t want anyone to tell him how long he had left.
Ken’s GP suggested Saint Francis Hospice, should the effects of chemo become too much for him. Ken was against the idea. ‘He could be a stubborn old so-and-so!’ said Heidi.
Heidi visited the Hospice for a guided tour to see what it was all about. Heidi admitted she had reservations too. Much like her dad, Heidi was expecting a hospital feel. She wasn’t prepared for private rooms where patients can step out to beautiful gardens.
Heidi went straight to her dad’s house to tell him how far hospices have come since he was a young man. Ken finally started to come round to the idea of spending some time at Saint Francis Hospice.
In September 2019, Ken’s health suddenly took a turn for the worst. ‘We went from expecting him to live for years down to hours within the space of a day,’ Heidi recalled. Sadly, Ken never made it to Saint Francis Hospice. Heidi knows her dad would have loved it there. The Hospice at Home nurses arrived at Ken’s home to care for him in what turned out to be the final day of his life.
‘He wasn’t aware he was near the end; that’s how he wanted it,’ Heidi said. Ken was asleep for most of the day and passed away peacefully with his loved ones and the Hospice’s nurses around him. He was 81.
‘It’s nice to know that Dad passed away still thinking he was going to beat it,’ Heidi declared. ‘I don’t know what we would have done without the Hospice. We were running around the house, not knowing what to do before the nurses arrived.
‘They treated him with so much dignity. Moments after Dad died, the nurses cleaned him, dressed him in fresh clothes, and prepared him wonderfully.
‘The guidance they gave us in Dad’s final moments was fantastic. They were constantly telling us what was happening with Dad, and knew to the very moment when he would take his last breaths.’
Heidi’s daughter and Ken’s granddaughter, Caitlin, was just 12 years old when she lost her beloved grandad. She’s now undergoing bereavement therapy at the Hospice.
‘It’s been really helpful,’ Caitlin said. ‘I’m creating a memory box of Grandad, and I talk about how I feel. I picked a beach stone and wrote a message for Grandad on it during art therapy. I’m going to put it on his grave as a present for him. Grandad was funny and really nice.’
Ken was a big West Ham fan, as is Caitlin. In December, the Hospice treated her to visiting the players at the club’s training ground in Rush Green.
‘I jumped around the room when I found out I was going to meet the players. It was so cool. They talked to me and were so friendly. A lot of things happened in 24 hours,’ Caitlin admitted. ‘If I raise some money for the Hospice, I hope the patients who are ill can get better for their families. They support everyone and explain things.’
You can help create treasured moments like this by volunteering for Saint Francis Hospice. The Hospice needs people to do all sorts of jobs.