Nicky’s Story – St Columba’s Hospice Palliative Care, Edinburgh

Nicky’s Story

Nicky Russell has received ongoing support from the Hospice following the death of her husband.

Nicky’s Story image

Nicky’s husband Sandy died of cancer in 2020. In the months leading up to his death, Sandy was an inpatient at the Hospice and Nicky was surprised to learn about the scope of the services available to them.

“People lined the streets for Sandy’s funeral, he was involved in so many things in the local community, he’d been president of the rugby club, president of the curling club, president of the old Musselburgh club and was president of Musselburgh Festival for 6 years, he was loved by so many. We were only allowed 20 people at the funeral but it seemed like everyone in the town came to say goodbye. I felt okay at that point, but to let you understand, when Sandy died, it didn’t really register. I thought I was coping but it wasn’t until a few months down the line that I started to really go downhill.

“Sandy’s diagnosis was difficult because there were no symptoms of cancer that we were aware of. His initial bowel screening was clear, so we were left stunned when he visited his GP for a croaky throat and scans showed he had bowel and lung cancer. That day they told us to go home and live each day as if it was the last.

“When the doctor first recommended the Hospice we both assumed the worst, because like many, we thought it was only for those nearing the end of life, we had no idea about the scope of services they provide. The team was incredible and enabled us to have some degree of normality in the months leading up to Sandy’s death. They accommodated regular trips home and went out of their way to make sure he had whatever he needed.

“I’ll never be able to repay the Hospice for the love and kindness they’ve shown me or for the amazing care Sandy had at the end of his life."

“Following his death, the Hospice Chaplain, Suzie, conducted the funeral service and hosted the interment of ashes service. When the reality set in, things became really hard, but Suzie was there and she kept telling me ‘We’re here for you, there’s a support network’. She called regularly to check in and when she sensed I was struggling, put me in touch with the counselling and complementary therapy teams.

“You do feel guilty about taking up so much of the Hospice’s resources, I personally felt that I wanted to give something back quite quickly, which is why I started up a Tribute Fund and my work donated what they would have spent on Christmas cards and postage to the Hospice. We also asked for donations in lieu of flowers at the funeral and more recently, I registered as a volunteer gardener. I spent a lot of time in the gardens when Sandy was being cared for so it felt like a good fit for me; it’s the perfect place for contemplation and I'm really looking forward to helping out in my spare time.

“This year, I’ll also be dedicating a light on the Tree of Remembrance to Sandy. Traditionally, Christmas Day was such a big thing for us; even though there was only two of us, we’d get up early, I’d put the tree lights on and Sandy would make coffee, then we’d open a parcel each. I’ve always enjoyed the build up to Christmas more than the day itself I think! I love going to the pantomime and we’d always make a point of going to see the Hospice tree in town, so I can’t wait to see it shine in his memory.

“I didn’t for one minute think that the kind of support I’ve had would ever be in place. People know about the care for patients, but nobody realises what’s available to the people that are left behind. I’ll never be able to repay the Hospice for the love and kindness they’ve shown me or for the amazing care Sandy had at the end of his life. Anyone that gets the chance of support from St Columba’s shouldn’t be frightened to accept. I want people to know that this is probably the best care you’ll ever get for your loved ones, so whatever you can give, be it volunteering, donating, anything at all you think might help, please offer it.

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