Meet Simon. Simon visits Mount Edgcumbe Hospice every week for an appointment with Helen Treleaven, one of our Lymphoedema Specialist Practitioners. He says she helps him achieve a better quality of life and a confidence that was knocked after his cancer diagnosis. In this blog, written for Hospice Care Week, Simon explains how Helen has the time to help him reach his goals:

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“Don’t tell her, but I think Helen’s awesome”, says Simon as he waits for his weekly treatment at Mount Edgcumbe Hospice in St Austell. “Her care is fantastic and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to cope without her.”

Simon lives near Roche with his wife Dotty and young daughter Melinda who he describes as ‘my little rock.’ “I’ve done many things and had many jobs, but I used to work in health care, in mental health and palliative care in particular. It was at a time when there weren’t many men in this field and yet people often wanted to see a chap.” Then in 2017 Simon developed a painful swelling under his jaw and found it hard to swallow. After numerous appointments and treatments, a locum GP picked up on the grating nature of his voice. “Turned out I had cancer in my throat and most of 2018 was spent having chemotherapy and radio therapy.”

For a while Simon’s voice got better, but then things changed again; “my taste buds altered, I lost interest in eating and then lost far too much weight and my voice turned in to the toneless mess it is now. It was at this point that it was suggested I visit the hospice to see Helen. I immediately thought this is it, I’m going to die and it’s a step towards the end. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Simon was referred to Helen, one of Cornwall Hospice Care’s Lymphoedema Specialist Practitioners. A highly qualified member of the therapy team, Helen treats patients who aren’t going to die, but do need help to cope with post-operative issues and traumas around scar tissue and the lymphatic system. “She made me comfortable at a time when I couldn’t lift my head at all”, says Simon, “It was like it was welded to my Adam’s apple. I couldn’t swallow properly and the scar tissue was literally pulling everything down.”

He can hold his head up and eat

Simon describes the treatment as a neck and back rub, but of course it’s far more than that as Helen explains; “Simon is mainly having two different types of treatment; Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), which is a type of specialist massage that’s performed to encourage lymphatic flow, and myofascial release, another type of specialist massage technique that concentrates on the connective tissues and releases scarring and fibrosis (thickening of the tissues).  I use a combination of both of these techniques to try and release the scarring around his neck and shoulders, so that he can hold his head up and eat.”  Helen’s also been able to refer Simon to further help; “As he has pain throughout the whole of his neck, shoulders and back I’ve introduced him to our Physiotherapist at one of our Neighbourhood Hubs and we now work in unison to make him feel more comfortable.”

Simon adds; “Helen helps me to carry on by giving me a better quality of life. I’ve gained the confidence to eat things other than the soft food I was on, she’s turned me round and is a rock and a mainstay now. We have a good relationship even though she describes me as a ‘rough diamond’. I’m perfectly happy coming in to the hospice once a week and I’m glad I embraced the help as I can be a bit stubborn sometimes. It’s not all plain sailing, but what Helen’s helped me to achieve is astonishing and I can now hold my head up with joy, quite literally.”

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