In the last 18 months Kat from Camborne has had reason to spend time at St Julia’s Hospice in Hayle twice. The first time it was to be with her Mum Avril who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Then in a terrible twist of fate, Kat found herself back in the hospice she describes as a home from home, when her boyfriend Gavin needed the specialist care our charity offers. This is her story:

Mum was my best friend. She was the most selfless, caring, kindest person you could ever meet. She gave up everything for everyone else. She would be more concerned about what I wanted to do. She was really good fun and always smiling, she was just the perfect Mum. 

My friends were her friends, so if friends came over we’d all chat together and laugh and if we went to the cinema or for a meal, she’d always come along. Everyone would always say my Mum was so cool. Actually she was more like a sister. I put her first and she put me first. She also looked after my brother because he’s disabled and needs 24 hour care and she gave up so much to help me. She was there every single day. She was the strongest and the bravest person I have ever known. 

Mum had back pain but she didn’t really think anything of it. She went for a few tests and then one day she rang me and said she’d had a phone call from a Doctor at the hospital who asked her to come and see him and to bring someone with her. Straight away I knew it was bad news. We all went and Mum was told she had pancreatic cancer that was inoperable. My world just stopped right there, it was awful. 

Mum was always positive, she never complained, she was amazing. I tried to keep strong for her as she had chemotherapy but it made her really poorly so she decided to stop. I was upset at first but I knew she wanted to enjoy what life she had left and it was just brilliant. We went to Spain and it was fab. It was like there was nothing wrong with her. We walked for miles, we went out dancing, you wouldn’t have thought she was ill and it kind of gave us a bit of hope that they’d got it all wrong, but they hadn’t. 

Not long after we came back from Spain Mum’s legs swelled up and she couldn’t get around anymore. She was falling asleep all the time too. It was then I suggested she went to St Julia’s just for a few days to get sorted out. She agree, but reluctantly. 

We went down and it was really homely. It was calm, it was warm and it really was like a home from home. After just a few days she said she was happy to stay there. The staff were absolutely brilliant. All my friends came down to see her, even my dog Riva went in. It was the best decision I ever made for her. Just under two weeks later she died there, but it was the best place for her. 

The day Mum rang me to say we had to go to Treliske, my boyfriend Gavin was in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth where he’d just had reconstructive surgery following tongue cancer. It was unbelievable to have two loved ones in your life going through all this. 

Gavin had cancer five times. I met him in 2012 and he was just so funny, everyone loved him, he’d help anyone out and didn’t expect anything back. He loved his cars, his car was his baby. Everyone would wave because they always recognised the car and knew it was him. He was like Peter Pan, he was the boy who never grew up. 

He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in September 2015 and they thought he would have a couple of years but in December he was really poorly and he went in to hospital for four weeks. I begged him to go to St Julia’s but he wouldn’t go. I think he kept thinking about my Mum. But when they said in Treliske there was nothing more they could do for him, he said yes to the hospice and the minute we stepped through those doors he was just so calm. There was no stress and the difference was unbelievable. He loved it there. We took him out a few times, he went home for a bit. All his friends came and at one time we had 19 people in his room. It was mad but that’s how great the place is and you can just do that. He said he felt safe there because there was always someone there if he needed them. 

I don’t know how I’d be if I hadn’t been there. If we hadn’t experienced St Julia’s I don’t think I’d be smiling now. I was there with Mum and Gavin nearly 24 hours a day. I’d cared for Mum, but the staff took a massive weight off my shoulders. I felt I could trust them and that was a really big step, to trust someone to look after the people you love, but I did. I knew they were in the right hands. Now I know I can go there any time and they’ll treat me as a friend and I can talk about anything. 

Hospices are bright, cheery places. There’s nothing scary about them whatsoever and it’s not all about death. You have happy times in there, you think you shouldn’t and it’s all doom and gloom, but we had really good times. In fact we had time to make more memories and that’s precious.