Graham’s Story

Graham's Story

Legacies are vital to our charity; gifts in Wills help fund 5 out of the 16 intensive care beds that Cornwall Hospice Care has each year.  With support we could increase that to 12 months so that’s why Make A Will Week is so important.  Solicitors across Cornwall offer their time free of charge but rather than charging the usual fee, the solicitors ask for a donation to Cornwall Hospice Care.  

So why choose us? Graham’s Mum, Lilian Cross, was a patient at Mount Edgcumbe Hospice in 2002. This is his story in his own words:

When my mother, Lilian was first diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus some 15 years ago I didn’t understand.  She and Dad, (Brian), simply said a “polyp” had been found in her food pipe.  The dreadful “C word” was not uttered at all.  Perhaps they wanted to protect us, or simply did not realise the gravity of Mum’s condition, although looking back I think she knew exactly what it meant and was protecting Dad from the difficult truth of what lay ahead.  They were childhood sweethearts and he was the love of her life, her soul mate with whom she had travelled the world, raised a family and had many an adventure.

“He never forgot the professionalism and kindness of Mount Edgcumbe Hospice in providing a caring environment for Lilian’s
last valuable moments with us. ”

It was only later after further tests and a biopsy that the reality of Mum’s condition became clear to me, and seeing her physically change as she endured the long battle against the cancer brought it all home.

She had major surgery at Plymouth to remove the cancer and reconstruct her stomach and food pipe.  I spent hours sitting alongside Dad in the canteen while Mum was resting and realised he was still not completely au-fait with what was happening.  I seized an opportunity to collar the surgeon on his rounds and had him explain to me in layman’s terms Mum’s post op chances.  He sketched a diagram on the back of a napkin, which I later used to gently explain the facts to Dad.  It was not good.  The op was a success but the cancer was at an advanced stage and we knew it might return.

Mum recovered pretty well all things considered over the next year or so.  She was a “trooper”.  My kids were toddlers at the time and so she had a lovely time savouring every precious moment with them.

Then the cancer was back.  It was in Mum’s lymphatic system spreading throughout her body.  I recall the desperation of my father as he wailed back at me one night “THERE IS NO HOPE!”  But she declined more chemo or intrusive surgery.  She wanted to let things progress naturally and enjoy her remaining time with us all as comfortably as possible.  She seemed at peace, but we felt despondent and lost.

We wanted the best for Mum in her final months and she moved over to the care of Mount Edgcumbe Hospice in St Austell.  The staff could not do enough for us.  They were so supportive and genuine when everything seemed so negative.  We even got to spring her out a few times for lunch and walks above Fowey estuary.

The hospice staff prepared us for what lay ahead, which although awful to confront, made it easier when it came.  Mum never felt any pain thanks to their constant attentive care.

Finally she slipped into a coma.  In her room at Mount Edgcumbe we still sat with her, talked to her, held her hand, brushed her hair, read to her, and drank endless tea.  Right up to the end I was able to slumber in an armchair alongside her all night if I wanted.  I knew she was leaving us but I could not let her go.  Then one night I went home with Dad, so he was not alone.  In the early hours I awoke to the phone ringing.  It was Mount Edgcumbe calling.  I went through to his bedroom and he quietly said; “She’s away.”  That was June 12th 2002.  Seems like yesterday.

“He changed his Last Will and Testament to leave a sizeable legacy to Cornwall Hospice Care in order to contribute in
any way he could to help ensure their care continues for others.”

Despite his own health failing Dad lived for another twelve years until the 2nd August 2013.  He was surrounded by memories of a lifetime with Lilian; he kept 70 years of love letters and mementos from hotel brochures to birthday cards.  He never forgot the professionalism and kindness of Mount Edgcumbe Hospice in providing a caring environment for Lilian’s last valuable moments with us.  He changed his Last Will and Testament to leave a sizeable legacy to Cornwall Hospice Care in order to contribute in any way he could to help ensure their care continues for others.

“He was surrounded by memories of a lifetime with Lilian; he kept 70 years of love letters and mementos from hotel brochures to birthday cards. ”

I am sure that Brian and Lilian are looking over my shoulder as I type this and would say it was worth every penny.  If Graham’s story has made you think about your legacy and would like more information, please contact our Legacies, Trusts & Grants Officer, Debbie Henshaw on 01726 66868 (option 2) or email dhenshaw@cornwallhospice.co.uk.

All photographs courtesy of the Cross family.

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