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Spring brings new life

Janice Tracey had been in awe of her mum Margaret's upbeat attitude towards living with cancer for the last 12 years.

When Jan, herself a mother of five, was diagnosed with the same cancer, she followed this positive approach. Margaret and Jan (pictured) were supported by our hospice in the home team, and in her last few days Jan was supported by virtual ward before she died at home surrounded by her loved ones. Two months before, Jan shared her story:


I love this time of year, that spring brings new life and seeing the buds starting to open and all the new green in the garden. The days are getting longer, that's what I like. The bulbs are coming through and you can see it's on its way so you know it's going to come soon, the spring. All the seasons are good in different ways but spring is new life to me.

You’ve got to be positive and hopeful really because you can always sit and dwell on it. Life goes on. 

My mum is 89 and her attitude is just to get on with it, and she reckons I’m stronger than her! I do feel stronger now because I just feel whatever scans come back, whatever results come back, I can’t change it, it is what it is. So I just get on with it because you can’t change it, you’ve just got to say thank you for another nice day. 

We’ve got a lot to keep going for, mum and me, because I’ve got five sons and six grandchildren. We are a close family. The boys come round and sit on the on the wall out the front and wave. They've been great, collecting prescriptions and things like that for me and my mum. 

I don't see much of mum because of the Covid situation. I talk to her on the phone. When I was having my chemo treatment, we used to stop outside her window and wave and she would come to the door but we couldn't hear each other because my hearing is down and her hearing is not brilliant, between us we’re a right pair!

It’s a big shock when I first found out I had cancer even though I’d watched my mum go through it, to then become the patient. It took a little while to catch up but I gave myself a couple of days, picked myself up and I was alright.

I kept her upbeat but then I had to tell her I’d got it too. I thought how am I going to tell her, how am I going to tell my mum? I found that hard. But I told her and she was alright about it although she felt guilty and felt it was her fault, but it’s not; it’s just one of those things and there is a lot of cancer on my mum’s side of the family.

Janice with her mum

I know the hospice, I’ve been in it; my sister died in there a couple of years ago. It's beautiful inside, I think it's a lovely building. My husband's dad was in there early on for respite and my mum's oldest brother was in there as well, so I've seen it change over the years. It's in a lovely setting.

I think of it with good memories, it's always been a positive place. When my sister was in there for little while, she said ‘oh it's lovely here’. I think it made her appreciate what they were doing for her. I always remember she said ‘I've had a beautiful foot rub, I've had a massage’. I thought yes, they are the little things that make you feel better, even if it's only short term.

As soon as I found out I’d got this cancer, I locked down to reduce the risk of Covid. That was January, February time 2020 so I’ve been indoors all that time. It was easier in the summer time when it eased for a bit; I managed to have a cup of tea with my mum because she only lives across the road. Even just to be able to go for a little walk, you just have to be so careful. So I sit with the front window open, that’s where my sons and my grandchildren come and see me and they sit on the wall outside and talk to me through the open window, so at least I can see them.

Daffodils at St Helena Hospice

I know I’ve got SinglePoint if I need to - and I have used it - which is really helpful to have, because in the middle of the night when you think oh what do I do, they can give me some guidance. 

Because I was finding it a bit tough with my mum when she was told there was nothing else that could be done, I started to go and see Lindy from family support at St Helena, so she’s been there right from the start when I thought I’d got it too. The counselling from Lindy has helped a lot. It just gave me that little bit of support I needed at the time. Lindy usually rings every week or so. She’s so lovely, I was lucky to get her. From the support about dealing with my mum at that time, just to have an outlet to talk to someone else apart from family, to be able to talk to someone who's one step back who can see it as an outsider rather than someone who's living with it and dealing with that at the time.

Terry [support chaplain] rings me too and we have a little laugh and a chat. He’s very easy going and friendly and hearing from Terry is nice because he is so upbeat and so jokey; it's nice to have a chat with him every now and again, to feel normal and that life goes on outside. He's very good, very supportive in that way. He just lets you rabbit on, talk about what you want, general everyday life.

I know if I pick the phone up to St Helena, they’re there. There's someone always there for you and if you need anybody regardless of day or night, pick the phone up, talk to them, that’s what they’re there for. 

I am positive because if I wasn’t, what would be the point? Life goes on, it doesn’t stop because you have this horrible illness. 

I try to pace life. A little achievement is better than no achievement, just do little things rather than big things. I think people can expect themselves to do too much. If it gets warm enough I will go in the back garden. I will just sit in a chair with lots of blankets on and just smell the air and listen to the birds. Life is good.

With our thanks to Jan’s husband Paul.

This story may not be published elsewhere without express permission from St Helena Hospice.


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