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Two local families share their stories of how St Catherine's Hospice at Lostock Hall has provided support when most needed - plus details of how to sign up for Regular Giving. The hospice is seeking 400 new donors.

Sarah Murray is caring for both of her parents as they live with incurable cancer.

Without the support of St Catherine’s Hospice she says she would be at breaking point.

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The 44 year old mother of two from Lostock Hall is the main carer for both mum Harriet and dad Stephen, who each have multiple complex health conditions.

Lynn Kelly, Chief Executive of St Catherine's HospiceLynn Kelly, Chief Executive of St Catherine's Hospice
Lynn Kelly, Chief Executive of St Catherine's Hospice

Apart from the physical strain of managing everything from personal care to laundry, housekeeping and shopping, Sarah is also trying to come to terms emotionally with the fact both her parents are seriously ill at the same time.

Harriet 68, has bladder cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and a cognitive impairment after having a stroke in 2019. Stephen, 72, has liver and bone cancer and diabetes.

Sarah, who runs her own health and social care agency and consultancy, said the hospice’s support has been “an absolute God-send.” She said: “Yes I have lots of experience but when it’s your mum and dad you start questioning yourself – am I doing it right? Is there more that could be done? Before we were referred to St Catherine’s we’d slipped through the net really – no-one was supporting us. We’d only got dad’s cancer diagnosis in the height of the pandemic because we’d paid for a private scan when he’d complained consistently of stomach pains.

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She praised clinical nurse specialist Karen Burdett for hersupport and said: “Now we have the reassurance and the back-up from Karen. Not only is she great with mum and dad – working with them in very different ways to suit their different characters – but she is our advocate with the other services we need. She chases things up, she gets things done. She’s on our team and it makes such a difference.

Geoff Charlson who is backing the Regular Giving campaign  Photo: Kenny BrownGeoff Charlson who is backing the Regular Giving campaign  Photo: Kenny Brown
Geoff Charlson who is backing the Regular Giving campaign Photo: Kenny Brown

As well as all that, she looks after me too – insisting that I take some time for myself, which I know is important, but it’s easier said than done.”

Most importantly, Sarah says that along with the support of her family including husband David, daughter Stephanie and her partner Isaac, and son Simon the help of St Catherine’s has enabled her to carry on caring for her beloved mum and dad.

She said: “Yes it is hard but they’re my mum and dad. I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have parents like them. They have always been there for me and I will continue to be there for them. With Karen on my side, offering her expertise, reassurance and the space that gives me to re-charge my batteries and carry on, I will be there for them until the end.”

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Recalling how a few weeks ago and very concerned about her dad’s health she rang Karen. She said: “I hadn’t slept with worry. I just called Karen and burst into tears. She listened, she actively listened, she didn’t patronise me and she let me let it all out. And then, when I’d had that release, she worked with me to formulate and deliver a plan to make sure dad was comfortable and his needs were met.”

Caroline Charlson who was cared for at St Catherine's HospiceCaroline Charlson who was cared for at St Catherine's Hospice
Caroline Charlson who was cared for at St Catherine's Hospice

St Catherine's provides help and support both in the community and at the hospice.

Two years ago Geoff Charlson, who gfeatures on a Regular Giving campaign poster, had special reason to be grateful to the hospice. It brought comfort and calm to the final days of his wife Caroline’s life and gave the family precious time together.

He said: “Previously a lot of control had been taken away from her, but at St Catherine’s there were options and choices again...It was like travelling through a storm to reach an oasis of calm. When we arrived I just burst into tears – it was such a relief, it was something you could really sense, and really feel as soon as you arrived. We’d gone from grueling chemotherapy and radiotherapy and radical surgery in a busy hospital, to this place of calm where the focus was on wellbeing, the whole person and the patient came first, not the medical treatments. The staff worked with us, helping us to understand what to expect.”

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The 68 year old retired chief executive from Euxton is now sharing his experience of St Catherine’s to encourage others to sign up to give the charity a regular donation.

The Regular Giving campaign logoThe Regular Giving campaign logo
The Regular Giving campaign logo

He wants the charity to be there to help other families like his own.

Caroline was discharged from hospital following radical surgery at The Christie in Manchester but back at home her condition deteriorated and she was in great pain. After a stay at Royal Preston Hospital she was referred to St Catherine’s.

Geoff said: “The focus was on our time together and our interactions between us and our family and friends. Knowing we had the expertise and the pain relief on hand gave us the strength and the time to just be together, which was so important.”

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Caroline’s cats Saffie and Sydney were able to visit and takeaways and games nights were enjoyed with daughters Jessica, Laura and Rebecca.

Geoff said: “She loved the cats to bits so this was really important for her and wonderful to see. We did crosswords and jigsaws together, there were beautiful flowers brought to the room, the food was great and we enjoyed takeaways together. All with the knowledge there was back-up at the touch of a button if the pain got worse or any other symptoms came on. That was so important after being in so much pain at home beforehand – we all needed assurance that she would be comfortable.”

Geoff added: “We’ve done various things as a family – including the Moonlight and Memories Walk in memory of Caroline – but I’m pleased the regular donation I give each month helps the charity to be more sustainable, to be able to budget and plan for the future, something which can be especially hard when fundraising is unpredictable.”

Sarah Murray pictured with her parents Harriet and StephenSarah Murray pictured with her parents Harriet and Stephen
Sarah Murray pictured with her parents Harriet and Stephen

Chief Executive Lynn Kelly said the Covid pandemic and the resultant downturn in income has brought home to the hospice the need for a reliable income stream, which will continue despite unforeseen circumstances and enable the hospice to plan ahead. She said: "We’ve never really done a campaign for regular giving. It’s really in recognition of the great need for resilience and stable income streams. It’s so necessary for the services we provide to have that regular income month on month.”

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The hospice, which is located at St Catherine’s Park, Lostock Lane, Lostock Hall, near Preston, needs some £6m each year to finance its services with around £2m coming from the NHS. It is seeking to sign up 400 new regular donors.

Making All The Difference - How To Donate

The ‘Big Issues Small Details All The Difference’ Regular Giving campaign slogan puts the spotlight on the variety of things big and small the hospice takes care of and the impact this has on families. To sign up to give a monthly donation to St Catherine’s visit www.stcatherines.co.uk or call 01772 629171 or see here .

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