Nicola’s Story

Your Light Up a Life donation will go towards caring for and supporting our patients and their loved ones here at St Andrew’s Hospice; families like Nicola’s…

Nicola’s Story

Kerry, Alan, Orla, Emilia and Quinn

I’m Nicola Valbonesi and I want to share with you our family’s experience of hospice care and what it meant to me and my family.

My twin sister, Kerry, was first diagnosed with cancer in April 2018 at the age of 31. She worked as a nurse, was married to Alan and was Mum to Orla who was 2 ½ years old. Kerry was also a
daughter and a sister.

After various treatments, scans and operations, Kerry was told she was in remission in February 2019. In March 2020 – just before the first lockdown – Kerry and Alan became the proud parents to twins, Emelia and Quinn. Life was happy and busy.

In August 2020, Kerry and I were involved in a car accident, we both suffered from whiplash. Whilst I was recovering, Kerry wasn’t. Her back was sore and she was struggling to breathe. Kerry went to A & E and after further tests, Kerry was told that her cancer had returned and our lives were shattered.

Her treatment plan re-commenced. On 16 May 2021, Kerry was allowed out of the hospital for the day so that we could celebrate our joint birthdays. We had a Chinese meal to celebrate! This was such a lovely, special day as the family had not been able to visit Kerry due to the coronavirus restrictions. This was so difficult for us all. These celebrations were short lived as Kerry was told her cancer had spread and would require hospice care. Two days later, Kerry was admitted to the Hospice. This shattered our whole family.

However, on arrival at St Andrew’s, Kerry was put into a lovely spacious three bedded room. Her pain was quickly brought under control and her mood changed completely – she was calmer and more content. Her husband Alan and the three girls were allowed to visit, along with myself and our Mum and Dad.

Kerry with Mum & Dad on her wedding day

Nothing was ever too much bother for the staff at St Andrew’s; they popped in to chat, making sure Kerry had everything she needed. The team even arranged a special visit from Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen movie for her three girls; Orla, Emilia and Quinn. They were ecstatic! One evening, the staff made Alan and Kerry’s favourite meal for them – spaghetti bolognese – which they enjoyed, along with some Prosecco. A special date night together was rare with 3 young children!

I have to admit, I was very apprehensive about visiting the Hospice, I didn’t know what to expect – I thought it would be gloomy but I was very wrong. The Hospice is warm and inviting and everyone cannot do enough to help both patients and their families.

Kerry wanted to return home to be with her family so the Hospice team organised a special bed and made all the necessary arrangements. We, as a family, were so grateful to the team at St Andrew’s Hospice for making this happen and granting Kerry her wish. Sadly, on 4th June, Kerry passed away.

Throughout it all, the Hospice team were so caring – before and after Kerry passed away. Nothing was too much trouble, they looked after Kerry the way we wanted, with dignity and respect. The team looked after our family with such kindness – we can’t thank them enough!

Last November, our family gathered together in the grounds of the Hospice for the Light Up a Life Service where we dedicated a light on the Christmas tree in memory of Kerry. The service was lovely.

I hope you will join me and my family for the Light Up a Life service this year.

With best wishes,
Nicola Valbonesi