Dear Santa,

Thank you for not forgetting me this year and allowing me to recover my health at St Andrew’s Hospice, Airdrie. There are a lot of people attending to me every day to help me feel better – and they have been successful – I am feeling very well.

For “Santa” read “the doctors, nurses, auxiliaries, cleaners, physiotherapists, administrators, complementary therapists and others” that are the St Andrew’s Hospice experience. The team also includes clever pathologists, blood technicians and other little elves working in the background external to the hospice providing invaluable service.

Living alone at home I eventually employed someone to help with cleaning, shopping and collecting prescriptions one day a week. Now that the vegetables had been delivered it was up to me to make a pot of soup for example. Short of energy that pot of soup became the ‘project’ for the day or maybe the next day.  Reluctantly I realised that I was not coping on my own and I was fortunate to find a welcome at St Andrew’s Hospice.

Every day here at St Andrew’s Hospice I have plenty of time to observe what’s going on from my bedside.  I don’t know why it took me so long to remember what an important part ‘rest’ plays in the healing process. However it’s the whole package that Santa and his elves brings to their job every day that has made a difference to me. Thank you for another wonderful Christmas.

Posted on 22/12/16

“When I was given the news of having breast cancer, and then a fortnight later, secondary cancer, it struck fear into my heart. No one wants to hear the word ‘cancer’. The word ‘cancer’ is terrifying, absolutely terrifying. The same goes for words like ‘hospice’, ‘Macmillan Nurses’ and ‘Maggie’s’.

“You don’t know what they are going to do, you don’t know why you’re going- apart from the fact that you’ve been handed this sentence – you don’t know what’s involved.

“When I first came here for the exercise class, on the recommendation of my Macmillan Nurse, I first thought: ‘Hospice? I’m not ready for a hospice. I’m alright, I don’t need this.’

“I lost all my confidence when they diagnosed me so I came to the door [of the Day Hospice], around 12 weeks ago, and I rung the bell. I nearly didn’t ring the bell, I saw the bell and I thought ‘No, I can’t do this, I have to go’ but I rang the bell.

“It was aromatherapy first and then the exercise class. The aromatherapy has helped me to cope with an exercise class. I had eczema on my foot but [aromatherapy] has helped and given me the confidence to wear pink, and bright colours, I love my colours.

“Then my Complementary Therapist brought me through to meet the Physiotherapist for the exercise class. I thought I was fit until I started here. My Physiotherapist told me to take my time but I thought ‘I can’t do this, I shouldn’t be here’. I was doing 40 lengths of swimming a week but on coming here, I couldn’t put one foot in front of another.

“Coming here has been 12 weeks of fun. I have loved every minute of it. There’s a bit of a laugh, a bit of talk, my Physiotherapist supports me, she pushes me but says ‘If you can’t do it, don’t do it’.

“I can’t believe I’m the same person that I was when I first chapped that door, because now I can chap that door and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, I love it!

“We work on stretches, balance, getting everything moving again, and standing on one leg for sixty seconds. Sixty seconds has been a target from week one and I managed 44 seconds last week, which is the best I’ve ever done. It’s brilliant, it really is. I wouldn’t be where I am today without what I’ve done here.

“When I go for my aromatherapy, it relaxes me. Reiki puts me to sleep, I just drift. I’m totally refreshed and raring to go.

“I get reflexology too. I love it; I’d never had that before until 12 weeks ago. Nobody ever touches my feet. I used to go to the beautician to get my nails painted but when I lost my confidence, [I stopped] so that is something else I’ve had to overcome. My complementary therapist recommended reflexology and I’m glad that she did, because like I say, my foot was red raw with eczema and it’s not red raw now, you would never know I had it. I wish we’d taken before and after pictures – the same with the exercise class, then we could see [where I was then] to where I am now.

“Doing this, talking, if I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t be here; I would have given up. I would have lay in bed and given up. This has given me my life back for as long as I can keep it going, which is what I’m going to do. If I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you.

“It’s an inspiration and I just wish that more people knew about it and would use [the service]. Some people do know about it but they won’t take that step.

“You meet people, and then the following week, one of them isn’t there, which has happened to me a few times, but because of the staff – they help you through it. I’ve met some wonderful people in here.

“You do get attached [to people] but I think the staff do tremendously well. They don’t invade your space and you don’t invade theirs. They’ll do whatever they can for you, they’ll do as much as they can, but they don’t come into your space if you’re not ready for it.

“It’s helped me socially, mentally and physically – the full package. It really has. When I first came here, I didn’t have these colours on. I had a dark pair of trousers and a dark top on but then I thought ‘No, I’m colour, this is me’. My Physiotherapist actually encouraged that because I was talking to her after one of the exercise classes and she asked how I was. I said ‘I’m fine but I do colours, I like colours, I’m a colourful person’.  I love pink so she told me to come back next week with a pink outfit on and that’s what I did.

“Things have happened over the years that have knocked my confidence, I’ve had to rebuild quite a few times and I have. I’m still here, I’m still fighting and I’ll keep fighting as long as I can walk, talk…

“If [talking about my experiences] helps another person, I’ll do it. If talking about it can do something for someone else that was like me, that’s good. I hope that a lot more people know about the services here.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people, I’ve got friends who are going through the same as me and they don’t know where to go. I’ve told them to come along. I’ve told them it’s not about going to the hospice and getting into a bed and thinking ‘That’s me’. It’s not like that. It’s a day unit where you meet people, you get exercise, and you get a chat and cup of tea. It’s the taking part, it motivates you. Some people are just terrified to take that step, like I was, but if I hadn’t taken that step, I wouldn’t [be where I am today].

“I am me, I am actually a better me. I’m more confident than I’ve ever been. My aim was to make it to a night out in the West End of Glasgow last week. I went and I had my first pair of high heels on since my diagnosis and I was up dancing in the middle of the floor and have photos. [At one point during the evening] someone asked my husband where I was, I was up on the dance floor. I thought ‘I’m not sitting down!’

“I just get up every day, put my earrings in, put on whatever I want to wear and I just make the most of that day and it’s because of these places, I know it is.

“Cancer can be a lonely place if people don’t know about places like this.”

Posted on behalf of Susan on 30/09/2016

“My mum Eileen went to St Andrew’s Hospice in February 2015 from the Beatson, where she was put into St Margaret’s ward.

From the moment she got there, the staff were fantastic by helping her settle in. She was in for a wee while then the doctor suggested a pass to get my mum home for a couple of days. The only problem was my mum could not get upstairs to her bed so the doctor said not a problem. She got Donna from Social Work and OT to work on getting things ready for my mum coming home so OT and Donna got my mum a bed and a commode so she could come home which was great.

Then she went back to the hospice where, yet again, the nurses were asking her how her weekend home was. Then we got her home at Easter weekend again, it was brilliant.

When she went back to the hospice, when her health got worse, they moved my mum into a big beautiful conservatory where we could spend more time with my mum right until the end of her life. With all the family coming up to see my mum, the nurses moved my mum in to a bigger room so all the family could come and see my mum. My dad stayed with my mum all night. The night shift staff came in and gave my dad pillows and blankets and asked if he wanted toast and tea or coffee or if he wanted anything else just to ask.

Of course I can’t forget Sister Catherine. Every day after 11.00 mass, she would come round and see my mum and say a few prayers with her and she would comfort my mum and help me through what was going to happen to my mum.

Then, on the 15th April 2015, my mum passed away with all the family and friends around her beside. After my mum passed away, the nurses that were on that morning put us in the room next to my mum’s room and brought us tea and coffee and and biscuits. When we went back into the room, my mum looked at peace now. They had laid out the Holy Bible and lit a candle.  Sister Catherine came back in and said a few prayers.

I cannot fault all the staff at St Margaret’s ward, all the work that they do and the care that they give.  One thing I ask of the hospice is that you just keep doing a fantastic job in looking after other people’s mums the way that the staff at St Margaret’s ward look after mine. There are too many staff to name individually.”

Posted on behalf of The McGuire Family on 27/04/2015

“In 1994, I was 13 years old, my mum was quickly moved to St Andrew’s Hospice. She wasn’t there long but was cared for so well, my words could not do it justice!

She passed away in March, and even at the Light if Life Service in December that year and years after, the ladies who cared for my mum still recognised us and were interested in our well being!

It has been almost 20 years now and although still difficult, I still remember how nice the hospice was as if it were yesterday! Thank you all so much! You do such a good and caring job!”

Posted on behalf of Allison on 05/01/2015

“My dad spent the last few weeks of his life in this amazing hospice.   Initially the decision to reach out to hospice was a scary one but with the help of our Macmillan nurse and the staff at St Andrew’s, it was very gentle and reassuring for dad rather than scary.

My dad was so independent and determined to walk through the hospice doors himself, at 62 with oesophageal cancer and a long history of surgery, chemo, constant infections, he was a real warrior.

My dad was in the St Margaret’s Ward, I have never met such a great bunch of nurses and auxiliaries. My dad was given the highest level of care, every little thing to make him comfortable was never a problem and always happened straight away. The small things like that are such a big deal to the families of the patients, just to know our loved ones are getting cared for with such empathy is such a comfort.

As dad’s last days approached the nurses moved us to a lovely big conservatory.  My brother, sister and our husbands and wives held a bedside vigil with dad for 7 days and nights. During this week, watching our father prepare to die were the worst and most cherished days of my life.

Again, the nurses and all the staff were there to help us; a rattle of a tea trolley filled with toast at 2am, a plate of sandwiches and bowls of soup for the six of us, never asked for, just brought because they knew we hadn’t eaten for hours, a hand to squeeze mine or rub my shoulder when I had moments of despair. The staff are simply angels with huge hearts.

Of course I can’t forget Sister Catherine. She came to see dad every day and every night and spent time talking with us and praying with us, my dad really had a soft spot for her, as do my brother, sister and I and we often speak of her.

My dad Thomas Russell Aitken passed away comfortably and peacefully on 27th February 2014 with us by his side. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for holding our hands and giving guidance and comfort every step of the way.  St Andrew’s will always have a place in my heart.”

Posted on behalf of Laura Harrop on 28/04/15