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A retired care worker with incurable bowel cancer has praised Ashgate Hospice’s care for helping her focus on living and enjoying life to its fullest.
Lesley Lax, from Winster, near Matlock, is a Day Services patient at Ashgate Hospice and has been receiving care after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2019.
She is sharing her story as part of national Hospice Care Week, to raise awareness of the care and support that is available to people like her facing a life-limiting illness.
Lesley, aged 68, was a community care worker for people with mental health conditions for 22 years, before working in a bakery for two years before her diagnosis.
In 2019, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer and has been a patient at Ashgate Hospice since 2020, when she was told the cancer had spread to her pelvis and lungs.
She said: “I was initially shocked when I was told the cancer had spread and that it was a terminal diagnosis, but I have put it to the back of my mind and try to carry on with my life.”
Following her diagnosis, Lesley underwent 17 treatments of chemotherapy in an attempt to cure the cancer.
But after discussing this with her consultant after suffering with pneumonia, they made the decision to stop the treatment – so she could focus on living her life as well as possible.
Ashgate Hospice’s Day Services team was recommended to Lesley by a nurse at hospital and they have been supporting Lesley ever since.
“The hospice has been a positive for me all the way through: the Complementary Therapy team have been great and the lovely Occupational Therapist, Dawn, has done an awful lot for me.
“All of the Day Services team are always friendly, bubbly and happy to see you, which is exactly what you need.
“I had no idea what hospices did before I started going to Ashgate, I thought it was just somewhere for people with end-of-life cancer to go to.
“But the Day Services are so welcoming to anyone who needs their support, they’re really inclusive and make you feel so comfortable.”
Ashgate Hospice has helped Lesley throughout the pandemic by safely visiting her at home as well as at in-person sessions at the temporary Community Hub in Hasland.
The hub is currently closed following the re-opening of the Day Services unit at the hospice’s main site in Old Brampton in September, which closed following the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020.
Lesley has been enjoying visiting the unit and receiving therapy treatments at the hospice – where patients can enjoy spending time and taking part in activities in the hospice’s gardens.
Lesley wants there to be more open discussions about death and dying, as her perception of hospice care has changed since becoming a patient herself.
“I don’t know why there is such a big taboo about death, this should be addressed as people get so upset by it but there are ways to work through your grief and sadness and be open with it.
“My partner Mike died earlier this year of cancer and it’s made me think about the holidays I want to go on and how I can continue to get the most out of my life.
“I wouldn’t say I’m more adventurous, but I am more eager to do the things I enjoy and just take things as they come.”
Led by national charity Hospice UK, Hospice Care Week celebrates the work and value that hospices across the UK bring to people’s lives.
The campaign takes place between 10th and 14th October and throughout this week, Ashgate will be giving its supporters an insight into what it takes to deliver compassionate hospice care.
From the people that work behind the scenes helping generate income to the nurses working around the clock in the community – the charity will highlight the range of teams that work together to enable it to provide vital end of life care.