Clair York recently won a long legal battle from her husband Brian's former employer to cover the cost of his hospice care after his death in 2015 at the age of 63. Clair won £12,022.55 and immediately donated the sum to cover a full day's hospice care for our patients and families. We caught up with Clair on her last day volunteering as a ward clerk in the main hospice building before she begins volunteering in our hospice shop in Uckfield, to talk about Brian, her legal fight and what has changed in her life during a challenging few years.

'It’s been two and a half years since Brian died. It’s a strange experience – he was such a fit, dynamic man. He complained about his breathing but it was very sudden how ill he became. When the hospice took him in he was on symptom control which took quite a long time – they tried everything, including finding time to take Brian for a specialist procedure at Portsmouth Hospital.

Perversely it seemed to take forever to get a certain diagnosis. It was no one’s fault – the cancer was implacable but we had faith. We thought we could begin rebuilding our lives together then, we thought that he might last another 3 years. Sadly just 8 weeks and 6 days after that diagnosis Brian died. He was 63.

It was devastating. There was no logic to it and the whole family seemed to shake to its foundations, a huge shock to all of us who loved him and were so close to him. Brian had been in the hospice for one month and had made plenty of friends there among the staff – Dr Shawcross, Dr Barclay, Annika and so many more lovely people. Their support helped me get through the next chapter, which was getting recognition that Brian’s condition could have been avoided and winning back the costs of Brian’s care for the hospice.

Brian’s died in 2015 from asbestos-linked cancer, something which he had been exposed to while working as Head of Year at Imberhorne School in East Grinstead.  My frustration was when the school’s insurer had admitted liability but started quibbling over Brian's BMI - he was 6ft 4 and a rugby player with the build to match. Like most tall, muscular men he had a high BMI. It felt incredibly petty when someone has died unnecessarily but this made me fight harder as I was quite angry.

I threw everything I had into being positive. The nurses and doctors were fantastic and I wanted to raise money to care for them in return. I’ve done lots of things in the hope of making a difference – a firewalk, Starlight Stroll – and I’m glad to say I’ve raised a good amount. I applied to be a volunteer here in May 2016.

I didn’t want to leave my role at the hospice as a ward clerk but after our long legal fight ended with a victory and the £12,000 compensation being donated to St Wilfrid’s Hospice I had turned a corner – I needed a change. I want to help St Wilfrid’s get on the map for people near where I live in Uckfield. I’ve moved from being on the In Patient Unit to helping get our Uckfield shop even more established. It’s very nice but I have a lot to learn!

I feel really good right now. I was terribly sad when I drove in for this interview on my last day volunteering on the ward but, looking around, I felt it was the right time to help people out in the community. We’ve got so much here in the hospice to offer but there are still places which need even more frontline support – people who need our help. Giving back has helped me so much – I feel satisfied with what has happened. Brian and I wanted the money to go to the hospice because it will make such a difference to families. It made that difference to us.

I think the best moment for me was planning Brian’s Living Wake which he specifically wanted. Although it was very sad, he desperately wanted to say goodbye to close friends and family. I hired one of the cinemas in Uckfield so we could all see Spectre when it first came out as Brian and the boys were big Bond fans. We all got dressed up in dinner jackets and fancy dresses and had a champagne and canape reception afterwards in the restaurant there. Brian was his usual "showman" self although he faded very quickly and it was all probably too much at times. However, it was what he wanted and, although he deteriorated rapidly afterwards, it meant he could say goodbye.

Brian really liked the hospice and I always felt it was a positive atmosphere and not sad, more like a  five star hotel. I always felt it was beneficial for both of us;  I had to look after the dog, and we also had to help my children find the opportunity to visit with grandchildren who were very small - it never seemed a negative environment for the younger ones, who still speak of it so positively.

I feel like a new chapter of my life has begun now. Brian was a huge part of my life and I’m tremendously glad I could help the hospice which did so much for us. But giving back means I’ve been able to move on and make that change. It’s been a long journey but I’m so glad I did it for him.'