In October 2007, Claire Hadfield’s father Alan became very unwell. After spending many weeks in the Eastbourne DGH, Alan was transferred to Guy’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer - a very aggressive form of cancer caused from exposure to asbestos. He spent his final days in the hospice in Mill Gap Road but was able to see Claire and her husband Steve tie the knot in December of the same year.

Claire and Steve's wedding day

Claire recently got in touch with us to share their story:

‘My lovely dad was the most kind and caring, but very private man. He worked for BT in London and after 34 years of service, full of life and energy, he decided to retire and him and my mum travelled the world. They travelled to India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Jamaica, Thailand and many more places. They loved a good time, often socialising in the local working men’s club at weekends.

Claire's father, Alan

‘He loved his football and Charlton Athletic so much that he named his cat and boat after his team. He also loved mine and Steve’s Shih Tzu, Barney, after being completely set against the idea. Him and Barney were best friends; he regularly walked him and fed him food he shouldn’t have!

‘Then he was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. Steve and I had been together for 10 years and within three weeks of Dad’s diagnosis, Steve proposed to me. It was the right thing to do so that Dad could be there and enjoy my big day. He was in the hospice having palliative care at this stage as the deterioration was very quick from diagnosis.

‘We married at the Eastbourne Town Hall on 15th December 2007 and had the reception in a seafront hotel. It was a very emotional, sad, but happy day for us all. By then, the hospice in Mill Gap Road had become our home as my dad continued to fight, so instead of wedding gifts, we asked for donations to be made to the hospice.’

Claire and Steve on their wedding day

Alan’s legacy continues to live on within their family and with friends and work colleagues. Claire makes sure that she talks to their children daily about what their grandad was like and how proud he would be of them.

‘I actually took my children past the Mill Gap Road site in the car not long ago and told them stories. Now, the site is home to some beautiful houses, but the memories, emotions and sadness will never go away,’ Claire said.

Claire continues to give to the hospice when she can and hopes that she can volunteer when she has some more free time. ‘I want to give back the love and support we received at such a hard and heart-wrenching time for the patients and families. The hospice will hold a very special place in my heart.’

Do you have some memories from time spent at the hospice? Perhaps a special moment spent with your family, your first day as a volunteer, or a memorable fundraising event? We would love to hear your stories. 

Email [email protected] or share them on the St Wilfrid’s Community Facebook page or your own social media using the hashtag #stwilfridsmemories