Our Christmas Gala speaker shares her story
Helen Foster’s husband, Philip, was cared for on the Inpatient Unit before he died of a brain tumour aged just 47-years-old in February 2022. Here, Helen talks about the care Philip received from us, both at home and in the hospice.
“I met Philip online in July 2012, and when we saw each other face-to-face it was love at first sight. I didn’t know at the time, but Philip had been diagnosed with an aggressive grade 3 ⁄ 4 frontal lobe brain tumour and had undergone an operation to have it removed. He also had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and trial drugs for which he was being treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital.
We had our son, Louie, 13 months after meeting, got married in 2015 and had Frankie two years later.
Philip had been in remission for nine years when we received the harrowing news in the spring of 2020 that, after a routine MRI, they had found a shadow. We were told it was probably nothing to worry about and it was seemingly benign. They couldn’t perform a biopsy as they didn’t want to exacerbate the tumour.
But when we received an appointment at the Macmillan Hospital in London, we knew it was bad. It was an extremely rare osteosarcoma of the skull, thought to have been a result of the radiotherapy treatment all those years ago. Philip fought, and had three operations and chemotherapy, which he had to do mostly on his own due to the pandemic. He was an absolute trooper.
In the spring of 2021, when we were told it was terminal, our lives fell apart. In the August of that year, after experiencing multiple mini strokes, Philip had a brain haemorrhage at home. That was the first time I spoke – in a panic – to the amazing Nurse Line at St Wilfrid’s Hospice, who reassured me to be calm and call emergency services. Philip went to Eastbourne District General Hospital, where they told me there was nothing they could do.
However, doctors did manage to operate at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton. They said he may be paralysed, but the operation was successful and after being in an induced coma, Philip pulled through. We used to joke that he was like a cat with nine lives. He completed some more things on his bucket list and went to his beloved Old Trafford.
Sadly, in a very short space of time, Philip deteriorated. We had multiple appointments at St Wilfrid’s and were under the watchful care of the lovely Dr Lucy and Dr David, who visited us at home. I was still able to care for Philip myself with the help of Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists from St Wilfrid’s.
I was then assisted by their Care at Home Team, who were amazing. After feeling like I was falling apart mentally, they provided me with the support and comfort to carry on.
Philip was eventually admitted into the hospice Inpatient Unit three days before Christmas. The care and love he received there is unfathomable. We managed to spend Christmas with Philip, and the children opened their presents around a lovely tree in his room. Nothing was too much trouble. I even managed to spend my last night by his side on Valentine’s Day.
The Nurses and the team all became very fond of him, and him of them. His constant positive attitude was magnified by the people caring for him. Philip died peacefully on 19th February 2022 with all his family by his side. Our lives would never be the same again.
The months that followed have been hard. But again, the children and I have received amazing aftercare from the hospice, in the form of counselling for all of us. The children, who are now 6 and 10, have had to live life without Daddy, and myself without my soulmate and best friend.
However, with the support of the hospice this has been made a little less painful, and we are slowly rebuilding our lives without our lovely Philip.
I hope Philip’s attitude and love will always reign on and that, with our support, it will enable the amazing care, compassion and empathy offered by all at St Wilfrid’s Hospice to continue to help many more people when they need it most.”
Helen kindly told her story at our Christmas Gala. She is pictured (above right) in action.