Home News Ruth connects with The Kirkwood and is delighted to have done so

20 Jun 2024 Community

Ruth connects with The Kirkwood and is delighted to have done so

As a charity we look to support people in many ways through the services that we provide right across Kirklees. The Kirkwood is proud to care for people who are dealing with all kinds of life limiting illnesses. Our services include complimentary therapy and counseling. 

One person who has accessed our services is Ruth Warden, 56 who lives locally. Ruth has been on a recent journey with cancer. As part of that journey she wants to be as prepared as possible for where she would like to be when she dies. Ruth believes The Kirkwood and the care of our superb nurses would be the best place for her when she lives out those last few precious moments. 

On her journey with cancer and why she wanted to contact The Kirkwood early, she said: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago when I was 50, it gradually got worse. After having a CT scan I was told that the cancer had spread to my liver and my bones. During the COVID-19 pandemic I had my COVID jab, and I started with a headache and feeling a bit dizzy. My GP sent me for a brain MRI and they found that it had spread to the lining of my brain. Which was a very negative diagnosis.

“I was told I had not got long left to live and you need to make the most of what time you've got left and make your plans. At that point I wasn't very well at all. I was quite poorly, and I knew I had to organise end of life treatment.

“I'd been thinking about it for a while because I have secondary cancer and I've two young sons.

“They were teenagers when I was diagnosed, but they're now young men. I'm very keen to protect the home environment, to keep it a home and not make it a medical environment. 

“I said I don't want to spend my last days at home. I want to be somewhere else, and I want my family to be able to come and see me and stay with me for as long as they like. I wanted our home to be a safe place, so they don't have memories of me being there at the end of my life.

“Once I had made that decision I contacted The Kirkwood and said, look, this has happened. I would really like to spend my last days in The Kirkwood rather than at home. Immediately I had an occupational therapist come out to see me. She did some home assessments on what I needed at home. I had a physiotherapist come out because I couldn't walk very far.

“The treatment I was on made me have no energy and feel weak. So she gave me some exercises to do which helped.

“After about six months I began to feel better. The drugs I was on were balanced and I found an equilibrium and I was able to start living better and feeling better.

“However throughout all that time The Kirkwood have remained in touch and they contact me on a regular basis. They always sound really positive and helpful and chatty and always say, "Look, you know if you need anything you know, we are here.” 

Ruth is pleased she has a strong supportive network around her and believes due to that reason she has been able to keep as positive as possible. 

She said: “I do have a very good supportive network around me, a clinical team but also family, and just knowing that they're there is so comforting. 

“I'm pleased I have prepared myself because it means my family don't have to do all that. I know this may sound grim but I have planned my own funeral. I found it quite cathartic actually, knowing I've made preparations is comforting because it takes that pressure and stress away from my family. 

“I'm delighted with the services The Kirkwood has provided me with. I find it a comfort to know that I can call the charity at any time and not wait 17 weeks for an answer.”

Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2018 and then again with secondary cancer in the April of that year. Ruth explains in detail about how she felt at the time of getting both diagnoses and how she finds things now. 

She commented: “When I first got diagnosed I was in the mindset of ok let's crack on with this surgery and get home. I can vividly remember the doctor saying to me, it's just a blip in my life. You'll take a few months off of work, and then you'll be back, and that I will have to take a tablet for the rest of my life.

“Then to get the news in April and be told it's untreatable secondary cancer, it was a shock. I was off work for a year and then went to see occupational health, they said if it's secondary cancer then you'll need to retire through ill health. So basically, my whole life changed dramatically, at first it was hard, nothing prepares you for that news. Mentally I found it hard because I just kept thinking of all the people and things I'll miss. It's just a black hole and to die is horrible. 

“I remember one day I was in bed just sobbing and feeling horrible, and I remembered a saying that said: ‘look, you can't help what's happened in the past. You have no idea what's going to happen in the future, but you can control what you do today.’

“I thought, I'm just ruining what's left of my life by being miserable. So I just changed my perspective on everything. I surrounded myself with loved ones and positive thoughts. I now do what I want to do. I think people are scared of cancer and I want to show you can live with it. It doesn't control you, you control it.” 

Ruth has found like minded people who are also dealing with the very specific type of breast cancer that Ruth has. Ruth has engaged with these people and they have banded together to make their own group. 

On that Ruth said: “The type of cancer I have is quite unique. When I started researching breast cancer it turns out there are different types. After doing more research I found some other women who had the same cancer as me. We've now formed a group and small charity ourselves. We just direct people to the right resources and places to get advice.” 

Finally Ruth said that she had a good understanding of The Kirkwood and how we care for people. She also had a good understanding of how hospices work after her father was cared for by hospice staff before his death. 

On understanding The Kirkwood she said: “I had an idea of how The Kirkwood operates because I've seen the shop in Cleckheaton near where I live. I didn't know about the breadth of services that The Kirkwood provides and that has been a surprise to me. 

"I think death and cancer are such difficult subjects for people to open up about and the more we can encourage people to think about these topics the better. My dad was cared for by a hospice in Leeds and so I understand how quality the care can be of these types of places. 

“As I said I'm pleased The Kirkwood exists and I've made decisions early. It's helped me put my mind at some rest and that means I can concentrate on enjoying the time I have left. Hopefully it will be a long time before any more decisions have to be made.”  

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