Family stories

Tony’s Story

Just three months into Sally and Tony’s relationship, Tony was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. During his stay at St Barnabas House, the couple were able to get married in the hospice chapel and afterwards, when Tony wanted to spend time at home, our Hospice at Home nurses were there to support them both. Sally shares their story.

“I felt as though I’d found my soulmate”

Tony and I had known each other for 30 years before we fell in love. But when it happened, it was so simple.

It was February 2018. We’d been friends, watching each other go in and out of other relationships, and have wonderful children and grandchildren. Then we met up, having lost contact for a while, went for a drink and by the end of the evening I knew he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

“I wish that was the start and end of our story”

Just three months later, Tony was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Within days, he was seriously ill and in a lot of pain, and we were told it was terminal.

At first I didn’t think I needed any help taking care of him. But when he started chemotherapy treatment, I watched my happy, larger-than-life Tony fall apart – and someone gently suggested I contact St Barnabas House. I called, reluctantly, and I’m so glad I did. A few days later, he was offered a bed at the hospice.

The turnaround from not having help to having St Barnabas took my breath away. The day we walked through the doors of St Barnabas I was terrified. But straight away, a nurse gave me a big smile and said, “Cup of tea?” and that was that. Within hours, Tony was settled in and making everyone laugh.

“Life with Tony was always fun”

Tony was such a big character. He was loud, full of mischief and full of dad jokes. I’d hear belly laughs coming down the corridor and think, ‘Oh no, what’s he up to now!’. Over the eight weeks we spent at St Barnabas, his laughter filled the corridors, and the nurses adored him.

He had this thing about wearing brightly coloured funky socks. So, the nurses started bringing in socks for him! He had so many pairs and he wore them all. I know it sounds like a small thing, but for me it sums up St Barnabas. Everyone goes above and beyond, they find the things that make people feel like themselves, and they treat everyone with such kindness.

“We were able to get married thanks to St Barnabas”

Sadly, after a few weeks, we were given the news that Tony might not make it to Christmas – I said, “But we’re getting married next year” and the nurse sat with me and said, “If you’re going to get married, you need to do it now.” Before I knew it, a whole wedding had been planned for us, with everything donated from food and dresses to flowers. The kindness was extraordinary. We got married in the chapel at the hospice, and it was a day I will never forget.

In the weeks that followed we saw the full impact of St Barnabas. I walked in one day and Tony had his arms folded, so I knew he meant business, and he told me he wanted to be in his own bed, a bit of normal life. I spoke to the nurse, and she just said, “Right, come on then, let’s do it.” We were home the next morning, and St Barnabas came with us.

Tony and his partner on their wedding day (left) and an image of Tony in a funny chicken hat (right)

“Thanks to the all the nurses, Tony could by Tony right to the end”

The Hospice at Home nurses were like angels, just flitting in and out, nothing was too much. In the end, when I knew it was time for Tony to go, I cleared everyone out of the room and we just lay together until he fell asleep in my arms. He had no fear, he was calm and loved. And when I came out, the nurses were there, waiting for me. They were amazing.

The pain of losing your partner, your soulmate, is almost impossible to describe. I miss his laughter and his crazy socks every day. But I can honestly say that saying goodbye to Tony was easier thanks to the support of St Barnabas.

Having such an amazing place in our local community is a very special gift. I will always be grateful for the way they let Tony be Tony right to the end, wearing his socks and cracking his jokes.