George and Judith

George’s story

Kindly shared by his wife, Judith.

Devoted to his family and a friend to all, George was well loved by everyone that met him. When he and his wife, Judith, found out that he had advanced lung cancer, St Barnabas was there to care for George towards the end of his life and afterwards when Judith realised how much his long illness and death had affected her.

George and Judith's Wedding Day

“We were together for 53 years and married for 47”

George and I met at a local youth club in Newcastle when I was 14 and he was 16. The attraction was instant. He had jet black hair and he was very good looking. I was a fiery redhead back then, but he was always calm and he made me  laugh. In fact, in the 53 years we were together, George rarely lost his temper.

When George was posted to Cyprus for three years with the RAF, we didn’t want to be apart for such a long time. We persuaded my dad to let us get married before I was 21, so I could go with him. When we got back to England, George served at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire before leaving the RAF and getting a job at a nearby power station. We lived in a village in Lincolnshire for 28 happy years before moving to Worthing in 2004 to be near our first  granddaughter.

George and his dog.

“George’s glass was always half full”

Moving to be closer to family was the best thing we ever did. We enjoyed many good times together and George adored having the grandchildren around. Of course, life brought its ups and downs as it does for most people, particularly as George had severe Crohn’s disease and eventually had to adjust to life with a stoma and ileostomy bag. He handled it incredibly well. That’s the thing with George – his glass was always half full.

George was used to lots of medication and hospital trips, so when he developed a bad cough and breathlessness in 2011, he wasn’t unduly worried. He was treated for asthma, but the inhalers weren’t working. When he eventually had a chest X-ray, we were devastated to find he had advanced lung cancer.

George and Judith

“Palliative care was our only option”

George had a course of radiotherapy which did shrink the tumour slightly. But sadly, the cancer spread to his oesophagus, making eating and drinking incredibly difficult which was very upsetting for him.

George had been referred to St Barnabas when he got the diagnosis, but he was wary as I think he thought that would mean ‘the end’. But I’d worked in a hospice when we lived in Lincolnshire, so I knew they were there for so much more than just end of life. When George eventually agreed to me calling St Barnabas, I felt utter relief as his symptoms were so complex that we couldn’t cope at home.

George outside Arundel Castle

“The care was faultless, and I was looked after too”

When we arrived at St Barnabas, the specialist nurses were able get George’s sickness and pain under control. He even enjoyed a few mouthfuls of ice cream which they gave him to help soothe his sore throat.

The following day, our son, Mark, his wife, and our two beautiful granddaughters came to visit. They brought their dog, Tess, who George loved. When Tess saw him, she jumped straight onto his bed and lay with her head in his hand. I think she knew what was coming. Shortly after, our eldest son, Andy, and his wife, arrived. Everybody George loved was with him that afternoon on 10 April 2013. It was like fate in a way.

That evening, just 36 hours after arriving at St Barnabas, George died.

George and Judith

“Without George I struggled to cope”

It was two or three months after George died that I realised how much his illness and his death had affected me mentally and physically. I had watched the man I loved dying and I hadn’t been able to do anything about it. We had been together since I was 14 and suddenly, he was gone. It felt as if I was walking through treacle, and every step I’d sink a bit lower. That’s when I called the Bereavement Team.

I was supported by a lady called Rosemary, a bereavement volunteer provided by the hospice. She’d visit my house for an hour each week, and for the first few sessions I just cried. It all came out. Rosemary just listened, and she helped me get onto the road to learning to live again after losing the person I loved most in the world. Without the bereavement support I had from the hospice, I don’t know how I would have coped.

Light Up a Life 2023 - George

“Every year I look forward to Light Up a Life”

Ten years on and I’ll still never get used to George not being here. But the support from St Barnabas continues through their bereavement events. I remember the first time I went to Light Up a Life and how special it felt to be in a room with other people who were also remembering somebody they loved who had died.

I continue to go to Light Up a Life every year with my sons and last year I sang in the hospice choir during the event. If you’ve never been, I would encourage you to go. It’s emotional, but in the most beautiful way. There’s no better way to celebrate the life of a loved one.

If you would like to support local people like George and Judith, please consider making a donation.

Any contribution that you can make will go such a long way towards helping us care for all our patients in the weeks ahead, whether here in the hospice or in their own homes.

£
could provide an hour of specialist end-of-life care and emotional support for a patient in their last days of life.
could fund an art therapy session for a group of bereaved people, helping them navigate their grief and build new friendships.
could provide a new patient a home visit from a Community Nurse Specialist - assessing symptoms and providing emotional support.
George and Judith in Cyprus