Reigniting the spark in our lives
SHARON FAIRCLOUGH, a counsellor at South Bucks Hospice, tells how she, along with help of staff nurse Carole Hildreth, helped a suicidal breast cancer patient regain the spark of life and the will to carry on
IT WAS heartbreaking to sit and listen to the despair of a woman blighted by traumas who had active plans to end her life.
My job was to work delicately with Sarah, a fragile and vulnerable patient to see if we together could find reasons for her to live and not end her life.
Having found that reason, it was my job to help her reignite the spark of life we had found.
I met with Sarah (her name has been changed to preserve anonymity) in April after being asked to do so by South Bucks Hospice’s head staff nurse Carole Hildreth, who was extremely concerned about her psychological wellbeing.
Sarah, a middle-aged woman, had been diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2014.
One month after a mastectomy, she began the harsh and invasive treatment of chemotherapy.
On the day I met with Sarah, she explained that she was halfway through her chemotherapy and that radiotherapy would soon follow.
Sarah’s life had been blighted by traumas throughout.
Sarah disclosed that due to such a lot of emotional pain as well as previous health issues, followed by the diagnosis of breast cancer, she could not see a way forward in her life.
She was actively suicidal with plans for how to end her life.
During the course of the session, I stayed with her despair and accepted how she felt.
Together we looked at what it might be like not to live anymore and all Sarah could see was that her suffering would be over.
We then looked at what it might be like for her family, her friends and for the hospice staff who were looking after her and of whom she had grown fond of.
Blankly, Sarah looked at me and said there was no one and nothing worth enough for her to feel like she wanted to live.
As we sat in the deafening silence of her admission and with her mind set to end her life, I gently enquired with Sarah on the last time she recalled feeling any sense of enjoyment – even just the tiniest fragment of enjoyment.
Sarah looked down for a while and a minute smile appeared on her face, so small it could have been missed.
Sarah looked up at me and began to describe how before her diagnosis she had enjoyed fashion, choosing pretty outfits and applying make-up to feel and look good.
Sarah had cared about her appearance.
Sarah slowly began to revisit her memories of feeling this way and gradually her almost extinguished flame of life began to burn brighter.
She told me what type of fashion she liked and how she liked her make-up to look and how it felt for her.
She then described how she could never feel this way again as she hated her mastectomy.
Sarah told me about her poor fitting mastectomy bra and the stuffing that had been given to her without shape.
From the moment she had lost her breast she had also lost all sense of herself in her world and her experience was one trauma too many for her to
With Sarah’s consent to share the topics of our session, as well as following hospice policy for good practice where serious risk to life presents, I met with Nurse Carole and informed her that I had recognised a small spark of interest in life in Sarah during our session.
Carole explained that Sarah had been waiting for weeks and weeks for an accurate fitting for a suitable mastectomy bra and breast form from the hospitalhospita and despite Carole chasing this numerousnumero times, her efforts hadh come to nothing each time.
We agreedag that Carole would approacha hospice CEO Jo Woolf and with Jo’s consentcon to use patient day care funding,fundin Carole would invite SarahS to meet with herhe for a one-toone to look at pretty mastectomymastec bras via the specialistspeciali internet shoppingshoppin sites, as well as carryingcarryin out a fitting for a genuinegenui prosthesis.
FollowingFollo this meetingmeetin with Sarah, Carole informed me soon aftera that she too had noticedn a new sparkspa of life emergingem in Sarah.
The order was madem and the itemsit arrived by postp a few days later.la
On the day of theth fitting, Carole presented to me theh box containing a beautifully made breastb form, and a
EMOTIONAL PAIN PAIN: (Ab (Above)) Th The gardend whichhi h patientsti t enjoyj at tS South th BucksB kH Hospice;i (right)( i ht) a nurse consoles a patient at the hospice; (below) Sharon Fairclough, a counsellor at South Bucks Hospice