Watch Hannah and Amy's story:
Our mum Angela was just the most amazing person. She was so strong, even up until the very end it was her strength of character that kept us all going. She had a relatively small circle of friends who she classed as family, but she loved to be around other people and was the life and soul of any party. Having grown up in Shelf her whole life, she was a huge part of the community, which shows in the incredible amount people have donated to the Hospice in her memory.
Mum had already helped bring our family through so much before her cancer diagnosis; our dad, Steven, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2019, and we cared for him at home with the help of the community palliative care nurses in the last weeks of his life, before he sadly passed away in 2020. Then, just three short months after Dad died at home, Mum was diagnosed with cancer. At just 14 and 17 at the time, our world had been turned upside down for the second time, but our wonderful mum kept us going through all of it.
We spent two years just getting on with life as a family and making all the memories we could. From holidays and birthdays to quiet nights in as a family watching films; we made the most of every minute we could spend with Mum, and at times it was easy to forget about her illness. But eventually, Mum took a turn for the worse and was admitted to hospital in Huddersfield where they gave us the options for how she would like to spend her final weeks.
We knew we could care for Mum at home if that was what she wanted because we’d already cared for Dad, but the doctors at the hospital explained how complex her symptoms were, and we all just felt safer knowing that there would be nurses on hand whenever we needed them at Overgate Hospice. Our only request was that we could both stay with her at the Hospice for what we thought would be the last two weeks of her life, and thankfully there was no question about whether we could be there for as long as we needed.
Before coming to the Hospice, we all had an idea in our heads about what it would be like. We thought it would just be about death and dying, and that everyone there would be elderly. But we couldn’t have been more wrong, Overgate is truly about making the most of life while there’s still time, and they never brought up mum’s illness unless they had to, and even then, it was done with so much respect to mum and to us as her daughters. The good days were just that; we spent time together, chatted to the staff about Love Island and whatever else was on TV, mum enjoying her ice lollies, visits from our dog Ollie, and all of us chatting to the other families in the 4-bedded bay where Mum was at the time. We made such close connections during that time, not just with the staff but with the other families there, who we are still close with today.
For the first four weeks of Mum’s stay, she was in the 4-bedded shared bay, while we stayed in the Relative’s Room on the Inpatient Unit to be as close to her as possible. This had a bed and a sofa bed, and a bathroom with a shower too. We were so thankful for this facility, but there can be up to 12 patients, many of whom have families too and it meant we had to share the Relative’s Room with other families who needed it. Of course, we were more than happy to let others use the Relative’s Room, and in the last three weeks we just wanted to be next to Mum anyway, sleeping in recliners next to her bed and timing showers so we didn’t leave her alone for a single moment.
Before this time though, we just made the most of every minute she could be with us as our amazing mum. With the help of the staff, we made memory boxes, filled with all our memories together of holidays, concerts, photos, and notes mum had written to us to read when we need to feel close to her again – we haven’t been able to read those yet, but even seeing her handwriting brings her memory back for a moment. We also had a movie night in the Day Hospice, just the three of us, with popcorn and candy floss and a film that Mum was looking forward to watching.
Before Mum was admitted to Overgate, we had booked to see George Ezra at the Piece Hall - he was one of her favourite artists and we were all really looking forward to it. Sadly, we had to sell the tickets when it became clear Mum was too unwell to attend, but we were happy to just make the most of the days we had left together and thought no more of it. Then one day, we were telling the Overgate staff about how we had planned to see George Ezra, and without knowing, they got the whole team involved to secure three VIP tickets to the concert! It was such a kind gesture and honestly meant the world to us. Although Mum was unwell at the time, a nurse came with us for support and Mum had the best time ever, she even got a signed poster and a t-shirt that she wore for about a week!
Eventually, Mum fell asleep, and we took over the decision making for her. We felt so respected during this time - the staff took nothing for granted, even down to what she would want to wear each day, they knew that even these small details mean so much. We are so grateful that we were taken so seriously, because that is not our experience of other healthcare settings where we were generally dismissed because of our age. But at Overgate our age was never a question, we were involved in every decision and kept informed throughout.
In August 2023, Mum died peacefully with us by her side. We are just so grateful that this time was spent at Overgate, they couldn’t have made those last few weeks any better, and we honestly believe that the care they gave her allowed her to stay with us longer than the two weeks that the hospital had predicted. We will never stop supporting the Hospice, and last year walked the Midnight Walk in Mum’s memory after she had signed us all up to it! We also raised money at her funeral and took part in the Reindeer Run with the pre-school Hannah works at. All of this shows what Mum meant to people in our community, because we have so far raised £…!
Our experience of Overgate was incredible and we will be thankful to them for the rest of our lives, but we can’t wait to see what the Big Build Appeal will do for families like ours in the future. The care they give honestly couldn’t be better, but if we were able to stay with our mum in a private room, in our own beds, it would have made even more of a difference. It will give families the choice to just be on their own in their own private room, or to socialise with others in the communal space which the Hospice doesn’t currently have. We can’t wait to join Overgate on this journey and will support the Big Build Appeal until we can be there on the opening day of the new hospice.
We would urge anyone to donate to the Big Build Appeal if they can. And on behalf of families like ours who will be able to receive the lifechanging care they need when they need it most, we want to thank anyone who donates to this incredible appeal.
We can’t wait to see what the Big Build will do for families like ours. The care the team gives honestly couldn’t be better; but staying with our mum in a private room, in our own beds, would have made even more of a difference. We urge everyone to donate to the Big Build Appeal. We’re so grateful for each person who will enable more families to receive Overgate’s life-changing care in the future.