Barbara and Bill’s Story

“From that point on, things looked up. Nobody could save my Bill from what was coming – but we felt safe now. Knowing the nurses were there 24/7 was like having someone’s arms around you all the time."

Barbara and Bill’s Story

Barbara has sadly needed Rennie Grove’s Hospice at Home nurses on two occasions. Once in 1998, when her mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour. And again, more recently, when the love of her life and partner of 43 years, Bill, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Barbara explains what it meant to her to have the nurses’ care and support at the family home in Bledlow…

“The nurses changed my life. I knew my mum was going to die – but having those nurses at the end of a phone or with us at home made the hardest of times easier. I wish they hadn’t had to come to my home, but they are truly angels walking on this earth. And I’m so glad they could come back and help my Bill when he got ill.” 

Bill had COPD and was used to living with some discomfort and breathing difficulties. But when biopsies showed advanced cancer and the specialist told him he had months, not years, Bill and Barbara were left reeling with shock. 

“We had no one to turn to. We didn’t know what to expect. I was so scared and desperate to help Bill. My sister had lung cancer and she did not have a good death. I was petrified this was how it would be for Bill. 

“Years ago, Bill and I had discussed this. And he’d said, if he were to become terminally ill, that he wanted to come and end his days with me. I asked him now if he still wanted to. I remember he simply said, ‘not yet’.  

“The cancer slowly destroyed my Bill. He hated taking the medication and he hated how the illness stole away his dignity and independence, bit by bit.  

“When he felt he could no longer cope by himself, Bill moved in with me. That was on a weekend in early November 2022. On the Monday, we registered him at my GP surgery in Princes Risborough. The very next day, the nurses from Rennie Grove were with us. And a doctor came to visit Bill before the week was out. Bill couldn’t believe it. It was so different from what he’d been through up till now.

“He just sat in his chair and cried – he was so overwhelmed and relieved that these people cared enough to come and see him. That meant the world to Bill. And to me it meant everything – that someone was helping him – and making it possible for me to help my Bill when he needed me most.”

“Bill could be ever so awkward and sharp. But the nurses never treated him any differently because of that. They never judged, reacted or held a grudge. He was dying, worried, in pain. Not one of us can understand what it must be like, every day, knowing you’re dying. Surely, you’re allowed a little leeway.

“The lovely nurses let him rave and moan if he needed to. Just let him get it off his chest. And nine times out of ten, by the time they left he’d be cracking jokes with them again. 

“From that point on, things looked up. Nobody could save my Bill from what was coming – but we felt safe now. Knowing the nurses were there 24/7 was like having someone’s arms around you all the time. And Bill trusted them and felt confident with them. They visited regularly and I’d ring them between visits if I was worried. Sometimes we’d just talk through what I needed to do to help Bill get comfy. At other times, we’d agree a visit would be better and then they’d be with us as quickly as they could.   

“When Bill needed a hospital bed downstairs, it was the Rennie Grove nurses who persuaded him. For him, it was yet another sign of his decline; of the cancer getting the better of him, as he saw it. So, he was adamant he wouldn’t have a bed downstairs. The nurses took their time, never rushed him or insisted. They just quietly explained how difficult it could become for me if he carried on trying to get upstairs to bed. That did it. He was quiet for a while that day after the nurse had left. But later he asked me to ring them and say he would have that bed after all. That was Bill all over – always looking out for me. That’s why he wouldn’t come and live here sooner – he didn’t want to put any more pressure on me. But I’m so grateful he did come, and that I could care for him, thanks to the nurses’ unwavering help and support for those last eight weeks of his life. 

“As December progressed and Bill got weaker, it gave us such peace of mind to know that the Rennie Grove nurses would still be there for us 24/7. Even as other services prepared to close for Christmas, or to reduce their hours over the festive period, we knew the Hospice at Home nurses would still be available any time of the day or night.  

“They began to visit more often as Christmas approached, visiting us at home on 21 and 22 December. Bill was finding it harder to move about or to get comfortable, and the nurses discussed with him increasing his pain relief. But he wanted to be as with it as he could for as long as he could. And he worried that more medication might make him very drowsy.” 

“On Christmas morning, he woke up coughing a bit, which was normal by now. I was sleeping on the sofa next to him, Max the cat fast asleep down on the floor by his side. I remember I asked if he fancied a cuppa. He nodded and then I heard him get up and go into the downstairs bathroom while I was in the kitchen. He was taking ages in the bathroom, and although I’d always tried to give him as much space and independence as was safely possible, I went in to check he was OK. He was sat, facing the sink. I put my arms around him, and I heard him sigh. And then he was gone. I couldn’t believe how suddenly it happened. And now I had no idea what to do next. Should I move Bill? Could I move Bill? Whom should I ring? It was Christmas morning and I couldn’t get through to anyone. Eventually I rang my neighbour, and my niece, Rachel. And then I got hold of Rennie Grove. There were nurses nearby, but they were with another patient. So, the nurse who answered the phone came out to us and helped move, wash and dress Bill. It was so lovely to see my Bill at peace again.  

“I feel very proud he let me care for him at the end. And that we got those eight weeks together. Sometimes we’d just sit, holding hands, not even talking. We loved being together – and that’s all we ever really wanted. I’ll be forever grateful to the nurses for making me feel safe, secure and confident to care for my Bill.”