It was just four months from Alan’s kidney cancer diagnosis to his death at the hospice in August 2013. Now, ten years on, Alan’s wife, Maureen, tells us about his time at the hospice and why she’s recently jumped out of a plane to mark the milestone.

“Nearly everyone from Banbury and the local area has been touched by Katharine House in some way. Our experience was quite sudden and short.

“In March 2013, Alan began having heavy night sweats and initially they couldn’t find a cause. Following a CT scan in April, they found cancer in one of Alan’s kidneys, which had spread to the adrenal gland on the other kidney. Not long after, by the end of April, Alan was having difficulty walking and started having to use a wheelchair. Following a visit to the doctors, we were sent straight to the assessment unit at the Horton General Hospital where another scan revealed the cancer had spread and metastasised to lesions on the brain. That was when Alan first went to Katharine House as an inpatient.

“The team were brilliant and helped to sort out Alan’s medication, as by this point, he couldn’t walk at all. With the help of the medication and his determination, I carried on taking Alan out for trips during the day while he was staying at the hospice. We’d go for outings to St Nicholas Park in Warwick, and he’d force himself to walk by holding onto things.” 

Making memories

“Around the middle of June we managed to get Alan to a place where he could walk out of Katharine House and come home, with some continued support and home visits from our palliative care nurses.

“We’d had to pull out of a family holiday to Whitstable because of Alan’s diagnosis. But as he’d made such an improvement, we surprised all the family and just turned up. We found a B&B with an annexe to accommodate Alan’s needs. We even walked along the promenade and it was the kids that were playing about using the wheelchair. It was such special and memorable time and the care we received at Katharine House enabled us to go for one last holiday together.”

Exemplary care

“Following the holiday, Alan went downhill rapidly and started having seizures. After one particularly bad seizure we decided that Alan would go back into Katharine House. He died at the hospice on 24 August. 

“Although it was quick from his diagnosis to his death, he didn’t suffer with it. He was never in any pain and was given the greatest care. He always said ‘it is what it is’ and he kept his sense of humour throughout.

“With Alan being a landscaper, he loved the gardens. And we’re a sociable bunch, so we’d often have friends and family from all over the country coming to visit and had big groups of us outside in the garden.”

Making a difference

“Katharine House provided exemplary respite and end-of-life care for Alan, but also extended to me, via palliative care in our home. I could always call and ask any questions, and when Alan came home we were provided with everything we needed through the Occupational Therapy team. I was also offered bereavement support if I ever needed it. 

“The staff have so much time for patients and families and are able to give the individual care that you need."

"People often don’t realise that as well as taking care of the patients, the team take care of the family as well. It’s often the little bits and pieces that make such a difference, like providing food and drink for families so packing lunch is one less thing to think about.”

Above and beyond 

“Nothing can ever repay the care and kindness we received, especially in Alan's last days, which is why I decided to take part in a skydive and raise much-needed funds for the hospice.

“Even at 73 and a Great Grandmother, I still love white-knuckle rides. Doing a skydive has been on my bucket list for years, so when I saw it advertised by the hospice in January, I put my name down straight away.

My tandem skydiver partner Dino was amazing. You go through the exercises on the floor, but I was worried that at my age I might struggle to hold my legs up for the landing. But he was so reassuring and said he’d be there every step of the way.

“The feeling as you freefall going 125 mph is amazing. I could have turned around and gone straight back up for another go. Lots of people say they couldn’t do it, but I would thoroughly recommend it.

“I am so pleased that I was able to raise over £2,500, for such a worthy cause.” 

Would you like to skydive like Maureen?

If you would like to skydive for Katharine House Hospice we're holding our next skydive day on 7 September 2024. There are only 10 places available, so sign up now!

Find out more about the skydive