Marion McFarlane is a fighter. She thought she had beaten cancer four years ago, but it has returned and hard as it has been she has been forced to accept the inevitable. With the support she has received through the staff at St Nicholas Hospice Care she has been able to face even her darkest days.
“I was worried about the effect my illness would have on my six grandchildren and four children, so, with the help of the hospice, I’ve been making memory boxes for them and planning my funeral,” said Marion.
The 56-year-old grandmother of Bentinck Crescent, was put in touch with the hospice last year, when her breast cancer, which she had believed she had beaten four years earlier,returned.
Since then she and her family have been supported by the hospice’s Orchard Centre, which provides tailored day therapy sessions, and the family support team, which has offered counselling.
“I had to come to terms with everything, but I have also been taking my children and grandchildren to the hospice so they know it is not a sad place. We have lunch there and we all love the garden. Even the dog comes, and he loves it as well,” said Marion.
“The family support team has spoken to my grandchildren, and I think that will come in useful in the future. We’ve all been open about my condition and we’ve been trying to get them used to the idea that I won’t always be here. They know nanny can’t do what she used to.”
But while Marion started being supported by the hospice last year, she first came into contact with it more than a decade ago, when her father, Albert Lyfield, visited the hospice for day sessions before his death in February 2002.
“Then, the following Christmas, my mum Dorothy went to the doctors with backache and it turned out she had ovarian cancer. She died in May 2003. I sat there for a week with her, and the staff were so good to us,” she said.
The hospice has not only helped, Marion, who worked as a carer at Barlings Court sheltered accommodation in Newmarket, before her cancer returned, with her medication and equipment to make her life easier, but has also given her a love of crafts.
“I started stone painting at Orchard, and I’ve also made silk scarves for my daughter and learned other crafts,” said Marion.
The painted lucky stones were on sale at the Macmillan coffee morning which Marion organised at Newmarket’s memorial hall last month and raised £170 for the hospice.
One of the visitors who bought one was Marlborough assistant trainer Richard Hannon junior.The next day at the Rowley Mile the stone proved very lucky for its new owner when Sky Lantern, the 1000 Guineas winner trained by his father, won the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes. Now a photograph of Mr Hannon kissing his lucky stone has pride of place on Marion’s mantle piece.
When her cancer returned Marion underwent chemotherapy, but she has now stopped having treatment.
“They have said I have only got weeks left, but I still keep going. I feel very tired but I just take it day by day – that’s all you can do,” she said.
“I want to make everything as easy as I can for my family. I am not frightened of dying, I have come to terms with it, but it’s what you leave behind that breaks your heart.”
With the help of Sue Nutt, a volunteer hospice chaplain, Marion has arranged her funeral, while Sue also helped to organise the Christening of Marion’s grandson, Ben, which took place at the hospice in March.
“The Christening was really special,” said Marion.
“The patients and families all came and said hello and enjoyed the food and cakes. Everybody at the hospice got involved.
“I’ve met a lot of people who were dreading going to the hospice before they arrived, but then once they’ve experienced it they don’t want to leave.
“The hospice gives you support, and it gives your family and the other people in your life a little bit of respite as well.
“I think we are so lucky to have something like the hospice in our community.”