Caring for someone with a terminal illness

Poppy ' Interview 40

Age at interview: 27

Brief outline: Poppy's father Adrian was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and at the point of diagnosis only had a few weeks to live. During this time he stayed with his oldest friends. Poppy also stayed with these friends so she could spend time with her father before he died.

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Poppy’s father, Adrian, first became ill while visiting his cousins in Italy. Once he had returned home to the UK a close friend of his, Julie, a retired GP, recognised his symptoms and suspected he had cancer and so he went for tests. After over a week of waiting for results it was confirmed he had terminal pancreatic cancer and was told he had only a few weeks left to live. Shortly after he was admitted to hospital, Poppy and Julie decided to discharge him as they did not want him to die in a hospital. They set up a room for him at Julie’s home that opened up onto the garden. This was perfect for Adrian because he loved gardens. It happened to be sunny during this time and he spent a lot of time enjoying the garden.

At the time Poppy had not been working in her new job for very long, but luckily they were very understanding and allowed her to take the time off. Poppy stayed with her father in Julie’s house. A lot the medical side of care was left to a visiting nurse and Julie. Poppy provided him with a lot of support and comfort; she gave him massages to help him sleep, read to him and spent time by his side talking to him. Poppy wanted to devote as much time as possible to being with Adrian as she considered this time as being very precious. She was sometimes encouraged to go out and take respite time for herself. However whenever she did this, she felt anxious because she was away from him. Adrian was very popular and so he had many friends visiting him. Poppy had to manage times for friends to visit and describes his final weeks as a very social time. However, she was aware that this also must have been an exceptionally lonely time for Adrian also. Poppy is very grateful to Adrian’s friends and her friends as they have been incredibly supportive throughout.

When the time came, Poppy expected that Adrian would die very peacefully, however how this was not so. Adrian lost consciousness for a day and Poppy felt it was at that point that they really lost him. She describes how his body then seemed to ‘hold on’ and was ‘fighting to stay alive’; this was very difficult and upsetting for Poppy to witness. He died a day later. Poppy described how her father was very popular, eccentric and a nonconformist. As requested, his funeral was in the form of a garden party.

One year later Poppy describes the effect his death has had on her life. It is important for her to do things which would have made him proud of her; she takes advantage of life’s opportunities whenever she can and tried not to wallow in her loss. The experience has also helped her to clarify the things which are important to her in life, and not to worry about things which are less so.



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