Sunday, 10 July 2016

Not Alright By Me

Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough
Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, Peterborough

Wonderful things happen in our community every day, and over the coming weeks and months I intend to tell you about as many of them as possible. Orton is a lovely place to live and in our wider city environment of Peterborough there are many fantastic facilities and services that help to make our area a truly terrific place to live and to work in.

But it's not all good, no city ever is. Anti-social behaviour, in its myriad forms, happens all over the country and Peterborough is by no means immune to it.

However, something happened outside our precious Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice this week that, for me, is beyond the pale: fly-tipping.

Article in the Peterborough Telegraph
Article in the Peterborough Telegraph

I was first alerted to what had happened by an article in the Peterborough Telegraph. It explained that a 'van-load of rubble, broken wood and insulation' had been illegally dumped in an area of natural beauty that had just been painstakingly re-created by volunteers for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The anger and upset I feel is difficult to put into words, but I will try.

People in need hospice care are not rubbish and where they are cared for is not a rubbish tip.

At some time in all of our lives we, or someone close to us, will need the care and support of our local hospice, either for end-of-life palliative care or for support living with the consequences of a long-term illness. At these moments we are at our most vulnerable, our most bewildered and in most need of the dignified and unconditional support that hospice staff and volunteers provide. Treating the grounds of the hospice as an open refuse site is the opposite of dignified and it burns my heart to think how the staff and residents of Thorpe Hall must have felt when this very selfish thing happened right on their doorstep.

If you've never needed the services of a hospice, perhaps I can explain a bit about what they do by sharing some of my family story.

On Christmas eve 2009, my dad was diagnosed with late stage terminal cancer of the throat. Treatment was not an option, so he was quickly transferred to the hospice in his area (not Peterborough) where he peacefully passed away on 12th February 2010. Had he not had access to a hospice, where the care he was given gave him great dignity and peace and where we as a family always felt very welcome and supported, he would have died in a noisy hospital with none of the support or care that he experienced at the hospice, quite simply because hospitals are not equipped to support people with terminal illness in the same way.

I found my dad's death very difficult to deal with (I still do, and expect I always will). I can be a tough cookie and the relationship I had with my dad when I was a teenager was certainly fiery at times, but he was still my dad and I loved him and wanted him to know that. I was really, really scared that my dad would pass away without knowing how much I loved him and needed him, and it was the kind and caring hospice staff who I turned to for advice and support on how to stem the flow of my tears long enough to be able to have a final, proper conversation with my dad before he died. In a regular hospital that would not have happened.

The best way I can describe the experience of being with a loved one who is in the late stages of a terminal diagnosis is this: it is like you're both in the departure lounge of an airport. Your loved one is about to go on a one-way journey and you know you won't see one another again. But the plane has been delayed. You know it will come eventually, but you don't know when. In the meantime, you are both sat in the departure lounge feeling terrified but with no idea what to say to one another.

In this most dreadful of situations, hospice staff are there to help and I don't know how they do it or what we would do without them.

As many of you know, I have multiple sclerosis (MS). I was first diagnosed with MS when I was just 19 and am now 45. I am acutely aware of the incredible care Sue Ryder provides to people with MS through our hospice and others like it. A friend worked in a hospice where I used to live and she said to me 'You matter until the last day of your life'. This is so important to remember. Being in a hospice doesn't mean your final days have no meaning, quite the opposite, They are an opportunity to squeeze as much from life as there is to be squeezed (in the circumstances). I don't know what course my MS will take. My dad's mum also had MS and she passed away at the age of 55 owing to complications. A close friend of mine, who also had MS, passed away aged 43 as her weakened immune system couldn't cope with an otherwise 'simple' chest infection. What I do know is whatever the future holds, if the hospice isn't there to support me and my family the outlook will be far more bleak.

The hospice costs £2.8million per year to run. The last thing it needs is unexpected clear up costs.

I wondered what I could do to help. Peterborough City Council has advised the hospice that the specialist clear up will cost £200. What was needed was money, and so I have sent the hospice a cheque for £200 which I hope will go some way to at least clearing up most of the mess. Moreover, I would like to take the opportunity to let people know why our hospice matters. It is one of the jewels in Peterborough's crown and its staff and volunteers should be treated with our greatest respect.

The hospice now needs more help to install CCTV in the hope of deterring further fly-tipping at its site and catching those that do. If you can spare anything at all (I could ill-afford the money I sent, but I can ill-afford a future without our hospice so I really don't care about the money) please send Thorpe Hall Hospice a donation. You can do so very easily via its website.

This was difficult to write and it may be difficult to read. If you or a loved one are currently coping with a terminal diagnosis I send you lots of love.

In loving memory of my dad, George Williamson 1942-2010.

Julie with her dad George in a hospice


  1. A very moving blog Julie, thank you for sharing your story. I hope your charitable donation will lead to many more. I for one will be making one because of reading this so thank you!

    1. That is very kind of you, Roger. I'm sure they will appreciate the support as I know they intend to buy CCTV and that will cost considerably more money.

  2. I thought you were going to be making a bit of a fuss, Julie. Then I read to the end of your post and I now have a big hug for you. But now I am angry: why would Peterborough City Council charge this particular organisation for cleaning this up anyway? I hope they have it in them to clear it up and waive this particular charge. They need to have a chat to the construction sector.

    1. Yes, I would hope so too. As much as anything I want the hospice staff and residents to know that they are valued and that this act of thoughtless stupidity is exactly that and not a reflection of how the whole of Peterborough feels. PCC is free to step in and if it does, the hospice can use the money I sent towards the CCTV or whatever else it needs.