Norwich couple's battle with terminal disease
Dan GrimmerDeath and dying are topics people are usually not comfortable talking about. As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week a Norwich couple talk to Sarah Hall about their emotional journey coping with terminal illness.Dan Grimmer
Death and dying are topics people are usually not comfortable talking about. As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week a Norwich couple talk to Sarah Hall about their emotional journey coping with terminal illness.
Four years ago Mike Reeve was told he probably only had 18 months to live after being diagnosed with a terminal lung condition.
Today Mike has lost 70pc of his lung capacity, has to rely continuously on pumped oxygen and he needs constant care.
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Even though the 75-year-old old from Proctor Road, Sprowston, has proved what a fighter he is for his ongoing battle with the disease - known as Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis - he is now coming to terms with what he calls his 'fatal condition'.
Now he and his wife of 46-years, Sally, have chosen to talk candidly about their experiences in the hope that other people facing similar situations can overcome some of their fears about dying and access the health services they need to get them through it.
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Sally said: 'Death is often a taboo subject and people don't like to talk about it. It has been really tough and Mike has been through a really difficult time but we have tried to get our heads around the fact he has a terminal illness.
'Mike is obviously a tough man and he has been fighting this illness which means he has taken a while to accept what is happening to him but he has now started to do this.
'We wanted to come forward and talk about our experience to try and help others. The more you talk and the more open the communication is the better it is. It is important for couples to be as open as possible. I now know what Mike's wishes are and that makes the process just that little more bearable.'
Mike, who was very active before his illness and enjoyed a 48-year career with Jarrold Printing, is a regular day patient at the Rowan Day Centre at Colman Hospital, in Norwich - part of the Norfolk Community Health and Care's Priscilla Bacon Centre for Specialist Palliative Care Services.
He said: 'If I hadn't had the care I've received at the day centre and in Priscilla Bacon Lodge, as well as at home from our wonderful community palliative care nurse, Gail Blackhurst, I know I wouldn't be here today.
'The nurses and doctors at the centre become part of your family. You are given respect and dignity and you are involved in all of the choices around your care.
'We do have a big hangover about death and dying in this country, and that can stop people getting the help available to them. I just hope that from our talking, other people understand that taking the help on offer, or even talking about things, is not about 'giving up''.
For Sally the emotional support has been vital. She is with Mike most of the time, and is his primary carer. She is the person closest to him, and yet she describes how his condition has, at times, led them to feel isolated and to protect each other from what they are really feeling.
She said: 'Having this illness hanging over us has been emotionally exhausting and it fundamentally changes your relationship.
'But having Macmillan nurses and the Priscilla Bacon Lodge has made a very difficult time a lot easier. Help is out there for others too and we cannot thank the Macmillan nurses or Priscilla Bacon Lodge enough.'
t For further information on the Dying Matters Coalition, please call freephone 08000 21 44 66 or at email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at www.dyingmatters.org