A BRAVE cancer sufferer has spoken of her gratitude to the charity who helped her through her darkest hours.
Lorraine McConnell, from Aspull, was diagnosed with t he disease in 2009 and came under the care of the palliative nursing teams at Wigan and Leigh Hospice.
Faced with the ordeal of having to face up to a terminal illness, Lorraine credits the hospice with turning her life around through the activities run in the day hospice service, the counselling and therapy treatments on offer at its Hindley headquarters, and the attitude and care shown by the staff and volunteers.
Having attended the day hospice for 17 months, Lorraine is now preparing to become an outpatient and is also determined to spread the word about the charity’s work, urging people to visit for themselves and not be frightened by the negative connotations of a hospice.
Lorraine, 45, said: “They’ve put me back together. At first, seeing the palliative nurses is scary, you’re terrified of telling your children you’ve got a terminal illness and you think that’s it.
“But then you come to the hospice and make so many friends. We don’t think of it as a hospice at all, we think of it as a five-star hotel.
“From your lowest point they get you back on your feet. I’m not scared now and I just can’t praise it enough. I would tell anyone in a similar position to just give it one chance, as they will not regret it.”
Lorraine’s journey has been particularly difficult as her family has suffered greatly from cancer. She is the fifth member of her family to have the disease, and during her treatment she has tragically lost both her mother and her sister Marie to cancer.
She praised her family, particularly her dad Robert Pinkerton and her two children Chantelle, 22, and Myles, 16, in helping her through the toughest times.
She said: “My dad has been my rock throughout it all, it’s been so difficult for him to go through it three times and he’s been so strong.
“My children have both been amazing and as we’re such a small family we’re all helping each other. It’s been very hard but we’re getting there.”
Given her family’s history of battling cancer, Lorraine says the hospice’s focus on helping deal with the mental distress caused by terminal illness and counselling has been one of its most valuable features,
She has also gained new skills through attending the popular weekday afternoon day hospice, including learning calligraphy and painting as well as enjoying the musical concerts and other performances arranged by the hospice throughout the year.
She says the atmosphere of the hospice and the attention-to-detail taken by the staff to ensure it looks modern and pleasant also contributes hugely to making it an enjoyable place to visit.
She said: “They really look after your emotional side and well-being, ensuring you and your family are all safe and happy. It’s like a home from home.
“As soon as you walk into the reception it is a totally uplifting atmosphere. It feels like you are being surrounded by a big hug.
“There’s always fresh flowers and you can sit and look out on to the garden.
“I actually think the word hospice should be changed to something else.”
Lorraine’s recovery from her lowest point has been further aided by a ray of light in the medical treatment of her cancer, which is being handled by The Christie Hospital in Manchester in partnership with the hospice’s doctors.
She said: “I was given two years and I’ve now done six months. I’m on a trial at The Christie and I’m optimistic, I feel good and I’m going to become a grandma, so I’ve got things to look forward to. I’m about to become an out patient but they never cut the ties, and you can come back any time you need the help. I’m definitely coming back as an outpatient for my complementary therapy on Fridays.”
Edwin Matthews, communications and PR officer at the hospice, said: “All our patients are truly remarkable and Lorraine is no exception. The positive attitude they all bring to their treatment is amazing.
“It’s especially gratifying for our staff and volunteers to have patients express their feelings about the way they are cared for and give such kind comments.
“We are delighted at how Lorraine supports the hospice, and grateful to all our donors whose generosity enables us to provide the best possible care for her and our other patients.”