Wigan and Leigh Hospice helped us now we want to help them

The mum of a young Wigan woman who lost her cancer battle aged just 26 is telling her tragic story to support the borough’s hospice.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 3:02 pm
Updated Friday, 16th July 2021, 3:04 pm
Rebecca Caunce with her mum Joanne
Rebecca Caunce with her mum Joanne

Joanne Caunce, from Platt Bridge, is sharing her heart-breaking account of the loss of her daughter Rebecca in aid of Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WLH).

The Hindley-based charity looked after Rebecca in the final days of her life which was cut shockingly short and which is also facing a funding shortfall due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In October 2018, at the age of 24, Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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She had chemotherapy, a mastectomy, radiotherapy and then was given the all-clear, allowing her to return to her job at HMP Manchester where she worked as an operational support grade in reception booking the prisoners in and out of the prison and booking in for prisoners’ visits.

However, in May 2020 Rebecca, who has a sister Bethany aged 21, began feeling sickly and dizzy.

At first doctors thought Rebecca had vertigo or an ear infection and it was suggested she go for an eye test in the hope of diagnosing the problem.

She went on July 22, 2020 and was immediately sent to Manchester Eye Hospital.

Soon after it was discovered that the cancer had returned – this time as a secondary cancer in her brain.

Former Deanery High School pupil Rebecca was hospitalised into Wigan Infirmary before she went to WLH for pain management and ultimately end-of-life care.

Rebecca went into the hospice on October 3 last year and died there just 10 days later.

Her heartbroken family have paid glowing tribute to the way the hospice and its staff cared for her.

Joanne, 52, said: “Rebecca was so funny and sometimes a little dizzy. I can still see the way she screwed her nose up when she laughed.

“She loved holidays, her keep fit classes, socialising with her family and friends, and her car, even though she lost the ability to drive towards the end.

“She was honest, reliable, loving. Beautiful. And I know as her mum I’m biased, but everybody loved her.

“She used to say she was frightened and she didn’t want to leave us. To know she was going to pass away in months – the way she handled that news, the way she handled the last few months of her life – I’m so immensely proud of her.

“She went into hospital, right in the middle of the pandemic – and that’s where a nurse, and a doctor that also works at the hospice, came to see her.

“The hospice was full at the time, but they wanted to bring her in, put her on a syringe driver to help ease her pain.

“They explained to her how it would help get her symptoms under control and said she could maybe go home after a week. So, when a bed became free, she went across.

“As soon as we came to the hospice, it was like a different world. The doctors and nurses were fantastic; they tried so hard to make her comfortable. It was like she was part of their family – they even let us bring in our cockapoo, Florence.

“They all wanted to see pictures of what Rebecca looked like before cancer, all the treatments.

“We were there with her all day, every day. They even moved us into a room with a sofa bed so we could stay more comfortably through the night.

“Rebecca was never left on her own and someone was always there to bring us cups of tea, toast in the mornings – whatever we needed.

“She was in so much pain still and it was very distressing for me – but they were so gentle with her – how they moved her, washed her; how they spoke to me and Jordan, her partner.”

Rebecca and Jordan had recently bought their first home together in Ashton-in-Makerfield and initially she was determined to get back there.

“At the beginning, I promised Rebecca we’d get her home,” said Joanne, who works as a machine operator.

“She and Jordan had only just bought it and she loved restoring it, making a home. She was ready to start a family. ‘Promise me,’ she said. ‘I want to be at home.’

“But eventually I had to say to her, ‘Rebecca, love, I know we said we would, but we’re not going to get you home. The care you’re getting here is second-to-none. You know that don’t you?’ And she nodded. We both knew this was where she needed to be.

“The truth is that we simply couldn’t have cared for her like the hospice cared for her.

“Even if we were able to bring her home, we’d have needed a bed downstairs – and she needed to be moved all the time; she was in so much discomfort, and eventually became paralysed losing the use of her own body.

“In the hospice, she was in the right place. They did everything they could to try to ease her pain.

“When she was gone, the nurses asked me if I wanted to lay in bed with her, and I said yes. I’ll always remember one of the nurses came in and gave her a kiss. She said, ‘Night sweetheart, you’re a brave, beautiful girl.’ And I thought that was so lovely that she did that.

“Each person at the hospice genuinely cares – and they loved her too. They must see some heart-breaking things, but they continue to look after people in their darkest hours, doing everything they can to take care of their families and loved ones.

“I’ll never get over losing Rebecca; she was the most incredible daughter. She is so missed. I haven’t been able to go back into the hospice – not yet. But I can’t thank them enough. I will go in soon.”

Rebecca’s family will be sponsoring a Christmas tree in the hospice gardens every year in her memory. The tree will be located outside the room where she was admitted.

The hospice, which cares for adults aged 18 and over from the borough, is facing a funding gap of £2,192 every day.

The pandemic has forced the hospice to cancel fund-raising events, close shops and curtail door-to-door lottery subscriptions, all of which has had a devastating impact on income.

Sophie Cannon, fund-raising manager at the hospice, said: “The hospice has really struggled to fund-raise in the last 18 months because of the pandemic. Although we are hoping to get back to normal with some events this year it will be quite some time before we are back where we need to be.

“Joanne is a remarkable woman and I would like to thank her for speaking out so bravely in memory of Rebecca and to support the hospice.”

Anyone who would like to make a donation to Wigan and Leigh Hospice can do so on the hospice’s website www.wlh.org.uk or visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/careappeal.

You can also text CAREAPPEAL plus the amount you wish to donate to 70085. For example CAREAPPEAL 10 to donate £10.

Donations can also be taken over the phone on 01942 525566, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 4pm.

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