My Stay at Alice House Hospice, David Hunter
Every morning when I open my eyes I remember it’s a new day and I’m not going down without a fight
“I’d been unwell for a while after my mam died in 2018 and I felt let down by my GP who had previously diagnosed me with hayfever, anxiety and depression. It was actually an NHS dental nurse at a practice on the Headland who suggested it might be something more serious.
I was referred to James Cook where I was finally listened to and eventually diagnosed with head and neck cancer. I felt like I’d been dealt a ‘triple whammy’; I’d recently had my contract terminated by my previous employer in 2019, then got my diagnosis of head and neck cancer and finally we went into Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
But I wasn’t going to let this get me down. Every morning when I open my eyes I remember it’s a new day and I’m not going down without a fight, I’m making the most of the time I’ve got left. Positive mental attitude is what’s getting me through this.
I’m one of four children alongside brother Richard, late brother Alan who died in June 2004 and sister Susan. When Dad died of cancer on my birthday in September 2003 one of the last things he’d said to me was “look after your mam for me”. And that’s what I did, I was a single parent working 3 jobs and helping to look after my mam. But walking in the outdoors always helped me to get things off my chest. As kids we always spent our holidays in the countryside – I’ve got so many memories of the seaside, the Scottish borders and one of my favourite places, Staithes. I worked for a while at Sotech as a delivery driver – I loved the open road and getting the chance to see the beautiful scenery around us.
These are the places I go to in my mind when things get a little tough; I close my eyes and think about the sound of the sea or the countryside with the birds singing or picture the beautiful coast and countryside we have on our doorstep.
Music also brings back memories, Mam always used to sing ‘Que Sera, Sera’ by Doris Day to me and I just love to sing; we were brought up with music and it’s something very important to me. I used to regularly join in at the Karaoke in my local pub so it was lovely when the team here arranged a karaoke machine for me. It was funny though because the screen was black and white I couldn’t tell which were the male and female parts of the songs, so I just sang the whole lot – there was quite a bit of Abba being enjoyed with the whole unit signing and dancing; an all-round emotional experience for all.
I came to the Hospice first in January 2021 for symptom control but wanted to go home to see if I could manage – I live on my own but really wanted to keep my independence. However, after only a few days I realised that Alice House was the safest place for me. I already had one eye which was partially sighted but the cancer has taken the sight from my other eye now so getting around at home proved much more difficult than I expected.
However, coming back to the Hospice was like being welcomed by an extended family of cousins and old school friends. I feel so safe here and the team are just amazing. I think of my room and garden as my own little caravan and I’m having a long stay on an all-inclusive basis. The food is amazing, I get my breakfast and coffee, three course lunch, two course dinner and then evening snacks – everything is blended for me and although I can’t taste or smell anything it’s still delicious.
My brother and sister have both been able to visit me, in fact my whole family have been a huge support to me – I’m not the only one going through this and it’s comforting for them to know I’m in safe hands here.
Jo from the Counselling & Support Team has helped me write letters for Richard and Susan, my two children Emma and Toni and my gorgeous grandchildren Lilly and Brianna. I’m just an average working man but I want them to know how proud I am to be part of their lives. I’m a proud son, brother, parent and grandparent and I’m going to enjoy what time I’ve got left with the help of Alice House.
I would like to say a huge thank you to James Cook Hospital, Macmillan Nurses and all the staff at Alice House for all the care and support
my family and I have received at this difficult time.
My advice to those going through something similar is always to move forward, never look back and stay positive because life is too important – don’t give up!”