Caring for Those With Cancer ; As the Charity Marie Curie Cancer Care Celebrates Its 60th Birthday, Hannah Davies Reports on the People Whose Lives It Has Touched.

By Hannah Davies

CARED FOR Doreen Butcher, who died from lung cancer aged 72.; THANKS Mandy Butcher is grateful for the help her mother received;

SURPRISED Eleanor White was initially reluctant to go to the Marie Curie Centre for support.;

PEACEFUL The Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle’s West End. Below, when the building work first started.;

ROYAL The Duchess of Gloucester, who visited the hospice on May 8, 1997.

HAVING a close relative with incurable cancer is one of the worst experiences you can have,” says Mandy Butcher.

“But Marie Curie Cancer Care made everything easier, and much, much, better for my mum.”

Mandy is just one of the millions of people across the UK who are touched by cancer. And, like many of those millions, Mandy and her mum Doreen had their lives improved by the charity Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle’s West End is the biggest hospice in the region and each year gives care and support to hundreds of people with cancer and their families and friends.

Mandy can’t praise Newcastle’s Marie Curie Hospice enough. The sales assistant, of Forest Hall, North Tyneside, knows her mum Doreen’s final months were made much happier by the care she received.

She said: “They really do their best in hospital but it is a very different thing. There are set visiting hours and you can never escape the fact it is a hospital. Marie Curie’s hospice was so different and so much better.”

Doreen was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in November last year.

“For a few months she had been feeling ill,” Mandy recalls. “She’d had a pain in her shoulder and then found a lump. The doctor sent her to get it checked out and that’s when they discovered she had lung cancer.”

When they realised the extent of Doreen’s cancer Mandy and her family pushed to get her into the Marie Curie Hospice.

Mandy adds: “We knew from other relatives how good the hospice was meant to be.

“Mum spent Christmas Eve in the RVI and we pushed to move her into Marie Curie for three weeks after she got diagnosed. We were delighted when she got a place.”

Doreen was cared for in the hospice from December until March when she died at the age of 72.

Mandy, who is one of six siblings, recalls: “The whole time we were there the staff were fantastic not only for my mum but for the whole family.

“They were so supportive and caring.”

Mandy says the hospice was a less intimidating place than hospital for her two children Sam, 16, and Ellie, 11, to visit.

“Although they were too upset in the later stage it was a comforting atmosphere,” she says.

To say thanks to the centre, Mandy’s partner Paul, a pub manager, has raised over pounds 3,000 with the help of customers in his pubs and friends and relatives.

The family also asked people to donate to the charity instead of buying flowers at Doreen’s funeral.

Mandy states: “I know if my mum hadn’t had the hospice and the support of all of the staff there her final days would have been much worse than they were.

“I can’t praise the people at Marie Curie enough for everything they did to help all the family, and especially my mum.”

Marie Curie Hospice Staff nurse Alison Fisher, 43, of Seaton Delaval, has been working in the Newcastle hospice for 19 years.

She said: “I thought there wasn’t that much which could be done for people who were seriously ill until I took a course a few months before I came to the Marie Curie Hospice.

“I was astounded at the amount of difference good care could make to a person, how much it could impact their lives.”

Alison was further impressed by the difference care could make by a patient at her previous job at North Tyneside General Hospital in North Shields.

“This woman had breast cancer and came in in terrible pain. By the time she left she walked out, her pain completely under control.”

This began Alison’s interest in looking after patients with serious illnesses. A few weeks later she had applied for a job at the Marie Curie Hospice.

In her 19 years Alison has seen many people come and go. She adds: “People leave as well to return to their own homes, it’s not a place people just come to end their lives.

“There is a lot of fear over the word hospice, usually by people who have never come in. When people visit they are often surprised by the whole atmosphere of the place.”

Each year the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle cares for over 400 patients in their inpatient ward, has over 1,000 day therapy attendances and over 700 outpatient appointments.

Over the years that adds up to a huge number of people, and their relatives, who have been helped by the charity.

Alison says her work gives her a huge sense of satisfaction. She adds: “There is obviously a lot of sadness in the work I do, but overall it is very uplifting. You are there for people at a very difficult time in their lives and being able to make a difference is fantastic.”

Eleanor White, 76, has been going to the Marie Curie Hospice as a day visitor for around nine years.

The grandmother, of South Denton, Newcastle, was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer – granulosa cells tumours – aged 61, shortly after she had retired as an estate agent.

“It took doctors a while to diagnose what it was because it is so rare,” Eleanor explains.

She has had 15 operations as the only way to treat the cancer at the moment is by removing tumours when they appear.

Initially, despite the urging of medical staff and her family Eleanor was reluctant to go to the Marie Curie Centre for support.

“My sister and the Macmillan nurse told me I should start going to the centre,” she explains.

“I said ‘well I’m not ready for that’.

But all the medical staff if you asked any of them they said the same thing.

“My sister said ‘you haven’t even been!'”

Eventually Eleanor, a widow whose son Steven, 52, daughter-in- law Irene and granddaughter Crystal, 23, all live close by, gave in and she was surprised at how much she loved the centre.

“From the very first moment I went into the centre I was just bowled over,” she says. “As soon as I walked through the door I couldn’t believe it.

“Something came over me, this safe feeling of community. It has got a wonderful calming atmosphere.

From the start they were marvellous.”

Eleanor says the care she receives at the centre is fantastic. One of her doctors was walking along the corridor with her and was suspicious of a cough Eleanor had.

“I insisted it was just a cold but she made sure I was scanned. And I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. That’s the level of attention and care I’ve received from the centre.”

Eleanor goes to the centre every Tuesday. In over a decade of living with cancer she has found it to be an irreplaceable source of support.

“Most of the time we chat about what we have been up to, but when you’re feeling down its really good to be able to speak to people and say openly, ‘I’m having a bad day’.

“You always try and protect your family from feelings like that so its good to have a place where you can let it all out.”

Eleanor says that without the Marie Curie Centre she would have found life much more difficult.

“What I really want to get across is it’s not just me who feels this way about the help and support we’ve received from Marie Curie Cancer Care – it is all of us.”

If you would like to make a contribution to Marie Curie Newcastle contact (0191) 219-1241. For general information call (0191) 219- 1000.


MARIE Curie Cancer Care was established in 1948, the same year as the NHS.

Marie Curie Cancer Care is one of the UK’s largest charities.

It employs more than 2,700 nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals.

The charity looks after around 27,000 terminally ill patients in the community and in hospices a year, along with support for their families. It mainly cares for people with cancer but also cares for people with other life limiting illnesses.

The charity is widely known for its network of Marie Curie nurses working in the community to provide end-of-life care for patients in their own homes.

Marie Curie has 10 hospices across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and two centres for palliative care research.

It also runs the worldrenowned Marie Curie Research Institute, which investigates the causes and treatments of cancer.

Marie Curie services are always free of charge to patients and their families which means the charity needs to raise more than pounds 115m a year.

The Newcastle centre offers physiotherapy, occupational and associated therapies along with social and psychological support to patients, families and carers, including bereavement and family support work.

It costs pounds 2.8m per year to run the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle (this excludes corporate costs such as HR).

Around half comes from local Primary Care Trusts and the NHS, the rest is raised via fundraising efforts with around pounds 1/2 m annual shortfall drawn from Head Office in London.

Marie Curie Cancer Care aims to significantly increase the charitable funding of the region’s hospice It is sustained and supported by the people of the North East.


AN evening with Jason Donovan is being held in support of Marie Curie Cancer Care on Saturday, October 4.

The event at Marriott Gosforth Park Hotel includes the chance to get up close to the legend of the 80s & 90s pop scene. Jason will be performing some of his classic hits after a three course meal.

Platinum Tickets cost pounds 99 per person, and include a meet and greet photo session with Jason, gold tickets are pounds 79 per person, tables of 10 & 12 are available.

To book tickets or tables call (0191) 268-6546, 07791518890 or email rachelle [email protected]

(c) 2008 The Journal – Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.