Light Up A Life 2020: Sheila’s Story
Some people might be dedicating one light on one of our Light up a Life trees this year, but for Sheila Fielding, she will be dedicating four, in memory of those who she has loved and lost over the last 23 years.
“I never knew much about Weldmar Hospicecare until my brother was cared for in 1997 after being diagnosed with colon cancer. It was only then when I realised what an amazing place Weldmar was.”
Just three years after we opened our Inpatient Unit in Dorchester, Sheila’s brother, Ted, spent his last days after a battle with cancer, but just three years later, the hospice was there for Sheila and her family once again.
“My eldest of four daughters, Geraldine, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and spent the last couple of years of her life bravely fighting her illness. She always had a warm smile and was always proud of her appearance. At Christmas time, she was always the one to eat all of the Maltesars. She sadly died at just 44 years of age, never really seeing her two children grow up and her grandchildren being born. As a family, we were devastated.”
It was then that Sheila started attending the Light up a Life service in Dorchester, surrounded by her family. “I dedicated a light for my brother, Ted, since 1997, but when Geraldine passed away, we dedicated a light for her as well and always attended the service every year. The service always provides us with an opportunity to remember those who we have sadly lost and reflect on the amazing care that Weldmar provides each and every day to so many people.”
Over the years Sheila’s family has supported Weldmar however they could from family walks to volunteering, coffee mornings to wingwalking and Sheila even skydived at the age of 80.
But never did she imagine that they would need to use Weldmar’s services again – until December 2019.
“My darling husband Derik was the head of the family. He always worked hard all of his life to make sure he could provide for all of us. You would never hear him grumble and he was the best husband to me and father to his four girls.” Derik was diagnosed with advanced heart failure and shortly after celebrating his 90th birthday with his family around him, he required 24 hour palliative care.
“I cared for Derik at home, with the support of Weldmar’s community nurses, but he needed to be in the hospice. I didn’t know Weldmar cared for patients without cancer before but they were there once again for my family – I shall be forever grateful.”
Derik spent six days at Weldmar’s Inpatient Unit, surrounded by his loved ones who were allowed to stay overnight by his side. “They weren’t just here for my husband, but also for all of us too, making sure we were looked after and supported throughout this difficult journey.” Derik passed away, after 64 years of marriage to Sheila, whilst listening to his favourite music.
But sadly, more heartache was to come for Sheila and her family when her second eldest daughter, Caroline, also needed palliative care, just six months later. “Caroline had been fighting bone marrow cancer for many years but sadly, she couldn’t fight it anymore. During Covid-19 she was admitted to Dorset County Hospital where she was told that she had just weeks to live. Immediately, she said that she wanted to spend her last days with Weldmar Hospicecare. Things were different because of the pandemic and there were more restrictions on visiting, but the standard of care didn’t change. They treated Caroline with so much love, respect and compassion and she was comfortable. She passed away where she wanted to be, surrounded by the most amazing nurses.”
After spending many years putting her family before herself and caring for both Sheila and Derik, Caroline passed away at just aged 62.
“We owe so much to Weldmar, I would do absolutely anything for them. No one ever imagines that we will need to use these services, but for them to be there for my family four times, I am forever in their debt. They are so much more than nurses, they are like one warm family. The care that they provide is second to none and they can’t do enough for everyone, both the patient and their family. They are like angels who show so much compassion – whoever is cared for by them, they treat everyone the same.
For me, Light up a Life is the start of Christmas. Although the services are emotional, it is heart-warming to know that you are not alone and so many others around you are going through the same thing. Christmas is all about being surrounded by your family. Although ours will be a bit smaller this year, their lights will be shining bright on the Christmas tree outside the hospice.
I know that my dedications will not only be our way of remembering our loved ones this Christmas, but will also help fund the care of those who are in a similar position to us last December. Because without Weldmar Hospicecare, I really don’t know where we’d be.”