Barbara White has always been an active lady, with a love for swimming and walking. When Barbara was diagnosed with a progressive illness, which affects her lungs and breathing, Barbara needed emotional support and a way of keeping her mind busy...

"I remember thinking ‘but I’m not ready to die’, when the community matron first referred me to Teesside Hospice. I’m a fit person, I love walking and swimming, how can I be ill?

I was diagnosed with a progressive autoimmune disease in my lungs on the 4th December 2012. I always kept really fit and I started to struggle when I was doing exercise, 18 months prior to my diagnosis, and that’s when I realised there was something wrong.

After the diagnosis, I was referred to Teesside Hospice for the Day Hospice to get help with the emotional effects of the illness, and with my medication. I was so apprehensive, I thought it was a place where you go to die. I was wrong. It’s not about death at all. Everyone at the hospice encourages you to be the best you can be every day.

I’ve been coming to the hospice for around a year and I’ve benefited so much. The environment creates a safe space for people to say what they need to say. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about your illness or your feelings outside of here, but nothing is off the agenda. It’s so refreshing to be as real as you need to be.

While I’ve been coming to the Day Hospice, I’ve spent a lot of time in the craft room. I’m really new to crafts, I’m used to physical activities but doing the crafts has really sparked my mind. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, but it keeps me distracted. We’ve made dream catchers, painted pictures for my daughter and grandchildren and even baked fresh bread and cakes. It really helps you to leave your worries elsewhere.

Barbara's homemade Christmas cake 

On a Thursday I attend the Life Story Clinic, we make memory boxes and talk about our lives. One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is that there’s a new me. I can’t go out swimming or walking anymore, but through creating the memory boxes, I have memories that flood in. I’ve learnt how to substitute the desire to do a 10 mile walk, and instead think about things from the past, like the time I went to Nepal. Those memories bring me so much happiness.

I’m starting to feel human again. There’s a freedom to be you at the hospice, and that’s so important.

The staff at the hospice are incredible. I spent a week on the Inpatient Unit when I had a change of medication; I’ve never experienced care like it. The staff are so funny too, it makes such a difference! I can’t really put into words what it’s like here. I just hope that other people in my position, who need extra support, can experience the care and the environment at the hospice.

Yes people might be at the end of their lives, but it’s a privilege to meet new people, building up friendships and creating new memories.

 The hospice is helping me to realise who I am now. And for that, I’m really grateful."

No matter how you support us, you are helping people like Barbara be the best they can be. Thank you. #ThisIsWhatItTakes

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