Proud father and family man Paul Williams was cared for at Saint Michel’s before his death in January 2020 from Mantle Cell Lymphoma, which he had been living with for three-and-a-half years. He was just 49. Here, his wife Marianne explains how the special personalised care offered at Saint Michael’s helped Paul and his family make the most of the time they had together.
“We had been receiving pre-bereavement support from Saint Michael’s, which helped us plan for the last weeks of Paul’s life. Paul was really reluctant to go for pre-bereavement counselling. I think a part of him didn’t really believe he was going to die. In July we were told the stem cell transplant hadn’t worked so there was now no cure for his cancer, and treatment available might only extend his life for a few weeks or months.
“He decided we should spend three days to plan things and during that time we visited Saint Michael’s and Paul said: “This is where I want to be.”
“When the time came, Paul spent 10 days at the hospice and it was just amazing right from the start. Paul called it his 5-star hotel. The setting was so beautiful and everything was so personalised. We felt like it was ‘our’ room. The staff were so flexible and I could be there at any point, stay overnight and visit as often as I wanted. It was hard for me at first, to have other people care for Paul, as I had looked after him up until that point but they were very sensitive.
“Paul was such a popular person and the Hospice didn’t seem to mind that so many people came to visit him. But there came a point when we realised he didn’t have much time left and we decided it was just to be close family.
“The staff are so upbeat and chipper, which Paul, who was always an optimistic person, really appreciated. There’s a really positive vibe there with lots of laughter, which seems strange to say but that was what Paul needed.
“They were up for anything and went along with some of Paul’s more outlandish ideas. For example, he wanted to hire a minibus and take the kids to the beach. It wasn’t possible, in the end, but they were prepared to say yes.
“It was all about what we wanted and what Paul would like to happen. He wanted to go to Starbeck Tandoori but he wasn’t well enough. So the Hospice, along with one of Paul’s good friends, facilitated a film and curry night for him, no matter how crazy it might have sounded. He couldn’t eat more than a few mouthfuls and was too poorly to watch the film, but it was important to him. Paul loved life – he always squeezed every possible drop of joy out of his days.”
The night after Paul died staff enabled Marianne to spend a last night with him. She said: “I just wanted to be with him, so the staff did everything they could to make that possible, even bringing me a glass of wine. I was next to him and watched the film we had planned to watch together. In the morning, they let everything happen at my pace. In that moment, I felt they were caring for me in the same special and thoughtful way they had cared for Paul.
“I was, and still am overwhelmed by the genuine concern and desire to help. The nurses went over and above what they had to do to get me emotionally through the most difficult time of my life. I will be forever grateful.
“Paul was a special person who touched many people’s lives. He was a lover of life and adventures abundantly optimistic, brave, fearless and determined to the end.
“His positivity was truly amazing; he would often call himself the luckiest man in the world, despite the cancer. He would tell people, I’ve got Maz and my kids and I’ve had a helluva lot of laughs.
“He would say to me on a daily basis, even throughout his illness, even on the darkest days: ‘Mazza, I am so lucky, we are so lucky.’
He remained happy and positive right to the end, which is incredible.”
"In that moment, I felt they were caring for me in the same special and thoughtful way they had cared for Paul. I was, and still am overwhelmed by the genuine concern and desire to help. The nurses went over and above what they had to do to get me emotionally through the most difficult time of my life. I will be forever grateful."