My mum, Kate Loy, was diagnosed with secondary liver cancer in the spring of 2016 at the age of 69. She was a carrier of the hereditary Lynch Syndrome but she had been cancer-free for nearly 13 years.

Kate was diagnosed during a routine annual check-up and the agreed plan was for her to be discharged to palliative care. She had only just been referred when I found her collapsed at home. She was admitted to hospital and given only days to live.

We hadn’t really discussed her wishes for her final weeks as her decline was so rapid. In hospital, her pain and other symptoms were poorly managed, and her cancer had also spread to her brain, so it was difficult for her to communicate.

What I wanted for her was a peaceful and calm place where she would receive the very best care and pain management, and somewhere where her granddaughters, and other friends and family, could say their goodbyes. I already knew of St Raphael’s Hospice through friends and I felt very strongly that getting her admitted as an inpatient was the best possible way forward. We were so fortunate finally to get a referral in July 2016.

From the moment we arrived in the ambulance at the Hospice, I felt the weight lift off my shoulders. The kindness and compassion that she and I received were unforgettable. Her pain and other symptoms were immediately brought under control and her last few weeks were comfortable and peaceful. She also outlived her initial prognosis of days, giving us more precious time, until she passed away on 4th September 2016.

Kate liked to look nice and it was wonderful when a volunteer hairdresser was able to wash and cut her hair for her. We also made sure that her nails were always manicured and polished, and that her nighties were always glamorous.

She would wake up and smile to see me; look out of the door at the beautiful gardens and sigh with peace. The thing I remember her saying most was how wonderful she thought the Hospice was, how she had no idea that it existed, and how grateful she was to be there. It was so important to me to know that, with the help of St Raphael’s, I was able to give my mum a good death.

I will always remember that summer of being with her day and night. I slept in her room and worked with my laptop in the Orangery Café. She was able to receive many visitors and she enjoyed the food enormously, having had a terrible appetite and problems with nausea before her admission. There were distressing times and times when it all felt too much but there was always a member of staff with the time to listen to us and talk to. I was also very grateful to receive bereavement counselling two years later, provided free by the Hospice.

What I didn’t realise is that St Raphael’s relies heavily on donations and only receives 25% of its funding from the NHS. I had assumed, like most people, that hospice care is provided by the NHS. To support its fundraising, after my mum’s death I set up a Justgiving page in her memory with donations to the Hospice. At her wake, we also offered to her friends, in return for a donation to St Raphael’s, printed photos and scarfs from her huge collection. I always make sure my charity donations are donated to its shops (as were most of her belongings), and we try to attend many of the events in support of St Raphael's, our local hospice, including the Light up a Life service and the Lavender Memories Walk.

To face life-limiting illness without the possibility of hospice care is a frightening thought. It gives me peace of mind to know that, as a Lynch Syndrome carrier myself, if it came to it, St Raphael’s is somewhere that I could be.

Kate's loving daughter, Jo