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Clare's Story

Clare, a busy retired head teacher, who has secondary breast cancer, tells how the Hospice has helped her to come to terms with her illness so she can continue to live life to the full.

“I live with my incredible partner Bob, I’ve two sons in their twenties and I’m a stepmother to two daughters and grandmother to their three children,” said Clare, from Southborough. “My parents are in their nineties, so I spend time helping them and have five siblings. All in all, I have a very busy family life!”

Watch Clare share her story

Clare, on her Allotment

Clare grew up wanting to live in Africa. After teaching in London, she applied to Voluntary Services Overseas and moved to Tanzania to teach. She loved living in Tanzania, meeting and marrying her former husband there and had two boys. She moved back after 11 years to further develop her career and to be with her wider family. Her siblings have children and Clare enjoys being involved with them too.

Following a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010, Clare underwent a number of surgeries. However, in 2015 she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer (which in this instance cannot be cured). This came as a dreadful surprise.

At the time, she threw herself back into teaching, joined a secondary breast cancer support group and got an allotment, which has become a real passion. Clare wants to live and eat as healthily as possible, so grows masses of seasonal vegetables.

Clare Picking Apples on her allotment

“I grow courgettes, onions, broad beans, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes in the summer and cabbages, Brussel sprouts and brassica in the winter. I love cooking vegetarian food and I often use the spices I learned to cook with while living in Tanzania. The vegetables I cook fresh from the garden taste better than anything I can buy in the shops.”

Clare decided to retire to take more time to work on her mental and her physical health. She said: “I had come to terms with my illness and was ready to contact the Hospice to discuss how they might help and support me through my illness. It was a big step for me to reach out to the Hospice.”

Hospice nurse Steph helped Clare navigate the resources available to her. Clare realised that the surgeries had left her with compromised use of her left arm and pain in her neck and shoulders. “Steph was able to help me get physiotherapy which let me do things at the allotment that I hadn’t been able to do for some time.”

Not only has Clare taken on a second allotment but is also now enjoying experimenting with a polytunnel. Clare wanted to look after her mental health too and the Hospice was able to offer support.

“I take part in activities through the Hospice’s Living Well programme and enjoy being with others who are also going through life changing illnesses. It’s not an issue when I’m with them because we are all in the same boat. Knowing that someone other than family or friends are there to keep an eye on me is very comforting. I don’t feel like I am burdening people close to me with what’s going on.”