Alice contacted The Harbour in 2009, when a serious bout of cancer that had struck her husband some years before, returned. Rob, her beloved husband of just one year, was going through escalating, invasive therapies in order to try and slow or halt the cancer’s progress. “There was a shadow over us – cancer again”, says Alice.
In the midst of this, Alice’s life “was coming unpeeled”. She wasn’t sleeping, was keeping working while accompanying her husband to all of his appointments, and visiting him daily during his frequent hospital visits. She developed painful physical symptoms of her own. “There was just so much going on”, she says. “It was too much”.
Rob’s illness was not just affecting Alice, but her daughter as well, who started to develop strange symptoms that the doctors could not understand. She was at a critical point in her schooling, and was suffering from panic attacks. Alice recognised that she not only needed to support herself, but she needed to be able to provide support for her daughter as she navigated Rob’s illness.
Alice heard about The Harbour from a friend who had used our service. “I just needed someone to share the horror”, she says. The therapist provided a space where she could talk through even the most difficult of things, things that could not easily be shared with friends or with family.
“It was a way of being grounded when everything was up in the air”, says Alice, and a way to reconcile the tension between what sometimes seemed like a ‘normal life’ on the surface with a horrific reality underneath.
The therapist’s depth of experience with cases like Alice’s was also really important. “I felt she really understood what I was going through, and I still think of some of the things she said to me”, Alice reflects.
“I knew I was going to lose him”, says Alice of Rob. But the work with The Harbour gave her the stability to cope through that difficult time, and maybe even helped to prepare for the ending. “I did a lot of grieving before he died”, she says now, and that might have helped her to move on with her life more easily. “There is still grief, but it is a sadness that he is not here any more”. And Alice’s daughter has recovered well. She didn’t benefit directly from therapy at The Harbour, but Alice feels she was able to be stable and thoughtful for her daughter because of her own therapy.
The Harbour is the only service in Bristol that supports people affected by terminal illness – whether ill themselves, caring for someone, or recently bereaved. “It’s a unique service, and was so helpful for me”, says Alice. “I’ve recommended it to quite a few people”.
Have you received help from The Harbour in the past? Would you be willing to support our work by sharing your story? Please contact Colin on 0117 925 9348 to discuss, in confidence, how we can help you to share your experience.