Mark and Lee's story - Isabel Hospice

Mark and Lee’s story

Lee’s husband, Mark, spent eight days in Isabel’s In-Patient Unit in June 2021.

Lee’s husband, Mark, spent eight days in Isabel’s In-Patient Unit in June 2021.

“Mark loved to entertain people and was always looking to raise a smile or a laugh from whoever was around, including the staff at the Hospice. He was my best friend and we had 19 amazing years together.”

Mark was from Stoke-on-Trent and grew up in Harrogate. At the age of 43, Mark was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

“We didn’t know until it was too late. He was fine until the middle of April, and he died in June. I took him to A&E one night after speaking to 111. He was there for about three days before they diagnosed stomach cancer.”

Mark and Lee met at work in Leeds, becoming a couple in 2002, and had their Civil Partnership ceremony eight years later.

“We got married at The Mansion at Roundhay Park in Leeds, which was only a short walk from where we lived. It was a very short ceremony that went straight into food, drinks and, of course, a disco. We chose all the music and Mark even got the DJ to play ‘It’s Raining Men’, at just about half past ten.”

Mark was an actuary and taught the specialist maths behind the industry. Actuaries are problem solvers and strategic thinkers. They use their maths skills to help measure the probability and risk of future events and predict the financial impact of these events on a business and its clients. He was a big fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, and he loved travelling the world, crossword puzzles, watching tennis and drinking gin and tonic.

“I think the hardest news was the initial diagnosis, when they tell you it’s cancer. Once we knew it was cancer, the other developments didn’t really take us by surprise – we could tell things weren’t going well.

“Covid meant that he wasn’t allowed hospital visitors other than me, but in truth, it was quite nice having him all to myself for a little while. We spent time talking and looking through some old holiday photos and journals. We talked about the future – my future. Mark was keen that I lived a life – ‘Life 2’ he called it – and it was really valuable to me to have had his insight.”

After a second stay in hospital, Lee cared for Mark at home, until Mark was too ill and his symptoms became too difficult to manage.

“It was while we were in hospital we started talking about a hospice. We were both very clear that we didn’t want Mark to die at home. He came home for about a week and that week strengthened our desire to get him into a hospice. It was utterly exhausting; it was 24-hour care. We were stressed as his symptoms got worse day by day. But he got to see friends and family, which was lovely as this hadn’t been possible in the hospital.

“When the call from the Hospice came, we didn’t hesitate – we grabbed it with both hands.

“Things changed massively when we went into the Hospice as all that stress went away. Suddenly, there was a massive step up in the level of care. There was also the element of relaxedness to it. It allowed me to stop being a carer so I could be a husband again.

“We went in on the Friday and he died on the Saturday, just eight days later.

“I remember the tremendous care of the staff. On day one, there was an air mattress on the bed that Mark had not had before. He said early on that it felt weird and he wouldn’t be able to sleep on it. We mentioned it to one of the healthcare assistants, Jenny, and she asked what he had before. I said as I was leaving that the mattresses in hospital and on the bed we’d had installed at home had just been foam. By the time I’d driven home, she’d swapped it. It was fixed so quickly. We didn’t have to worry about it any more. There was a great bond between Mark and Jenny, partly due to a shared love of R. White’s Lemonade ice lollies, which was all Mark wanted to eat at the end.

“Every day, we had someone different to visit. The Hospice allowed two visitors per day, so we carried on seeing friends and family, which was exactly what Mark wanted.

“It was the little things the staff did that were huge at the time, and they also looked after me. They certainly fed me very well!

“When I stayed overnight, they worked out the best way to push the beds together. Mark couldn’t lie flat, so if they put me next to him as if it was a double bed, he wouldn’t have been able to see me, so we went top to tail.

“Mark was laughing and smiling to the end. He gave me strict instructions for his funeral: ‘No sad music!’ He wanted the music we had grown up to – S Club 7 and the Spice Girls. He even wanted to be cremated wearing his Spice Girls T-shirt.”

Mark was very keen to give back to the Hospice, and more than £20,000 has been donated or raised by his family, friends, colleagues and students.

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