Hope Valley man shares importance of planning for death after losing wife to cancer

In honour of national Dying Matters Week, a Derbyshire man has opened up about the importance of planning for death after he lost his beloved wife to cancer.

By Lizzie Day
Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 10:20 am

Keith and Kate Brown from Hope were never afraid to discuss death what ‘dying well’ would look like, following Kate’s terminal cancer diagnosis in 2016.

The pair who were open and honest about the heart-breaking situation their family found themselves in, felt opening up about the realities of death meant Kate was able to live her last years ‘to the full’ while dying in peace and comfort at home with the help of Ashgate Hospicecare.

She received ‘warm and compassionate’ care at the charity, from her first visits to the day hospice until her death on November, 27 last year.

Keith and Kate by Derwent Dam in 2018.

As part of the annual Dying Matters Awareness Week, Keith has spoken of what Kate’s end-of-life journey was like and the importance of not shying away from talking about death.

The 72-year-old said: “Kate was so strong; she was a tremendous person.

"Her spirit, faith, determination and her happiness despite having a terminal prognosis spilled over to us and talking about the situation meant it was easier for us to deal with.

“We started talking very openly about the end of her life as soon as she was given a terminal diagnosis.

The last photo taken of Kate and Keith on the evening of Sparkle Night Walk for Ashgate Hospicecare in September 2020.

"We spoke about it together and with our boys Alex and Sam; we were all dealing with it differently, but it made everything much easier for us all.

“Kate had such an uplifting spirit, she would always say ‘I’m not dead yet, so we’ve got lots of living to do!’

“We decided to live our lives to the full which meant we were able to make special memories together through our shared loved of photography and on unforgettable trips to Switzerland.”

Kate with Keith and her sons Sam and Alex the day before starting treatment in 2016.

Kate worked as an accounts assistant but was initially anxious about accessing Ashgate’s services because she thought hospices were places of ‘doom and gloom’.

But Keith insists they both found the organisation to have a ‘beautifully calming and happy’ environment, which now holds a treasured place in their family’s hearts.

He added: “We discussed it beforehand, and it was her wish to die at home.

"As she got progressively more poorly, it turned out to be the best decision for us all, as she was so comfortable with the support of Ashgate by our side.

Kate with Lesley Johnson of Ashgate Hospicecare.

“It was difficult because of the lockdown but Ashgate made sure there was someone there in the weeks leading up to Kate’s death and they were even there to support us on the day she passed.

“For us, receiving the support of the hospice felt as if a burden had been lifted.

"The people are so compassionate and are there to give you the support that you need.”

Ashgate Hospicecare joins thousands of organisations across the UK from May 10 to May 16 in opening up the conversation around death, dying and bereavement for Dying Matters Awareness Week.

This comes as statistics show nearly a quarter of UK adults are uncomfortable thinking about their own death and end-of-life issues.

To join in and show your support, follow Ashgate Hospice on social media at @ashgate_hospice or visit www.ashgatehospicecare.org.uk

The couple at Filey in 2019 for Kate's 59th birthday.