A DEVOTED husband has had a tattoo of The Hospice of the Good Shepherd’s logo on his neck to raise awareness of the specialist care that he says saved his wife’s life.
Baxter McDowell, 52, says the exceptional bravery shown by his wife Phyllis since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 has been matched only by the dedication shown by staff at the Backford hospice.
“At one point she was carried into the hospice, stretchered in and we all thought ‘this is it’ – even the staff did.
“Thirteen days later she walked out of there. It was remarkable.
I know that was due to the care she received in the hospice, the doctors, the nurses and especially the physiotherapists.”
Father-of-two Baxter now fears others will be robbed of the specialist services offered at the 12-bed hospice unless more funding is secured.
The hospice costs more than £6,300 to run every day.
He said: “You wouldn’t believe the difference that the hospice makes to peoples’ lives.
“What people need to realise is that it’s not just a place to go and die, but they also teach people how to live with cancer.
“What that place does is hard to put into words and were it to disappear it would be a huge loss for everyone.
“It’s so important that we do all we can to safeguard it’s future.”
Ex- serviceman Baxter is planning a wing walk to raise awareness of the hospice’s work.
Fifty-two-year-old Phyllis’ ordeal began after discovering a lump in her breast in 2003.
“It was a huge shock but she began a course of treatment and went into remission and in October, 2008, she was given the five year ‘all clear’.
“We had a huge party, you can imagine how we felt.”
Rather than being allowed to enjoy life cancer-free, the couple and their two children were dealt a devastating blow two months later when her spine collapsed in bed.
Baxter, explained: “The cancer had eaten through her spine.
“The cancer had spread to her bones but we didn’t know at first that it was cancer.
“Initially they thought it might be a slipped disc but after several CT scans they discovered it was cancer.
“We were all devastated for her.”
Phyllis was immobile for nearly seven months and Baxter gave up work to become her full-time carer.
It was at this point that Phyllis was admitted to the hospice.
“As soon as I heard the word ‘hospice’ I and all the family feared the worst.
“The fact that she came out of there walking and is still here today is the perfect example of what the staff there do.
“Three-and-a-half years later the staff there still tell her she’s an inspiration. She’s amazing.”
Her condition is now classed as incurable, but not terminal and Baxter says that her quality of life is boosted by regular trips with The Wednesday Club – an outpatients group from the hospice that meets every week for trips out together.
“It makes a real difference to our lives, to so many peoples’ lives. It would be terrible if that were to disappear.”