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A day at the hospice is a good day, says patient Tom.

18:00 23 March 2014

Tom Eaton enjoying reflexology with complementary therapy volunteer Michele Roy.

Tom Eaton enjoying reflexology with complementary therapy volunteer Michele Roy.

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»Tom Eaton has mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer of the lungs.

Tom Eaton with health care assistant Aimee Mabbort in the inpatient unit (IPU)Tom Eaton with health care assistant Aimee Mabbort in the inpatient unit (IPU)

His illness is lonely at times, he says, but regular visits to Saint Francis Hospice’s day therapy unit, has given the 84-year-old many reasons to be cheerful.

“When I first attended day therapy I was feeling very down,” Tom said. “I had lost my appetite, but I can honestly say that first day in day therapy was one of the loveliest days I’d had for months.”

Tom led a healthy and active life before the diagnosis in the summer, regularly playing golf and walking his dog.

It was on one of these walks that a woman expressed concern about his health: he had had a dry cough for several months.

Devastatingly, a scan revealed a dark patch at the bottom of his right lung and Tom was sent to St Bartholomew’s Hospital where he was told he had mesothelioma.

Reluctant

Tom was later visited at his Barkingside home by a Macmillan nurse, who asked him if he would be interested in going to Saint Francis Hospice for therapy.

Despite his initial reluctance, Tom attended therapy for the first time in August.

“I knew of the hospice as my wife Alice was a fundraiser for them,” said Tom.

“But I was bit reluctant to go because I thought the therapy would just be a talking shop with tea and biscuits.

“Having a life-limiting illness can be a very lonely thing but it has been so good to meet other patients with different illnesses and talk through our experiences.

“All the staff are lovely and smiling.

“I’ve also enjoyed reflexology and the whole way you are treated just makes you feel happier.”

Tom also attended the in-patient unit (IPU) earlier in the year to be monitored and have his medication reassessed after he stopped eating well and his energy levels dropped.

After his condition improved he was discharged and resumed his course of day therapy treatment seven days later.

Tom has never smoked but it is believed he contracted the disease when living near the Cape Asbestos factory in Victoria Road, Barking, as a schoolboy.

He has since been successful in claiming compensation despite the fact the factory has never accepted liability.

“In many ways I’m fortunate,” said Tom. “I can still shop, wash and even iron, but these days I suffer from increasing bouts of breathlessness.”

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