Saint Francis Hospice: Volunteering lifted me out of a dark place

Abigail Feeley gives up her Friday nights to volunteer at Saint Francis Hospice, Havering-atte-Bower

Abigail Feeley gives up her Friday nights to volunteer at Saint Francis Hospice, Havering-atte-Bower. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

Reception volunteer Abigail Feeley explains why she gives up her spare time to work at Saint Francis Hospice, which cares for people from Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham

I work five days a week in London, but every Friday night, I make my way to Saint Francis Hospice to volunteer.

I’d like to think that I do more than helping out on reception. I’m someone who patients’ loved ones can relate and talk to, having been in their position before.

They often open up to me after they’ve learnt that I’ve gone through the same situation with my mum, Jackie.

Mum and I used to do so much together. I suddenly had all this spare time, and I knew I had to repay the hospice for how they looked after her.

My mum was a nurse for many years. The tumour in her bowel was so small that it lay undetected for years — despite several scans to try and identify the cause of a pain in her side. Doctors put her discomfort down to a pulled muscle.

Two years later, the pain persisted. Another scan revealed that the tumour had grown.

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Bowel cancer had spread to my mum’s liver. She was a real fighter, and her attitude was incredible while going through chemotherapy.

At just 56 years old, Mum was given six months to live.

We were preparing for one last Christmas together. Only five days later, her health deteriorated. We agreed that my family could no longer keep her at home and that the best place for her would be the hospice.

Mum always looked so flawless. The day she was due to go to the hospice, she styled her pixie cut, picked a blazer, and put on a nice pair of jeans and boots.

Mum looked so glamorous — even though she knew why she was going into the hospice.

Sadly, she never made those six months and passed away peacefully seven days after that prognosis. She was 58.

I had a misconception that the hospice would be a miserable place, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we arrived. Mum had a private room with doors opening to the beautiful gardens.

I really love being at the hospice. Volunteering has lifted me out of a very dark place.

Find out more about how you can help people just like my mum by visiting

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