When Brian Nicholson’s wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2008, Risley-based charity Treetops Hospice offered her more than just end of life care.
After the charity opened a new £800,000 clinical support centre, Ilkeston resident Brian spoke out about the unthinkable strains of terminal disease and learning to cope with life after death.
Christine Nicholson suffered with lung cancer for two years before she ultimately passed away at the couple’s home in 2010.
Before the end, Christine was nursed by Treetops staff at their home in Amberley Close, Ilkeston.
Brian said: “You knew there was compassion and understanding from them. They kept her privacy and dignity and it was not intrusive at all.”
Brian told the Advertiser about the day his wife passed away.
“It was about 7am, the nurse told me not to go out anywhere as it might happen today,” the 70-year-old said.
“Christine died 45 minutes later. It’s very strange, but for 18 months I was used to carers coming in morning and evening, nurses at night, I had my wife, then when the final day comes everyone just disappears.
“You go into a total world of isolation — there’s no one there at all.”
Brian coped for a year before his doctor pointed him in the direction of the Treetops bereavement centre in Sandiacre for counselling.
“A lot of things finish when your partner dies,” he said.
“But I felt I could sit down with the counsellor and talk because she knew nothing about me and was not there to judge me.
“She really helped me to put things into perspective — she showed me what my wife would’ve wanted me to do and what her legacy had left me.”
After six months, Brian began to feel he’d got the grounding to carry on with life on his own.
He says: “They reassured me that I could come back five, ten or 15 years down the line and the door would always be open.”
Brian hasn’t needed to return since and continues to live in Ilkeston but has been constantly reminded of his struggle.
He recalls the day police came to his door to tell him that his neighbour had taken his own life after his wife had died in a similar way to Brian’s.
He had only spoken to his neighbour a few days prior to his death.
“I wondered whether I could’ve done more,” he says.
“Could another ten minutes of conversation have made a difference?”
Brian reflected on his appreciation for Treetops Hospice.
“It was the same for my neighbour as it was for me, everything in his life had disappeared — the only difference was that I had Treetops to help me cope,” Brian said.
“I was so lucky that these people were there for me at that moment in time.”
Treetops cut the ribbon to mark the opening of its new £800,000 centre earlier this year. It will provide further end-of-life care and bereavement support.
“It’s one of the most worthwhile charities there is,” said Brian, who was a guest at the opening.
“My wife died four years ago this year but these people are still here for me. They always remember.”
To enquire about end-of-life care or bereavement counselling, or to donate to the charity, visit www.treetopshospice.org.uk.