Becci Stone joined the Hospiscare family as Volunteering Administrator in May 2021 but this wasn’t her first contact with our charity.
In 2009, Becci had just moved back to Devon from London, where she had joined a theatre company to meet people. Becci explains, “When I moved back to Devon, I started working at a doctor’s surgery with a lady who was really into theatre and her family had been involved with Hospiscare.
“I decided to set up Challenge Theatre to produce fun theatre to raise money for charity. Hospiscare had such a high profile in the local community and it was a charity we felt we could help.
“At Challenge Theatre, we ran fundraising events throughout the year, from more conventional activities such as sports days and pub quizzes to slightly more unusual events, like a four hour aerobathon, a murder mystery night at Poltimore House and a flash mob to Michael Jackson’s Thriller in Princesshay! Everyone believed in the charity, so it wasn’t hard to convince them to do all of these different fundraising things!
“As well as the smaller fundraising events, we would produce an end of year show to raise as much money as possible for Hospiscare. Through all of this fundraising, I built up a really good relationship with Hospiscare’s fundraising team. Every time I came into the hospice, I felt really welcome and at home.
“After about three years, Challenge Theatre came to a natural end. It was a lovely experience and we ended on such a high.”
Following this, Becci started a family and it wasn’t until 2018 that she came into contact with Hospiscare again. Becci explains, “My stepfather, Malcolm, was diagnosed with bowel cancer that had spread to his liver. I was with him on the day he received the diagnosis. It’s one of those things I’ll never forget.
“Malcolm had a history of coeliac disease so when he became poorly, we all thought it was this. It made the diagnosis so much more shocking. Malcolm had six courses of chemotherapy which seemed to be working. While he was receiving treatment, we were allocated a cancer nurse at the hospital and given the details of Hospiscare and Force.
“After a further six treatments, his scans showed that the cancer was still active. Malcolm chose not to continue with the chemo as it made him so poorly. He was a very active man and he didn’t like being confined in that way.
“Malcolm’s health started to go downhill rapidly and he started refusing food and water so he was admitted to Hospiscare’s specialist ward. He wasn’t always a good patient when my mum was looking after him but he was perfect for the nurses on the ward – on his best behaviour! I think it was due to the excellent care and treatment that he received and he improved not only by gaining weight, but in spirit as well. As a family, we were able to visit him in the hospice and we were always welcomed so warmly and kindly. Nothing was too much trouble.
“People sometimes think hospices are sad or stressful places, but we always had happy memories of our visits. We were able to bring Malcolm’s grandchildren to visit, who were aged eight months and three years at the time. We spent time together in one of the family rooms and we were able to sit in the garden. We even brought our family dog, Bonnie, along which was such a heart-warming moment.
“After his respite time on the ward, Malcolm returned home. Mum found it increasingly hard to provide the level of care he needed whilst also working full time so Hospiscare’s community nursing team were brought in.
“It was just Mum and Malcolm at home as my sister and I had our own families. Hospiscare came from all angles and helped my mum through that tough time.
“Mum stopped working to be there for Malcolm and Hospiscare’s community nurses were always there at the end of the phone and helped Mum and Malcolm through each day. They made Malcolm’s last days as comfortable as possible and organised aides at home, such as a reclining chair, a special bed and toilet seat.
“It was like being wrapped up in a hug when the nursing team were with Malcolm, both for him and for us as a family.
“Hospiscare’s support and expertise helped us to remain strong for him and keep him as comfortable as possible and fulfil his wish of wanting to be at home when the time came. Malcolm died on 18 July 2019, 11 months after his diagnosis.
“Malcolm was a very proud man and it was extremely hard for him to accept his diagnosis. Hospiscare helped him to come to terms with things and made him feel looked after. Hospiscare looked after us all and helped Malcolm live his final months with dignity.”
After Malcolm’s death, Becci continued to raise her young family. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Becci was made redundant and had taken a teaching assistant job when the position at Hospiscare opened up. Becci says, “I knew it was the one. I had all of this history with Hospiscare and I knew Searle House. It was one of the best interviews I’ve ever had.
“There are two of us on the volunteering team and together we support our amazing team of volunteers. I am the person at the end of the phone and my job, primarily, is to provide support for volunteer management. This might include recruitment, supporting training, maintaining records or arranging DBS disclosures. I act as the first point of contact for the team, supporting our volunteers and their managers on a daily basis.
“I get to meet so many wonderful people in my role. They are all so skilled and talented in so many different ways. Working at Hospiscare, everyone I speak to has a story and a link with Hospiscare. It’s really quite wonderful – you know everyone is here because they genuinely want to be.
“I’ve never worked anywhere like Hospiscare before. It truly is a special place. I speak to our volunteers every day and they say exactly the same thing. They are so invested and so passionate because they have a story as well.
“I am so honoured that our volunteers are giving their time to a cause so close to their hearts. I think it’s wonderful what they do.
“It’s like a big family working here; even though what joins us is a sad thing, together, we make it positive.”