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Words from Dawn's family...

At 43 years old, Dawn was living her best life. She had moved into a new home with
her fiancé David and daughter Ruby in September 2021, their first home together.
She announced her engagement to David in November 2021. The future looked
bright. Dawn told us that she and David wouldn’t be getting married for some years
yet, they were not going to rush things.

Life hadn’t been easy for Dawn over recent years. In 2010, during her pregnancy
with Ruby, which should have been one of the happiest times of her life, she was
diagnosed with a brain tumour. Medical staff were optimistic and told her that, if she
had to have a brain tumour, she had the best type, as it responded well to treatment.
The following year, 2011, Dawn underwent surgery which successfully removed most
of the tumour. She was later warned that, from time to time, she would need more
treatment as the remaining part of the tumour would start to grow. She was assured
that she would be closely monitored for the rest of her life, with regular scans and
checkups. Despite all of this trauma, Dawn was determined to be the best mam she
could possibly be for daughter Ruby. She always put Ruby first and tried to make
sure that she had a happy childhood.

In 2017 Dawn was told that more treatment was now needed. This time she opted
for a course of radiotherapy followed by chemotherapy, rather than undergo more
surgery. Sadly the treatment was not straightforward and Dawn became quite ill for a
time. By now she had moved back home, with Ruby, to be closer to family members.
Dawn eventually made a good recovery and began to live life to the full once again.
It was at this point that Dawn adopted the mantra ‘choose happy’. She embraced life
and reconnected with many of her old school friends and loved being closer to family
once more.

In 2018 Dawn found her dream job: working as an on-line trainer for the NHS
Recovery College. She was able to apply her lived experience to help others,
something she really enjoyed. She was also able to share her love of singing by
forming a singing group for students of the college. In the summer of 2018 Dawn met
her soulmate, David. Together with Ruby, they made a perfect little family. Dawn had
never been so happy.

Towards the end of 2021 Dawn was once again told that more treatment was
needed. She soon started chemotherapy. An early scan appeared to suggest that
the chemo was working well and that the tumour was starting to reduce in size.
Everyone was delighted for her. Sadly, Dawn’s mobility began to become affected
and, as the situation worsened, she was admitted to hospital. It was during her
hospital stay, after more scans, that it became clear, for some unknown reason, the
chemo had suddenly stopped working and the tumour was growing rapidly. My
husband, Ray and I were called to the hospital, with David, for a meeting with Dawn’s medical team. Unbelievably we were told that there was nothing more that
could be done for Dawn. It was suggested that Dawn be moved to a hospice. Our
bubbly, funny, loving, colourful daughter was coming to the end of her life and there
was nothing anyone could do to prevent it.

Dawn was moved to St Cuthbert’s Hospice on Monday 21st February. This was new
territory for all of the family and we were all unsure what to expect. Even though we
were facing the worst possible outcome of our lives, we were warmly welcomed to
the Hospice and felt as though the staff were wrapping their arms around all of us.

At the time Covid restrictions were still in place, with only four named visitors allowed
to visit in any one day, so the family drew up a rota and ensured that at least one of
us was with Dawn every hour of the day. She was never alone. During her final days,
we all had our own way of spending time with her. Dawn’s younger sister, Laura
would read out voice notes and play messages to Dawn, play music and chat to her.
David would update her on home life, relay messages and remind her how much he
loved her. I would talk to her, reassuring her and making promises that everything
would be alright. Sometimes it was enough just to be there, sitting next to her,
stroking her hand or her face. Ray was content to sit in the room close to her. We all
did what we felt was right for us.

Dawn passed away peacefully, in the early hours of Monday 28th February. I was
with her and for that I will always be grateful.

Even though Dawn only spent one week at St Cuthbert’s, the family will never forget
the care and compassion shown to her, and all of the family. We all talked to Andrea,
the counsellor, which was really useful. The doctors were very open with us and
answered questions and updated us regularly. The nursing staff were unbelievably
kind and compassionate and cared for each and every one of us, as well as Dawn.
St Cuthbert’s is a very special place and, sadly, needed by far too many people, of
all ages. As a family, we will continue to support the Hospice. It will always hold a
special place in our hearts. It was there for us at our greatest time of need, and we
will forever be grateful for that. We are also adopting the mantra #ChooseHappy and
have created a new one #BeMoreDawn.

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