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Julie ' Interview 14

Age at interview: 58
Brief Outline: Julie's partner was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in 2007. Julie and her partner tried to carry on as normal for as long as possible, Julie cared for her partner in the last few months of his life when his health deteriorated rapidly.
Background: Julie is a part-time teacher. Ethnic background' Ashkenazi Jewish/ North West African.

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Julie’s partner was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma of the oesophagus in 2007 and he was told that his illness was terminal. Julie’s partner did not wish to discuss arrangements for his death with the palliative care nurse. Julie and her partner understood that for them the best way of coping with his illness was to focus on carrying on as normal for as long as possible. Julie’s partner had radiotherapy, however two years after his diagnosis his health began to decline rapidly. Julie cared for him during this period at home. As her partner became much weaker Julie and the palliative care team decided that her partner should go into a hospice. He died in the hospice a day later. Julie felt that if she had known that this would happen so soon, she would have kept her partner at home where he would have preferred to be.

Julie felt that the information she and her partner had from health professionals was straightforward and to the point. Julie valued the honesty of the clinicians.

Mutual friends have rallied round and been supportive since her partner’s death, which helped Julie to feel occupied at this time.
 

 

Julie's partner wanted to carry on as normal for as long as possible which Julie felt was a good...

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We didn’t talk about the fact that it was terminally ill. He came with a diagnosis from the hospital and said, “Here, read that.” And that was all we discussed. Then, because it just read, ‘palliative care’, a nurse came along to see him and I was sitting in on the conversations and at first said, “Get along.” Because the nurse wanted to talk about after life and things like that, which my partner wasn’t interested in. So they found a common ground whereby they could talk so they had, you know, the odd chat and the palliative nurse kept on insisting, you know, “You are terminal. You must write your will. You must do this. Where do you want to die? Do you want to die in the hospital? Do you want to die at home? Do you wish to go into a hospice?” And he would say, “I want none of that. Just let’s proceed as normal.” And that was how it went and then after two years, he’d had some radiotherapy and chemo, which didn’t work and after two years he began to get weaker and couldn’t go outside. So from there it was just a short period of going downhill for about maybe two and a half, three months.

Okay. You said that it wasn’t discussed, was it kind of a knowing between you or was it that you just didn’t accept that?

It was a knowing it was a knowing between us but also for him, “Well, I can, you know, walk across the road and get killed.”

So in many ways, I think that was a good attitude because he wasn’t mournful, you know, sort of saying, “Oh, I wish that I’d done this.” Or there was no sentiment about it. It was just, you know, it’s a fact of life. We’re going to have to get on with it and that’s it and it was something which was understood between, between the two of us.

And how was that for you?

I felt it, I thought it was quite good because I, I don’t think I could have coped with someone who was becoming very sentimental.
 

 

Julie's partner wanted his ashes to go into space, but at the moment she still has his ashes on...

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And did you talk about the funeral, how he wanted that? Did he have views?

Well, he’d always spoken about it even before he was ill he wanted to be cremated and he wanted his ashes to go into space.

Right.

They don’t take all of them, only small amounts, so I’ve still got the ashes.

But you have arranged for some to go into space.

Well, I haven’t done it yet but [laughs] I’ve still got them in their entirety on my dressing table [laughs].

How is that? Do you feel that that keeps him around you or it’s just how it is?

It’s just how it is. I mean, you know, I was talking another friend of ours and we have we had a mutual friend, who passed away, and he took care of this old man’s funeral etcetera and he took his ashes on holiday with his with the family [laughs].
 

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