When I first visited the Hospice of the Good Shepherd in Backford, a couple of years ago, I confess to feeling a bit of trepidation.
I expected somewhere a bit grim, a place where people with terminal cancer went to spend their final days.
In fact, I could not have been more wrong. And visiting the hospice again recently to see its new extension, it is clear how much its staff do to support the whole community across West Cheshire and North Wales.
First of all, the hospice doesn’t just care for patients with cancer but with other conditions such as degenerative illnesses like motor neurone disease.
And it doesn’t just care for the patients either: I was impressed at the support that is available to family members and carers, from counselling to aromatherapy sessions to help you relax. We often forget about the carers but that can be a tough and sometimes lonely life too.
The hospice also runs the local bereavement support service on behalf of the NHS, helping people to come to cope with the loss of a loved one.
In addition to a full staff of highly qualified medical professionals, over 300 volunteers support the work of the hospice, but it also relies on the support of members of the public – it needs to raise £11000 every week just to keep going. But that is why our contributions are so important to providing a service that many people are unaware of until they need it.
At the Cathedral I also attended the annual Pause for Hope Service, which remembers those people suffering from cancer, those who have died from it, and those who are working to find a cure.
Of course, cancer is not one disease but a family of many, and each requires a different approach. We will also know someone who has suffered from cancer and probably we will know someone who has died from the disease.
Some forms of cancer are now much more treatable while others remain stubbornly difficult to shift survival rates. I was visited in Westminster by Chinwe Enyinna who is studying public health at Chester University and is an ambassador for Cancer Research UK. Their figures tell us that in West Cheshire there are around 1500 new cases of cancer diagnosed every year.
One day I hope we will find a way to cure or manage cancer and that day can’t come soon enough. Until then we must support the medical research and support the Hospice that does such amazing but often unseen work.