Yesterday I met the most inspiring person I've spoken to, ever, (not a statement to be taken lightly when you bear in mind I once met Peter Andre!)
Her name is Abigail Randall, she's 27-years-old, and she has a brain tumour that is killing her.
I work for Rowcroft Hospice in South Devon and have recently been tasked with collecting a number of patient stories to bring the hospice's work to life through our social media channels, information leaflets and booklets, and to hopefully encourage more people to donate to our cause.
As a former journalist I've been trained in interviewing skills, am adept at shorthand (by adept I mean I can get to a scratchy 50wpm - on a good day) and have had to chat to some interesting characters in my time (did I mention I once met Peter Andre!?) but none of them compare to Abigail Randall.
"Oh I love the Willow Restaurant," she exclaimed when I told her I lived a few houses up the road from her in lovely Totnes, "I never knew veggies could taste so good!"
Abby was having chemotherapy for a brain tumour for six months until March this year, "it wasn't as successful as we had hoped," she explained to me matter-of-factly, "so I made a treatment choice while I was at Derriford Hospital and decided I wanted to enjoy my time."
She got in touch with Rowcroft Hospice, which provides support for adults living with life-limting illnesses across South Devon. "The bottom line is, this place is fantastic," she said to me unblinkingly, "it has been hugely restorative, and peaceful."
"Everybody just gets it," she added, "I haven't had to explain myself to anyone. They respect my wishes and talk to me about my medication so I can be in control of it."
Hospices are traditionally thought of as dark, depressing places. I know different because I work here; I hear the giggles and laughter, see the kind exchanges between nurses and patients and know what staff enable patients and families to achieve every day. But to hear that following her admission, Abby was able to attend the literary festival at Hay-on-Wye, visit family in Guildford, and get married to her now husband is testament to what truly incredible work happens here.
"Rowcroft has enabled me to work out my medication; the doctors get that it's a lifestyle choice for me and I don't want to be on really high levels of morphine. They've explained everything to me so clearly that when I was at Hay and needed to see a District Nurse I was able to tell staff at the Health Centre exactly what I needed.
"They've also been so good at getting hold of equipment for me quickly, and a Physiotherapist has been teaching me yoga moves in my front room to mitigate the side effects of the medication I'm on. They've also allowed my 16-week old puppy Finch to come into the hospice and up on to the bed - it's like home from home here; I feel safe, and secure."
She added: "Rowcroft has been integral to enabling me to enjoy life with my family and friends. That's the word, enabling."
650 words don't seem enough to tell such an incredible story, but if you take two things away from reading this, remember that hospices are just as Abby says, 'enabling', that they give people life and the best days they can possibly have surrounded by family, friends, and sometimes puppies! And remember that Abby, a 27-year-old English teacher who loves Aromatika's tea tree oil and bergamot face cream, walks in 'the beautiful countryside,' and being surrounded by family and friends, is currently in a hospice, with a brain tumour, and said to me when I popped in to see her this morning, 'ooh I wanted to ask you, where did you get that dress from yesterday?!"Suggest a correction