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Wife of cancer patient praises “phenomenal” nursing team

The wife of a cancer patient has expressed her appreciation for UHNM’s “phenomenal” clinical nurse specialists. Jay and Jo Goodwin received support from the team when Jay was diagnosed with gastroesophageal cancer. Sadly, Jay passed away in 2019 but Jo was so moved by the compassion of the nurse specialists that she has since retrained to become a bereavement counsellor and also now plans to help other people who find themselves caring for someone with cancer. 

Jo, 44, of Stafford, said: “I met Jay in April 2007. For our first date we brought ice cream and went for a walk by the canal in Stone. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance; from day one we just knew we were right for each other. A week after we met, he told me he loved me and we got engaged in October 2007 and married in December 2008. He was the most wonderful man. 

“I already had two boys and Jay took us all on, he knew we came as a package! He was a wonderful step-dad to them. We went on amazing holidays and we had a very happy life together. 

“Jay became ill in 2018, with stage four gastroesophageal cancer. He was having difficulty swallowing, eating and he was losing weight. Doctors told us that it wasn’t necessarily terminal at first but was serious. 

“Jay’s consultant came up with a plan for chemotherapy and surgery. They said they couldn’t make us any promises but they wanted to try. 

“That’s when the support from the clinical nurse specialists started. They sat with us through each consultation, they were amazing. Taking in information when you’re in that sort of state is very hard, but from day one we had the support of the nurses, it was phenomenal. 

“Jay used to say he always felt like he was their only patient. That’s how they made him feel, like there was no one else. It was the same for me as well. I would ring to ask them what was happening as sometimes it was hard to take in all the information, but they would always take the time to stop and explain. If they couldn’t do this straight away, they would always call me back. I was never in any doubt that the support was there. When you are going through something like this you have so many questions but no immediate answers, but the clinical nurse specialists played a pivotal role in giving us support. 

“At one point in Jay’s journey we were told that the cancer had gone. We were all crying, including the nurses. That’s how invested they were emotionally – it was the most brilliant day. After that although Jay wasn’t on active treatment for a while, they would still ring to check on us and make sure we were ok.” 

Sadly, Jay’s health declined rapidly during the months that followed and he was given a terminal diagnosis in July. 

Jo continued: “The cancer had spread within the abdominal cavity. We were beside ourselves, but the clinical nurse specialists were immediately there. I remember the moment they told us this in the family room. I said I needed to get some air, but the moment I left the room, I just collapsed. One of the nurses was there waiting for me, she picked me up and gave me the strength to stand and to be there for Jay. This has always stuck in my mind. I don’t think they will ever appreciate how much they helped on that day, what they did was really quite simple but it enabled me to carry on and be strong for Jay and myself.  

“16 days after the terminal diagnosis Jay sadly died at home. I was by his side. The nurses were again brilliant. They even came to a charity football match held in Jay’s name, in their own time. Clinical nurse specialists are there for the people who get through the cancer and for those who don’t. They celebrate with you and they cry with you. Even six months after Jay had died, I still had questions and the nurses made the time for me in their busy clinic and sat down with me to talk. I thought this was amazing.” 

Jo is now part of a hospital steering group for the hospital’s gastrointestinal team, where she provides insight into what the cancer journey is like from a carer’s point of view. She also went back to university to train as bereavement counsellor and has written a book ‘Caring for Cancer: The real journey’, due to be published next month. 

Jo said: “As part of the steering group I share with people how I felt, what my experience was. I’m absolutely passionate about being able to help people like myself and those going through other life-changing situations. I can relate, I can assure them that it can be very confusing at times and that it’s ok to have questions and to be scared. 

“I’m really excited about my book. I can’t wait for people to read it and to know they are not alone. A lot of people don’t ask for help, they think they are going crazy. But it’s so important to ask and the more I wrote, the more I realised that these things needed to be said out loud. I hope it will help people just like me but that it will also be a valuable insight for nurses, doctors and community teams.” 

Jo lives in Stafford with her new fiancé Gareth and her two sons. 

Jo said: “When Jay was dying he gave me a set of 11 promises and told me that I had to fulfil every one. 

“One of those promises was that I would meet someone else and be happy and that they must love me for who I am and no other reason. I met Gareth and we hit it off straight away. I told him all about Jay, he knows everything and is really supportive. 

“Last October Gareth proposed to me and we are getting married in May. He is amazing and truly lovely, but he understands that I have a scar on my heart. He accepts my past but he has given me a future. 

“Jay was the love of my life, my soul mate. But the fact that I’m getting married again means there can be a happy ending. I’ll never get over what happened, but I know that life can be good again.” 

Tuesday 15 March 2022 is the inaugural National Cancer CNS Day, which aims to raise awareness of the incredible work of clinical nurse specialists around the country. 

The awareness day was started by Greater Manchester Cancer and is now being supported by Health Education England, Macmillan Cancer Support, Royal College of Nursing and UKONS (Oncology Nursing Society) as well as having commitment from all 21 cancer alliances across the country. 

Scott Malton, Deputy Chief Nurse at UHNM, said: “We want to celebrate the dedication and hard work of our clinical nurse specialists and that’s why National Cancer CNS Day is so important. 

“Clinical nurse specialists provide a vital source of support to patients. They are a lifeline during one of the most distressing times that a person and their family can go through and patient feedback indicates just how much people value this vital support role.” 

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