22 June 2023
From acupuncture to benefits advice, dietetics to occupational therapy, retired probation officer, Shakun, is feeling the benefit of many of our services.
Fifty years after liaising with Dame Cicely Saunders to set up a supervised community service programme in the gardens at St Christopher’s, former probation officer Shakun Banfield is herself now benefiting from an array of the hospice’s services – many of which she had no idea it provided.
And it’s not just the breadth of care and support she’s received that has so impressed Shakun, 84. She says that every single one of the St Christopher’s employees she’s encountered has met the same high standards.
“What’s really struck me is that everyone is so consistently helpful and does what you require,” she adds. “That’s very unusual. It’s like they have all be chosen to give that extra something and if they say they are going to do something, they do it straightaway.”
Shakun had some previous experience of hospices, visiting her brother in one in north London 20 years ago. “That had a big impact on me, but I had no idea about the outreach or the huge range of things they can help with.”
It was a need for some emotional support that led Shakun to contact St Christopher’s in December 2022.
“I had a real sense of déjà vu walking into the hospice. I’d been there in 1974 when I placed offenders to work in the garden under supervision. Dame Cicely was very keen on the idea and for the hospice to be involved with this new type of court order.”
Shakun was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. A third recurrence of the disease in 2018, by which time tumours had moved to her lungs, was diagnosed as treatable but not curable. This has left her with a number of symptoms and side effects which different departments at St Christopher’s have been helping to address.
A community nurse visits Shakun at her home in Bromley, where the Occupational Therapist has also been and installed several aids in the bathroom.
After an initial assessment with the rehabilitation team, Shakun and her husband of 53 years, Tony, attended breathing classes. “That was my first real introduction to St Christopher’s, and it was so helpful and reassuring,” she adds.
The couple have also benefited from regular sessions with a social worker which, Shakun says, are not formal therapy, but are an opportunity to address important issues that otherwise can too easily be avoided.
“The social worker, Vincent, sees us together and we find we can talk about things with him that would be difficult to discuss if we were on our own. He just makes it feel ok to have those conversations. It’s not psychological intervention, just a helpful, steady support system.”
Keen to remain active and retain her strength, Shakun has also benefited from six sessions in the gym where she rides on the cycle machine, lifts dumb bells and jumps on the trampoline.
“I usually feel pretty awful in the morning, so this really livens me up and makes me feel energised and the staff are so supportive and enabling,” Shakun says.
Acupuncture is the latest therapy she’s trying, for nerve pain in her leg, a result of previous surgery. She’s looking forward to the second treatment in June to see if it’ll provide some relief.
Sometimes the services Shakun has accessed at St Christopher’s have served more to reinforce that she’s already doing the right thing rather than provide her with fresh support. “I’m always very careful with my diet but it was reassuring to see the dietician so they could tell me that there really wasn’t anything I could improve on.”
Shakun was most surprised by the support she received from the welfare team who filled in the forms and were successful in their application for attendance allowance, providing her with very welcome additional income.
“I’ll be 85 in August, and I think you have to keep going. I feel less anxious and calmer now I am getting comprehensive support at St Christopher’s. I’d like to thank all the staff and volunteers for providing this safe place,” she concludes.
If, like Shakun, you didn’t know about the full range of care and support St Christopher’s can provide, take a look here.
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Richard Carter is 52 and has lived in Orpington all his life. In 2016 he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and began coming to St Christopher’s in April 2017