Caring for Andy

Caring for Andy

Jen’s brother Andy was cared for on our inpatient unit in 2021. He died from cancer at the age of 45 and left behind his wife Sally and two young daughters. Here, Jen tells us about the care Andy received from Martlets and the difference it made to their family.

“My brother Andy was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2019. He’d had a bad cough and the next thing we knew, he was diagnosed with stage four cancer. It was such a shock. The cancer had spread from his lungs to his leg, prostate, and lymph nodes, so that meant the prognosis had suddenly gone from slightly hopeful to devastating. Andy was supposed to be watching his girls grow up, but instead he died at just 45. It was such a shock when he was diagnosed, and I just want to encourage people to go and get checked out at the doctor’s if they have a new symptom.

Andy walking in the woods with his family

It’s only now, three years later, that I feel able to talk about it all. I wanted to share our family’s experience of Martlets in the hope it will inspire people to fundraise for the Hospice so they can help other families like ours. Recently I ran the Brighton Half Marathon in Andy’s memory to fundraise for Martlets, and you can still support me via my JustGiving page.

I remember Andy sent me a photo from his Hospice room of six little packets of custard creams that a lovely nurse had gone and found for him. Custard creams were his favourites. It was the little things like that that made him happy in his last days and weeks.

Andy was admitted to Martlets’ inpatient ward in September 2021 for respite care, so the team could sort out his pain medication. He’d had several bad falls at home because of his pain and limited mobility, so his wife Sally contacted Martlets to ask if they could help. She was looking after him and their two little girls, who are eight and six now.

Two wonderful Martlets nurses visited Andy at home and explained how an inpatient stay could help the team manage his pain medications better. I remember he was admitted to Martlets on his daughter’s birthday. Even though his stay was during COVID restrictions, Martlets made sure his family could visit as much as possible, whilst keeping the hospice safe and COVID-free for the other residents and staff.

When I went in to visit him, it was the first time we had seen him comfortable in a long time. The doctors were just brilliant with his pain medications, constantly trying new combinations and different approaches to make sure his pain was manageable. That was such a relief to us as a family.

Nothing was too much effort for the nursing staff, even the small things like knowing how he took his coffee and what his favourite biscuit was, were taken care of.  The nurses knew he loved a full English breakfast, so they made sure he got that every day, and his favourite biscuits. Our dad also died of cancer, and both Dad and Andy loved custard creams.

We would take Andy out in his wheelchair into the Martlets gardens for fresh air and sunshine. The staff always kept the bird feeders topped up outside Andy’s room. That sounds like a little thing, but his girls really enjoyed watching the birds when they visited.

His girls used to say that they wanted to ‘watch the birds at the feeders outside Daddy’s room’. They loved doing that. Even when Andy was low, it was a happy part of their visit. When he was asleep in his bed, and I was sitting with him, I would watch the birds and it was very calming. Small things like that just made everything feel so much more peaceful. Me, my son Tommy, and Andy’s girls also painted pebbles and put them outside his room. We used to go out into the Martlets gardens and look at all the colourful pebbles.

Painted pebbles outside Andy's room

It’s great to know that gardens will continue to be a part of the new Hospice and that every patient’s room will have doors to the courtyard. Allowing fresh air and sunlight into the room makes such a difference. Also, I’m told each patient room now has an ensuite, a sofa bed for a visitor to stay, and a larger ‘cuddle bed’ to snuggle up in with loved ones. Having that extra space will be great for visiting families. The room Andy was in initially was quite small; it was difficult for his girls to play in there and to get into bed with him for a cuddle. The staff were amazing and moved him into one of the bigger family rooms so that the girls had more space to be around him. There was so much consideration for looking after him and us as a family.

Sadly, the cancer progressed so aggressively that Andy never got to go back home. The family liaison team at Martlets made sure all of us were supported during a really difficult time.

One day, the doctor at Martlets rang me to say they were worried Andy was going to go sooner rather than later. We called my mum and my sisters down from Scotland so we could all spend time with him. A lovely lady from the family liaison team was there in Andy’s room when he and Sally told the girls ‘Daddy’s not coming home’. They had to explain that this would be the last place they would see him. I think that took so much out of Andy that afternoon, explaining to the girls. The staff had to up his pain meds and he slept a lot over the next few days. He was never alone and always had a family member or one of the staff sitting with him.

Andy with his family at dinner

We were offered bereavement counselling and Sally was supported in how to manage her grief and the girls’ grief too. When I went back to the Hospice to collect Andy’s belongings, a nurse made sure I didn’t have to go back into the building again. I would’ve found it really upsetting to go in and see the door to Andy’s room. She understood how I was feeling, brought everything out, and helped me load it into my car, then gave me a big hug. It was exactly what I needed and just summed up the warmth and care they gave us as a family.”


Jen ran the Brighton Half marathon on the 25 February as part of #TeamMartlets to raise money in memory of Andy, so that other local people who need hospice care can receive the best treatment possible.

“I wanted to raise £700, as this amount will pay for one patient to be cared for in their inpatient unit for 24 hours (Andy was a resident for 30 days), or at the very least £250, which could pay for three counselling sessions for bereaved family members such as his two young daughters. In the end, I raised £1,405, so a big thank you to everyone who supported me.”

 — Jen

Jen running the Brighton Half Marathon


Help Martlets Grow

At Martlets, we know the importance of outdoor space. Our gardens provide sanctuary for patients and their families; a place for patients to meet with family and friends, away from the clinical setting. 

As we settle into our new Hospice home in Hove, we are asking all our supporters to Help Martlets Grow and provide patients and their loved ones with outdoor spaces for them and their families to enjoy.


Published 12/04/2024