The best mum ever!
On Sunday 27th March 2022, Nick Pitman and Lauren Holland lost the best mum in the world.
Christine Holland was not only their mum, but also their best friend. She left behind four beautiful grandchildren, Faye, Esmee, Florence and Rory, who were her everything.
Nick said, “Mum was always so happy and she made friends wherever she went. Lauren and I are so lucky and proud to have had her as our mum.”
Nick and Lauren’s story is one which you hope you would never have to go through, but it is one that many of us will be able to relate to. Their mum, Christine Holland, worked half of her working life in banks and knew everyone. Later in life, Christine began to work in schools. With her warm heart and friendly personality, she became every pupil’s favourite.
Things changed for Christine in 2018, when at just the age of 61 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Telling the family was difficult, especially Nick and Lauren, because she was their rock. She had an amazing support unit around her, with Christine’s best friend Janet and her son Nick, taking her to every appointment, and her daughter Lauren, being at home to help as much as she possibly could.
Coping with the diagnosis could have been a lot harder, but she made sure she carried on with ‘normal’ life as much as possible. She used some of the hospice services, receiving Complementary Therapies and attending the Creative and Support Therapy sessions, where she met lots of new friends and even found out about other groups she could access, like the Ribble Valley Breast Care Group. Through attending this group, she met lots of friends and often went along to yoga and pottery classes with daughter Lauren.
Lauren said, “The support she received from the hospice was great, and being able to sign post her to different groups as well. It was so nice to see mum meeting lots of new friends, friends that could support her with things she maybe didn’t want to talk to Nick and I about.”
After undertaking treatment, Christine was given good news. She was told her treatment had worked, and although the cancer had not gone, it had stopped growing. The news the family were so happy to hear. Christine still had to go for regular check-ups to monitor the stable cancer cells. Until on 8th February 2021, on her 63rd birthday, the family received the news they did not want to hear. Christine’s cancer had spread from her neck and chest to her lymph nodes.
Nick went to all of Christine’s appointments with her, but due to work commitments could not attend this one. Her sister’s, Maggie and Barbara, had travelled from Oxford and Southsea along with their brother, Roy, to celebrate Christine’s birthday, and so they went to the appointment with her. During that appointment, the Oncologist told Christine she had two options; to start treatment again and have 18 months -2 years to live, or refuse treatment and have 6 months to live. With her children and grandchildren at the front of her mind, Christine knew what her decision was and she soon started treatment again.
Nick remembers that day as if it was yesterday, “I remember my aunties ringing me whilst I was at a conference and I was sat with my headphones in on a staircase listening to everything the Oncologist was saying. I couldn’t believe it! My mum! She is the kindest person I know, so why was this happening to her?”
On Valentine’s Day 2022, Christine was referred to the Inpatient Unit at East Lancashire Hospice for pain management and medication control. The family were amazed by the care she received whilst there.
Nick commented, “I remember the first day we arrived and Lee, the chef from Café Retreat, came in to the room to introduce himself. He pulled up a chair and was talking to mum to find out about what foods she liked. Mum was coeliac and so couldn’t eat a lot of food, but that was no trouble for Lee. He totally understood her strict diet and made sure he ordered in special ingredients for her. We couldn’t thank the catering team enough for going the extra mile.”
Ten days later, Christine was sent home with her pain and medication now under control.
“On the 14th March, my aunties and uncle came to visit mum at home and that day she seemed to have deteriorated quite a lot. She was in a lot of pain and after ringing the District Nurses and a lot of waiting around, she was referred to the hospital, where because of the demands on the NHS, she was treated in the back of the Ambulance.”
He continued, “That day felt so long and very stressful. It was at that point Lauren and I realised things weren’t good and mum deserved better, we needed all the help we could get. The next morning, whilst we waited for mum to wake up, we discussed the options. We knew mum needed better clinical care and support than we could offer, we agreed with mum that the hospice would give her the comfort, 24/7 care and dignity she deserved.”
“When she was at the hospice, it gave us time to be son and daughter and not out of our depth carers.”
The next day Christine was brought back into the Inpatient Unit at the hospice. “Once we had settled her in, the Doctor came in with the results from a recent scan she had. She perched herself at the side of mum and told us that the cancer had now spread into her spinal column and the lining of her brain. When we heard that news, we knew there was nothing else they could do.”
“The Doctor was incredible. She stayed with us for over an hour as we cried and asked so many questions. The compassion and empathy she showed us was just something I’ll never forget.” Nick said.
After a few days of being at the hospice, Christine struggled with her sleep. Nick said, “I’d get to the hospice every morning around 6:30am, but one morning she text me to say the doctors had given her something to help her sleep, so could I come a bit later. Moments later, I received another text from her telling me to come now, I’m really scared.” Nick went that day and never left again. He was able to stay in her room and Lauren visited all the time and with Rory, Christine’s youngest grandson, most days. Lauren spent a lot of time in between visits keeping the house running and walking Christine’s beloved dogs.
Lauren said, “I remember one day me and mum were just sitting in her room holding hands and she just said to me, I didn’t realise I’d never see my house again. At that point I knew she was ready to go.”
Nick’s two daughters Faye and Esmee and step-daughter Florence also came to visit their grandma, taking her into the hospice garden to listen to the birds, making dances up in her room for her to watch and helping grandma eat her food. Christine was their everything, and they wanted to do all they could to make sure she was still smiling.
On the 23rd March 2022 Christine’s grandson, Rory turned 3 and has always celebrated his birthdays with his Gran Gran. The hospice team organised a party in the garden so Rory’s wishes were granted. The family were able to be together for Rory and celebrate ‘at Gran Gran’s hospice.’
Nick and Lauren could not believe the extra mile all the hospice Nurses and volunteers went to, not only making sure Christine had everything she wanted, but also them as well. “Many times I’d be awake at 4am and the Nurses on shift would make me a brew and just give me the time to talk. Nothing was too much trouble, even when Janet hit the crash button thinking it was the light switch. It’s safe to say the clinical team would have passed their test on the response with that one.”
Nick continued, “Sylvia, a volunteer was just amazing. Every morning she would come in with a slice of toast and a perfectly made brew, knowing exactly how I liked it. She remembered that my mum’s favourite tea was Pukka Peppermint Tea, so when she found out my mum was coming back in, she went out of her way to buy it for her.
It’s little things like that, which make the hospice such a special place. I remember Sylvia use to come in to give us a weather update every morning, ’18 degrees today with a slight breeze,’ I’ll cherish the little things forever.”
The Friday before Christine died, Lauren and Nick saw a huge change in her and knew that the time they had left with her was limited. They both wrote Mother’s Day cards to her and that weekend each read their cards for her to hear. Messages that came straight from the heart.
“Towards the last few days, mum didn’t really respond when we spoke to her, but when we read those cards to her, we saw tears roll down her face. We knew she was listening.”
On Sunday 27th March 2022 - Mother’s Day, Christine sadly died.
It’s poignant that the best Mum waited until Mother’s Day.
If you would like to make a donation to the hospice after reading Nick and Lauren's story, please donate here