Donna, 56 years old and born and bred in South London, worked in the fashion industry as both a designer and teacher. In 2014 Donna was diagnosed with a large tumour in her spinal cord.  She tells us how coming to Trinity helped her find joy in life again.

“Just before I got ill, I had given up my career in fashion, sold my flat and started an MA at Goldsmiths doing Art Therapy. I had wanted to be an Art Therapist for about 7 years but I didn’t have the money. The day I got the equity money from my flat sale in the bank was the same day I collapsed and was taken into hospital.

At first they thought it was an inoperable brain tumour and I was told I’d only have a short time left to live. I couldn’t walk, I had to move into my 74  year old mum’s flat and she had to do everything for me. It was devastating, I had to give up my course, I was at the happiest point in my life and then everything was taken away.

I started planning my funeral. I decided to make a medical directive. I knew that if I was going to end up on breathing and feeding tubes that I wouldn’t want to stay alive. Mum and I had to have a lot of tough discussions.

It was very difficult for Mum. I was pretty much bed bound. I needed help washing and dressing. I couldn’t properly cut my food and I had to use a wheelchair to get to hospital for appointments.

For about a year I was like that. But then my treatment started to take effect. I wasn’t going to die straight away after all. Death was put on hold. 

Living locally, I always knew the hospice was here so one day we just came in and I asked ‘What do you have to do to get in here?’. I was told I would just need a letter from my doctor confirming my diagnosis.

I then started to come in as an outpatient in the community. And it has made so much difference to my life. Coming to Trinity is uplifting. There is such a lovely atmosphere here and there are so many outpatient groups to get involved with. I come in at least twice a week, if not more.

I do the Open Art Group, the Walkers and Talkers group, the Relaxation Group and sometimes I come along to the Singing Group and Feel Good Days.

Mum can come along too. She loves it - she’s had a few Reiki and Complementary Therapy treatments for carers.

The groups have been amazing but I’d say what I love most here is the community. It just feels like such a privilege to share experiences with and even become friends with the other people who attend the groups.

At the walking group we walk around Clapham Common and talk about food, movies, or restaurants. We have gotten to know all the trees on Clapham Common and it is just lovely. The people here have become almost like family.

I have also become involved with the Patient Liaison Group which has given me a chance to have a say in things. A group of us come together for an informal chat once a month. We have tea and biscuits and we give feedback. For me it’s been about changing some of the little things which people maybe don’t think of. For instance we asked for smaller cups because large cups are difficult for me to hold with nerve damage in my hands. We are listened to and things really do change. It would be nice for more patients to come along and join us so that they can have their say too.

I feel like I’ve found my identity again. At the hospice we can find humour in our situation, in all our aches and pains. Nobody has to feel alone. I would encourage any patient in the community who is feeling isolated to come in and give it a try. Here, you are more than just an illness.”

The above picture is Donna with artwork she produced at a two day art workshop at the Royal Academy of Art, organised by Trinity