Discovering she is terminally ill has not stopped Claire Baron from enjoying each day – and she wants to share her belief that it is OK to talk openly about dying.
The 51-year-old was diagnosed with lung cancer in June and told it was unlikely she would see Christmas. Since then, she has found strength through her family, her Christian faith and the support offered by hospice charity ellenor.
She said: “I’m not going to become a victim and I still have my sense of humour, but I do struggle with feelings of guilt and grief.”
The guilt Claire feels is towards her large and loving family – knowing what a tough journey lies ahead and knowing that their grief will continue after she is gone. Among her support network are mother Maureen, partner Gary, two grown-up daughters, Shauna and Sam, and six grandchildren. She also has her father Barry, stepmother Rosemary and three brothers, Dean, Leigh and Ryan.
She said: “It’s not just me, it’s we. My diagnosis was a real shock, but I think we have all managed to deal with it as best we can. I am very strong, and I have told the family I don’t want any tears and luckily, they are of the same mindset. But of course, you don’t know how people will really cope until they are going through it.
“My life is going to come to an end, but it is a different story for my family because they are going to carry on. I want to give them a hug at their point of grief and to say it’s going to be OK.”
Claire went to the doctor in June complaining of a cough. She suffers from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) so thought maybe she had a chest infection, Sadly, there was a 9cm tumour growing in her right lung and the cancer had spread to a kidney.
She chose not to have radiotherapy, chemotherapy or biopsies and was contacted by ellenor, who offered palliative support. She has decided she would like to die at home, where her partner Gary and mum Maureen are looking after her. Both Claire and Gary have been given leave by their bosses at Arriva, where they work as bus drivers.
Claire said: “It’s a struggle knowing that my partner and my mum are watching me die but my family support network is large. We are all about togetherness.”
Each day is physically and emotionally challenging now for Claire. Aromasticks given to her by complementary therapists at ellenor have helped her to stay calm, and she is hoping to have some therapy sessions at the hospice soon.
She said: “From the moment I wake up I want to go back to sleep, which is difficult for me. I have always been an independent person, going out walking and keeping active.”
Claire’s positive attitude was apparent from when ellenor first became involved in her care. Within months of her diagnosis, she had already raised about £1,600 for the charity by doing a sponsored walk.
She also decided to bravely host her own wake at the café run by her brother Dean at Eastgate Church in Gravesend. Once family and friends were gathered, Gary and Claire treated them to a surprise spiritual wedding.