Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice

Claire Best 

Claire and her husband on their wedding day

They had known each other since school but it was only when they were in their early 30s that Steven and Claire Best met again and fell in love.

Just four months later Steven was diagnosed with throat cancer and had to undergo gruelling surgery.

“I bumped into him a few years ago at the shops and we got chatting over Facebook. It’s a wee bit frustrating when you think he was there the whole time. People say you know when you know but it’s so true, we were just meant for each other,” smiles Claire.

“It was like a whirlwind romance as it all just happened so quickly.

“When he got cancer he said to me, ‘Walk away, I don’t expect you to stay’. I just felt at the time, why walk away? Because he’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. If I walk away, what is anyone going to gain from that?”

She adds: “It was really difficult through the first cancer, we were all in total disbelief but everything moved so quickly, before we knew it he was in having biopsies taken, which confirmed it was pretty bad. 

After two gruelling rounds of surgery, Steven suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with depression but came out the other side.

“He couldn’t speak or eat for a long time but he soldiered on and struggled through all the worrying check ups but he was told to stop worrying it was highly unlikely that the cancer would come back,” says Claire.

The couple tied the knot on Valentine’s Day in 2014 and when they came home from honeymoon discovered that Claire was expecting.

With two children Marc and Abi from Claire’s previous relationship, their family was complete.

“Steven had been told that he couldn’t have kids so when Logan came along it was a wee miracle,” says Claire.

“We were told to move on, go back to work and stop worrying. We did, we got married, he went back to work which he thrived in. We were saving to buy our dream home for our family and life was looking pretty great for us.”

Steven and his son Logan

Logan was born in November then the following spring Steven was feeling unwell and after scans and biopsies doctors told him the cancer had returned.

“We thought that was horrific, we were really upset. All sorts of scans were done and then a week later we were told that it was terminal and there was nothing they could do for him,” she remembers.

“I couldn’t take it in that he was going to leave, he was going and we had this wee baby. We were too young, we were only just married, it just wasn’t right.”

Steven was told to expect to get another six months and it was in this time the hospice came into their lives when a community nurse started visiting Steven at home.

“She was just like a breath of fresh air. You go to all the GP and hospital appointments, and it’s all very clinical and no-one speaks to you like you’re a human being. You’re supposed to understand and sometimes you don’t,” explains Claire.

“The hospice’s nurse came to see us at home and spoke to us as a normal person. At that point Steven was taking paracetamol and was in a lot of pain and it really impacted on his quality of life but no-one really listened.

“From the moment she came out she got him morphine and everything he needed and his life became slightly better.”

In time Steven’s condition deteriorated rapidly and the cancer spread to his lungs.  He had tried treatment and herbal remedies but nothing seemed to work.  Then he lost his hair.

On his first Father’s Day with baby Logan, Steven had trouble breathing and had to go into hospital.

“He said, ‘When I go in here you know I won’t get out’ and I said not to be silly, it was only three months he’d had,” says Claire.

“But by the Tuesday we were told he wouldn’t last the day or even survive the journey to the hospice.

“We were all in shock. Even though we knew it was coming you can’t believe it when it’s actually there. Then the next day he picked up and was full of fun but went downhill again on the Friday and died on the Saturday. He was 35.  I was completely numb.”

The hospice’s community nurse kept in touch with Claire but it was only when she received a second letter from the hospice that she felt ready to take them up on the offer of help.

Claire now goes to a monthly support group for the bereaved and found the support available was incredibly helpful.

“There’s no-one quite in my situation but just being in a group of people who understand, and share the same feelings, it makes such a difference they just get it. Everyone was so welcoming, it was fantastic,” she says.

“At Christmas we went to the Blythswood Hotel for a Christmas movie night and it was just wonderful. I don’t get to go to the cinema any more, it was a really nice thing to do at that time of year. What great forward thinking, what a lovely idea.”

Claire’s daughter Abi used the children’s bereavement Butterfly service at the hospice and from there Claire met other parents in a similar situation.

“Abi really enjoyed going, it was somewhere for her to express herself and understand that it wasn’t just her that felt like this. There’s no-one else in her situation that she knows,” says Claire.

“That was really good for her but not only that it was really good for me because I got to meet other parents. A lot of them are around my age and they just get it as well.   They fully understand the everyday struggles that no-one else.

Claire Best and her family

“I also attend a pilot group for bereaved with young children which has helped in a way I can barely explain, we share very similar experiences and help each other cope and take comfort in each other’s strength. 

“I feel very passionate about giving back to the hospice. I’m not quite there yet, I’ve still got a long road to go but I know that when I’m feeling 100% I certainly want to give back.

“You need to understand in the hospice what people are going through and I feel as if I could really help people.

“The hospice has really helped me through all this, I don’t know how I would have got through it without them.

“The hospice has been wonderful for me and for the kids. When you need help, it’s good to know there’s somewhere to go.”

Steven will always be remembered as the life and soul of any situation, he is someone who could just brighten your day, he was full of fun and laughter and always had a story to tell you.  He was very passionate and cared a great deal for his family and friends.

He was a great musician, he taught Claire’s son Marc to play guitar. Now Marc is studying music at school.

“I just wish Steven could see him, he’d be so proud of him,” she says.

“And I wish he could have got a bit more time with his baby boy.”

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