Abigail Randall caused quite a stir when her 12-week old puppy, Finch, came in to visit Rowcroft Hospice's Inpatient Unit, "It was like puppy walkabout," the 27-year old English teacher explains with a smile, "I took him out into the gardens for a walk, and the Nurses were fine about him sitting up on the bed with me!"
Abby, who heralds from Totnes and talks excitedly about the town's restaurants, 'have you been to The Willow?!' was admitted to the hospice at the end of April for symptom control. She had been receiving chemotherapy on a brain tumour for six months until March, but made the decision to stop the treatment so she could enjoy her time with family and friends.
"My choice was this," she explains, as several smiling members of her family file out of her room, "and everybody here just gets it."
Following her referral Abby spent a few days in the hospice's 17-bed Inpatient Unit in Torquay, getting her medication under control.
"The doctors totally understood and respected that I want to get the most out of every day. They set me up with all the medications I needed and provided an immediate support network; there was always someone on standby to chat with."
Having spent a few days at the hospice getting her medication right, Abby was able to spend a week in Hay-on-Wye at the Literary Festival and also a weekend with family in Guildford. "While I was at Hay I needed to see a District Nurse," Abby explained, "Rowcroft had explained everything to me so clearly that I was able to tell staff at the health centre there exactly what I needed."
"Rowcroft has been integral to enabling me to enjoy life with my family and friends; that's the word, enabling."
The hospice has also been able to get hold of equipment Abby needs to support her at home, and a Physiotherapist has been teaching her yoga moves in her front room, "I've been doing it to mitigate the side effects of the medication I'm on," she says, before adding that walking Finch and bagging some bargain treatments at Totnes's Natural Health Centre have also been helping (as well as discovering a penchant for Aromatika's tea tree oil and bergamot face wash!) "I love Totnes," she enthuses, "there is nowhere else I'd rather live."
Abby was admitted to the hospice for a second time at the beginning of June, to adjust her medication and ensure she is happy with it before going home again. "The medication is quite hard core," she says, "so I've chosen to spend a few days here to make sure its right."
"Everybody here knows that being comfortable is really important, so that I can enjoy my time with my family, with the dog and the little things like that. Nothing here is too much to ask for."
"The bottom line is," she adds, "this place is fantastic, it is hugely restorative and peaceful, and I feel safe, and secure."
And as for Finch, "he is puppy therapy!"