Michael and Ha’s story

Michael Hall died peacefully at his home in early 2018 with the support of our Hospice @ Home team. His wife Thi Hong Ha Nguyen, known as Ha, tells their story.

Michael and I met in Vietnam in June 2007. We spent lots of time together and got engaged the same year, and got married in 2009. He loved Vietnam. He worked as a management adviser for some local organisations on HIV prevention and care programmes, travelling to rural and remote areas, which was similar to my work.

We moved to the UK in 2013 to set up our life closer to Michael’s family. We lived in Swinton in the house where Michael was born, and I became a fan of his beloved Manchester City FC. We loved each other very much – he was the other half of me.

In 2016, Michael started struggling with indigestion and got some medication from his doctor. It eased his symptoms but didn’t get rid of them, so he was referred for tests. In 2017
they had ruled out bowel cancer and didn’t find anything else. But his symptoms became worse and further tests revealed he had pancreatic cancer, with secondary cancer in his liver and
lung. We were told it was incurable.

It was shocking and heartbreaking for us all, but we decided to face this challenge together and tried to spend lots of time together as a family, with trips to Shetland and Snowdonia. Michael kept his sense of humour as always, even through his treatment. We faced it all together, and we wanted to help him enjoy every day.

We were visited by a member of the St Ann’s community specialist palliative care team, Justine, who came to help with Michael’s medication. She showed she cared by listening, sharing and understanding. She explained how St Ann’s could help support and care for us, and make Michael as comfortable as possible. She also let me know they were there for me. We had some support from a St Ann’s social worker and I even had some complementary therapy to help me relax.

In Michael’s last week he became more ill, and St Ann’s provided us with even more support so he could stay at home. The team visited every day, and they even gave me and the family
some time to go out for a walk, knowing he was being looked after. They told us Michael was approaching his last days, and let us know what to expect, and they were there to support us.

After Michael died I was heartbroken, but I was offered counselling and bereavement support which has really helped me. I can see a big difference between my first and last sessions of
counselling and I feel more calm. I also attended a memorial service at St Ann’s where they read out the names of people who had passed away including Michael, and we lit candles. It’s a different culture here to in Vietnam, and I liked gathering to celebrate Michael’s life.

I couldn’t have dealt with everything without the support of St Ann’s during those 6 months and I’m so grateful. Their support has been invaluable, for Michael, for me, for his two daughters and for the rest of our family.