The help that keeps Sabrina studying


SABRINA COSTELLO is 15 and studying for her GCSEs. When her mother, Josephine, teases her about her homework, she retorts that she hasn't managed too badly - she got good grades in her mock exams.

Sabrina, who lives with her mother in Chingford, wants to be a forensic scientist. Her academic progress is all the more impressive when you know that she is caring for her mother, who is seriously ill with cancer and needs help with washing, dressing and getting to the bathroom.

She is one of the thousands of cancer sufferers who receive help in their own homes from more than 5,000 Marie Curie Cancer Care nurses. Patients are put in touch with the service, which is provided free, by their district nurse or GP.

Mrs Costello says: "I have a Marie Curie nurse between 10pm and 7am three nights a week, which is an enormous help to me and Sabrina. It means that Sabrina can get a good night's sleep. When it's just the two of us here, I know that Sabrina is listening out for every move I make."

Sabrina agrees. "It's been much easier since the Marie Curie nurses have been coming. It was getting difficult because recently Mum has not been sleeping through the night. But when they come it gives me a break."

Mrs Costello, now 40, was only 33 when she discovered a lump in her breast. Cancer was diagnosed. Two years later she developed cancer in her other breast, and the disease spread to her brain and back. As a result she suffers from epileptic fits and weakness down her left side.

Marie Curie nurses, who also spend time with her during the day, help her to take her medication and see to her daily needs. They also make sure that her symptoms are under control and that her pain relief is adequate. "You know you are safe when they are there," she says. "And when you are feeling rough, there's someone there to reassure you."

Pat Unger, one of the Marie Curie nurses helping to care for Mrs Costello, says the ethos of the charity's nurses is to complement the work of the district nurses in promoting and maintaining a good quality of life for individual patients living at home with cancer. "To be effective, this must acknowledge the needs of family and other carers."

The role of the Marie Curie nurse will vary according to the patient's needs, Miss Unger says. "The one-to-one relationship that often builds up with patients allows time for them to talk freely and express feelings that are a burden to them - which can bring about a sense of peace."

She describes Mrs Costello as a cheerful and determined person whose main concern is the welfare of her daughter, and she adds: "Without support from Marie Curie Cancer Care, Mrs Costello would have to spend longer periods in hospital. And it's very important to her that Sabrina receives the help she needs in order to cope, particularly at this time when she is in the middle of studying for her exams."

Mrs Costello says Sabrina's perseverance with her studies is one of the things that helps to keep her going. She is keeping her fingers crossed that her daughter will - with the help of Marie Curie nurses - pass all nine GCSEs she plans to sit.

Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam