Photographer Peter Dyer surrounded by love and laughter to the end
“Watching this wonderful man slowly die away in front of our eyes over the nine months of his illness was deeply painful. But the amazing support of North London Hospice enabled him to die with such dignity, in the home he loved, constantly surrounded by all four generations of the family”
These words from Peter Dyer’s daughter, Louise Hodgkinson, show the impact our community nursing team can have on a family facing a journey with a terminally ill loved one.
Peter Dyer had many passions. He was a blues and jazz singer and a dog trainer but was perhaps best known across North London for his wedding photography, having captured that special day for thousands of happy couples over the years. Not to mention portraits of the rich and famous from Princess Diana to the Rothschild’s. He took photographs of anyone and everyone. ‘From palaces to prefabs’ was his mantra.
Enfield born and bred Peter enjoyed a wonderful life with Pam, his wife of 53 years, their three talented children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Then in late 2017 Peter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour at the age of 75.
“Of course it was a shock,” said Pam. “ He had an op to remove the tumour followed by radiotherapy. It was then that we first heard the words palliative care and hospice. It was frightening. You think of a hospice and assume you only have days to live
“But the first time we walked into the Hospice’s Health & Wellbeing Centre in Winchmore Hill in January 2018 we were happy to be there. It was a big thing to go there in the first place but everyone was so lovely and helped us understand the next step of what we were facing.”
While Peter was mobile he and Pam utilised the facilities at Winchmore Hill. Peter would attend the exercise classes and lunches and if the pianist was there he would often provide the vocals.
“As a carer, I received much needed support from the Hospice,” explained Pam. “I did the carers course, had massages with Will and tried reiki with Christine.”
North London Hospice organised a care plan for Peter and took care of his symptom management. Community Palliative Clinical Nursing Specialist Ayesha Ruiters visited Peter and Pam every week and they received regular visits and support from social worker Yvonne O’Driscoll and Palliative Consultant Louise Schofield.
“They were all excellent,” added Pam. “They helped us prepare and gave us all the time we needed as we tried to ready ourselves for what would happen next.
“I had counselling with Sam and Martin. My family couldn’t believe it as I’d never had anything like that before but it really helped. The overall care was wonderful.
“You can feel very isolated when facing a terminal illness, even when you are surrounded by a loving family. You find yourselves in this awful situation and it’s good to know the hospice is there to lean on. They really understood what we were going through.”
In the final months, Peter decided he wanted to remain at home so a care team was arranged.
Louise said: “The hospice played a big part in us being able to keep dad at home. During the last couple of weeks the house was full of family…..grandkids, great-grandkids….sometimes we’d have 18 for dinner. We’d all float in and out of dad’s room to chat or read to him. We created some wonderful memories in those last few months, including celebrating his 76th birthday.
“Having dad cared for at home enabled us to be with him and for the children to be more prepared for his passing. On the day he died he received a kiss from one of his grandchildren and two minutes later, he was gone.”
More than 400 people attended Peter’s funeral, which was a celebration of his life, complete with marching jazz band. The Dyer family asked for donations to be made to North London Hospice and we were grateful to receive a cheque for £3,128 which will be used to fund patient care.