Chris Dean took part in our Make a Will Week in 2023 after his wife died at our Coventry Myton Hospice in September 2022.

In the summer of 2021, Allyson started to feel unwell, experiencing stomach and bowel problems and a reduction of appetite. After a visit to her GP, Ally was diagnosed with bowel cancer in late November 2021.


Ally’s husband, Chris, commented on this time, saying:


It was a shock to the system. I think Ally had a vague idea she was ill, but didn’t want to worry me or her family. She was such a selfless individual, everyone else came first and she was so far down her priority list in her eyes. My sweetheart.

In early December 2021, Ally had an operation to remove the cancer and part of the bowel.

The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean
The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean

Chris added:


It all happened so quickly. She had the test on Monday, diagnosis on the Wednesday and the operation on the Friday. She was then home the following Monday and was recovering brilliantly.

Christmas is always a joyous time in our house as Ally’s birthday is 27th December. We would always have elongated celebrations!

In the new year after their celebrations, Ally went for more scans where it was revealed the cancer had spread to her lungs. She started chemotherapy in February 2022.


During her treatment, Ally started having muscle pain in her right arm and leg, with her oncologist thinking it was a side effect of the cancer.


Due to her muscle pain, Ally had restricted movement. Alongside her chemotherapy side effects, she was in constant pain.


Chris commented:


Ally dealt with the side effects well and with dignity, but the muscle pain got her down. I remember her waking up and saying “I’d love to wake up one morning without the pain.” That broke me.

I did what I could at home during her treatment but it was so unexpected and such hard work with her limited movement. We all knew she was struggling. But I’d do it all ten times over if it meant I could have her back.


Ally was getting weaker and lost weight throughout her treatment. On her seventh round of chemotherapy, her oncologist insinuated that the couple may need to make some tough decisions.

The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean
The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean
The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean

Chris said:


Myton was then mentioned. I almost fell to the floor. I had the misconception that it was only a place to die and I wasn’t ready for that. We had been together for 27 years, married for 20, and I wasn’t ready to understand or accept that fact she might die.

Ally took it in her stride though. She was always thinking of me and how to protect me from the harsh reality. We don’t have any children between us, but Ally does from her previous marriage. I phoned them all to tell them the news. That was harder than hearing the news myself.

A bed was arranged at Coventry Myton Hospice for the next day for symptom control and pain management. Ally arrived at the hospice on 1st September.


Chris said:


Ally was so excited to go to Myton, I think to relieve me of some responsibility. It meant I could be her husband again and not her carer. Coming to Myton meant our home wouldn’t need to be turned into a hospital. We didn’t know how long Ally would be there for, but we knew we’d be well looked after.

She was taken into room 11 – I’ll never forget that room number – and we were both amazed by how quiet, calm and relaxed it is compared to a hospital. As it was late summer, we’d spend every day with the doors open and looking out at the patio and beautiful garden. It feels like a home away from home and they made us both as comfortable as possible and that is all down to the amazing staff and volunteers.

The doctors and nurses analysed Ally’s medication to ensure she was comfortable, removing medications, adding alternatives and changing dosages. This helped Ally’s nausea and appetite.

Something as little as this made such a difference. Ally was still experiencing her chemo symptoms but once she arrived at Myton and had this medication MOT, her appetite returned and she was really enjoying her food again. She seemed like her normal self!

Myton is just wonderful. She loved her spa baths, as she called them, and her pamper sessions and hydrotherapy! It kept her dignity, feeling so clean. Something so simple can have such an effect. She once said to me “I’m happy and safe here.” It made me so happy to hear this, and it’s all because of the environment the staff and volunteers create for us all.

During her stay at the hospice, the couple celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on 21st September. After hearing copious stories of the pair, nurses had asked Chris to bring in some photos of their time together. Chris also ordered Ally’s favourite McDonalds breakfast – double sausage and egg McMuffin! – and celebrated with family, cards and presents.

The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean
The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean

Chris reminisced:


It was such a lovely day. Even though we were at the hospice it felt like we were at home celebrating with our friends. The nurses got to know us really well and wanted the day to be as special as possible. It was so lovely to show them our pictures and tell them more stories!

I bought Ally a new set of rings as I knew deep down that this was probably our last anniversary together. I got an engagement ring, wedding band and eternity ring. She was delighted with them. Due to the weight loss of chemo, her fingers were smaller than normal so I had to take them home to resize them. Unbeknownst to us, this was sadly the last time she’d wear them.

After two weeks at the hospice, Ally started to decline.


I didn’t think too much of it. I was probably in denial as I thought we were only at Myton for symptom control and pain management. My brain thought we would be going home together. However, I did notice she became less chatty and more tired.

Ally’s sisters in law came to visit. Both of Ally’s brothers died of cancer younger than Ally. I didn’t know this until after the fact, but when the sisters in law said goodbye to Ally, she whispered “Look after him when I’m gone.” She knew something wasn’t right and loved me too much to make me worry.

On the morning of 24th September, Chris received a call from the nurses at Myton and was told to make his way in. Ally had suffered a suspected stroke so was transferred to UHCW Hospital for some tests. She wasn’t able to talk but could recognise her name and responded with eye movements. It was the first time in 27 years that the couple couldn’t communicate.


After the tests confirmed the stroke, Ally was brought back to Coventry Myton Hospice. Ally’s son, Chris, and his wife and children stayed in the family accommodation to be nearer to their mum and nan.


Chris said:


It was like a hotel for them. And they were close if anything was to happen. The nurses put a bed for me in her room so I was always there for her.

One morning I was pottering about her room, sorting out our anniversary cards and presents and remembered our first dance song at our wedding – Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers – and played it on my phone on her pillow by her head.

She then held her arm out and we held hands. She squeezed my hand and I knew she was still in there.

On 26th September, Ally took her last breaths surrounded by her family, aged 65 years old.

The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean
The Myton Hospices - Chris Dean

Chris added:


Between us, we collected teddy bears. Some may think it’s a bit weird but it’s what we did! One bear in particular, Rio, was so special to us. I had brought him in to be with his mummy and had also bought her a new toy, Tags, during her stay at Myton.

As a big dog lover, I decided to get her a toy dalmatian dog which she loved. After she died, the nurses placed a flower on her chest and Rio and Tags each side of her head.

It makes me emotional to think about as they knew just how much they meant to us. They take the time to get to know patients and their families which means so much in a time of need.

After Ally died, Chris accessed 12 counselling sessions at Myton.


Chris commented:


The counselling really helped and having it as soon I did meant I could fully understand all my emotions, whenever I felt them. I was feeling rather frustrated at one point as nobody really understood what I was going through.

Of course I was talking to friends and family, but there’s only so much you can say without putting a burden on them or making them feel bad and sympathetic. Having Cate, my counsellor, to talk to was invaluable.

She suggested I joined Widowed and Young, as I was 50 when Ally died, to connect with others in very similar situations. That has been a god send too.

Chris expressed his love for Myton, saying:


They were there for me in a way I couldn’t have ever imagined and I am so grateful for their support at the worst times of our life. I am committed to helping Myton in any way I can, from buying merchandise, regular giving, leaving a gift in my will and supporting their events. If it helps others in my position, then it’s worth doing!


The Myton Hospices Make A Will Week (4th – 8th March)

Have you been meaning to make a Will but keep finding a reason to put it off? Then why not take advantage of our Make a Will Week taking place between 4th – 8th March 2024?

A number of reputable local solicitors will be giving their time free of charge to write or update basic Wills for Myton supporters, in return for a donation to The Myton Hospices.

Find out more