In July 2023, Ken and Fiona Warren were getting ready to celebrate the wedding of their daughter, Saskia, something they had been waiting for throughout the pandemic.

Ken wasn’t feeling quite like himself, so he saw his GP for blood tests which all came back normal. Then, he and Fiona noticed some firmness on the side of his abdomen, and they were referred to hospital where Ken stayed overnight for some further investigation.

The couple weren’t overly worried as the initial results had been clear. But the next day, they were shocked to find out Ken had aggressive lesions on his liver.

Ken’s wife, Fiona, said: “The Doctor came in, sat down, and said, ‘I’m really sorry. You have lesions all over your liver. It’s inoperable.”

“It came completely out of nowhere. The day before, we honestly thought he might have some form of blockage - we didn’t expect this.

“But we were still hopeful; thinking yes, it’s aggressive, but it can still be treated.”

With the wedding less than two weeks away, the hospital team focused on helping Ken attend the wedding comfortably, by draining the buildup of fluid that was creating pressure in his abdomen.

Ken was able to give his eldest daughter away, a very proud moment for him and Fiona. 
He was also able to deliver a wonderful father of the bride speech. This was his last social event.


After Saskia’s wedding, the hospital was able to identify the primary cancer in Ken’s bile duct (a rare cancer named Cholangiocarcinoma), giving him a life expectancy of one to three months.

As Ken was fit and well, he was offered a course of chemotherapy to extend his life. Alongside arranging this treatment, Ken was referred to Mountbatten, the local hospice for Southampton and large parts of Hampshire, and the couple made an appointment to learn more about the support available. Unfortunately, Ken developed an infection and couldn’t make the appointment, so Fiona attended with a close friend instead.

Fiona said, “I am so glad I kept that appointment as I realised that Mountbatten’s hospice is a very special place, and that at some point it would be where Ken would receive a very special type of care.

“There was a big difference between there and the hospital. It was obviously a very caring environment, but it was so much more than that too – it was about making the most of the time we had together as a couple and as a family.

“They really understood what we were going through, and we all mattered to them. Care like this is priceless - it truly is a gift.

“They gave me the number for the care coordination centre, and it was such a relief that they were there when I needed them. I recall speaking to them several times quite distraught, needing their guidance so I could be strong, give Ken the right care and keep me on track.”

Sadly, multiple infections over three weeks meant Ken was too weak to continue with his second chemotherapy treatment. The consultant at the hospital said Mountbatten was the right place for Ken to be.

“Those few days at the hospital were agonising as we were waiting to get a bed at Mountbatten. Ken was desperate for that different kind of care - and so was I!”

“When we got to the hospice, we had a safe medical environment with an abundance of respect, dignity and care that went beyond anything I had ever seen before. There was always someone to give you that hug or that essential cup of tea when needed to make it all feel a little more bearable.”

“We got back a little bit of ‘us’ - we were very fortunate to have a room to ourselves, I remember the nurses pushing in a bed so I could sleep alongside Ken - I was overwhelmed by their care and how much that act meant to us both.

“We could talk, watch television, or sit outside on the patio and just be a family again. Close family and friends could visit Ken in a much nicer environment, many of whom had only just found out Ken was ill.

“You can’t compare it to a hospital at all. We needed that space, as we were struggling to accept that Ken was so ill - it had only been two and half months from beginning to end. We sadly only had five days in the hospice.”

Photo: Enjoying the gardens at the hospice for a family birthday. 

Ken died on the inpatient unit in September, with his family by his side. He and his family were supported by Mountbatten’s psychology and bereavement specialists during his stay, and after.

“This environment helped us make the most of our time together and to be able to endure what was happening. We had meetings with Jane, a Clinical Psychologist, as a family. She listened to us and encouraged us to talk about the really difficult scenarios - those that we tend to put to one side because they’re too hard to think about. But she helps you through it with such a gentleness.”

“My father died of cancer when I was 13, and back then, no one knew how to help me through that. Knowing there was support for my daughters, if they needed it, was so comforting.”

“It’s earth shattering to know that the most important person to you is approaching the end of their life, and you can’t do anything, but Mountbatten helped us through it. Every single person made a difference, from the consultants and counsellors to the catering staff, cleaners and reception staff and many more - they all perform a vital role.”

“They all treated Ken like someone who matters. And he was – he someone who mattered to us enormously! And, because of that, Mountbatten will always matter to us.

“Ken asked me one day, ‘How much is this going to cost, me staying here?’ Of course, I told him, it’s all free, because of the people who support the charity.”

Your support helps us to raise £10.5 million each year to fund our services. It means that when time is limited, people like Ken and their families can access the expert care they need. Thank you.

Share your story

Ways to donate and support us