Saint Francis Hospice shop volunteer Louise Milton-White on finding love, friendship and happiness in the role after losing her husband.

You never know where life will take you. Before my husband Darren became ill, I had been working as a criminal lawyer for 38 years and I had never been in a charity shop.

I gave up my job to care for Darren when he was battling bile duct cancer, but it was such a scary time and I wouldn’t have been able to care for Darren at home for as long as I did without the support of the nurses at Saint Francis Hospice.

As soon as the hospice became involved, we were made to feel as if we were part of the family - there was so much love and support around us.

Darren fought the cancer bravely. He had major surgery to remove half his liver, which was unsuccessful. He then had extensive chemotherapy and selective internal radiation therapy until he eventually succumbed.

He asked to spend his final days in the hospice in August 2017, and I was able to spend precious time with him.

Darren was just 49 when he died. We had been married for 22 years and his death had a devastating impact on me. I was still coming to terms with my loss when I went into the charity’s Brentwood shop to enquire about volunteering.

I’m a bit of a snob and this was the first time I’d been into a charity shop - but I felt the time was right.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Louise Milton-White is now a Saint Francis Hospice retail volunteer.Louise Milton-White is now a Saint Francis Hospice retail volunteer. (Image: Pete Henwood)

I loved volunteering in the shop straight away. All the ladies I volunteer with are now my friends and we meet up and socialise outside of the shop too.

The following year, the shop manager noticed I was struggling emotionally and encouraged me to book a holiday - and it was while I was on a break to Lanzarote that I met my new partner Eddy, who is from Holland.

I am a people person and I know Darren would not have wanted me to be on my own.

I’m so excited to be back volunteering again after all the lockdowns. I am so passionate about raising money for the hospice and I have left the charity a gift in my will.

I want to do whatever I can to help other people get the care and support they need, just like we did.