Most of the patients at St Mary's Hospice, up to 90 per cent, are fighting cancer - including Eileen Malcolm.

The retired Army secretary, who is known as Lyn and lives in Hall Green, was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus in 2004.

She had a hysterectomy at Heartlands Hospital weeks later, but since doctors stopped her gruelling regime of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Mrs Malcolm has come to the hospice's day centre.

"When I first left Heartlands I had nurses visit me at home, because I still wasn't up to getting out and about, I still wasn't myself," she said.

"I wouldn't be where I am without this place, it has been better than any medicine, it's really helped me. If I hadn't been able to come to St Mary's I don't think I'd be as well as I feel now."

Palliative care helps the patient and their family to cope with their condition and treatment of it through continuing illness or death into bereavement. It is the active holistic care of patients with advanced progressive illness, such as cancer, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis.

Management of pain and other symptoms and provision of psychological, social and spiritual support is paramount. The intention is to give patients and their families the best quality of life, which can involve clinical care, emotional wellbeing, occupational or physiotherapy.

People with terminal or long term conditions are encouraged to affirm life and regard dying as a normal process, while their friends and family are offered support.