Paul and Lesley’s story
Paul’s father Lesley was a much-loved husband, father and grandfather. In March 2021 he started to experience worrying symptoms. After he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, Princess Alice Hospice made it possible for Lesley to be cared for where he most wanted to be – at home in Hersham, with his family around him. Paul told us how the Hospice’s support transformed the family’s experience.
“Dad never stopped doing things for others”
Dad was a real family man and one of those people who simply didn’t stop doing things for others. He was the guy who would always pick somebody up, take someone to hospital, do their shopping. He looked after my mother’s family, moving my grandfather in with us when he was ill with cancer. He was really generous too – if he was in the pub, he’d always insist on paying.
Although he left school early, Dad was an incredibly clever bloke. At the age of 40 he went to night school and got a ‘O’ Level in English and when we were children he took me and my brother to all sorts of museums and galleries – I did the same with my children.
He spent most of his life working in engineering – mainly in the aircraft industry – and was a very practical man. He learned to bricklay and do electrics and plumbing and was always busy with a project – he built an extension and a double garage on his own and installed central heating from scratch!
Throughout his life, Dad was barely ever ill, which made it all the more shocking when he started to experience health problems.
“He was desperate to come home”
I first noticed that something was wrong when he came to visit us in Woking one day. We were having a chat and I noticed his voice was a bit slurry. When he was walking back to his car, he was really unsteady on his feet. A couple of weeks before he’d been fine, but now he looked as though he’d aged 10 years.
I was concerned for him, so I ordered him a walking stick – a trendy mountaineering one. Then I found out he’d fallen a couple of times and hurt his head, so I put him under pressure to get a doctor’s appointment.
The doctor thought it might be a sinus problem, but Dad kept saying, “There’s something in my head for sure, but I don’t know what it is”.
Then one day Mum called and asked me to come over, saying Dad could hardly walk and looked really unwell. I said, “Right, we’re going to A&E and they’ll give him a scan”. We took him to hospital and a few hours later we got a phone call. They’d found a tumour.
The hospital told us they were keeping Dad in to do some tests. This was during the pandemic so we couldn’t visit him, which was the worst thing. He’d barely ever been in hospital, and he found it difficult. He was desperate to come home. I thought, “If I can’t talk to him face to face, hug him and support him, then he’s going to come home”. So they got him ready and I came to pick him up.
“The Hospice was absolutely phenomenal”
After we got home, we were referred to Princess Alice Hospice by Action for Carers and we soon had a call from one of the Princess Alice Hospice nurses. After that chat we started to get a wave of help. It started with some equipment – a frame to go around the toilet to give Dad more steadiness, a wheelchair and a walker to help him get around, that kind of thing. They coordinated all the medication as well as the other Hospice nurses and the district nurses. We were visited regularly by nurses and the consultant came to see Dad too. We really had VIP treatment. Dad’s mood improved, he said he was feeling better and he was able to get up and around. They went above and beyond. It was absolutely phenomenal.
Every person we came into contact with from the Hospice really seemed to care. I remember our nurse turned up one day when we’d really been struggling. I said, “I wasn’t expecting to see you today” and she said, “I just came because I was worried.” Wow. That was exactly what we needed.
As time went on and things became more difficult for Dad the Hospice provided a hospital bed, and a commode. Then carers started to come to help dad in and out of bed and to get dressed. First it was once a day and in the end they came four times a day to help.
“They were there for us 24 hours and did everything possible”
The Hospice was brilliant about supporting the family too. My mum was getting very stressed and wasn’t sleeping, so they arranged for their nurses to start sitting with Dad at night. They also put us in touch with a ‘compassionate neighbour’ a lovely lady who lived locally for Mum to talk to. With the Hospice’s support, she was able to be a wife again, not a carer.
Princess Alice Hospice were there for us 24 hours. They said, “If there’s a problem in the night pick up the phone and we’ll be there”. From coordinating his care to speaking up on our behalf, they did absolutely everything. Not only did they have the authority and knowledge to do their best for us, they had an intimate understanding of what was going on in our house – and they had genuine empathy. They really seem to see it as a privilege to be part of your family and to help you find solutions and support you.
The Hospice team did everything possible to make sure Dad was as comfortable as he could be. What’s more, they kept our family unit together by giving us time to be with him, while they took care of his needs and allowed him to keep his dignity.
“The Hospice earned my trust and restored my faith in human nature”
With the Hospice’s support, Dad could have died comfortably at home, but he chose to go to the Hospice right at the end his life, as he thought it would be easier for us. So, when the nurses told us it was the beginning of the end they got him a bed and the ambulance and paramedics turned up to take him to what he called ‘the hotel’!
Dad got the most amazing care and we were told exactly what to expect. At the end, we were all with him. Thanks to the Hospice team, Mum had come to terms with the finality of it and she said to Dad, “OK love, time for you to go”. Within 10 or 15 seconds he stopped breathing. It was the most peaceful death.
Princess Alice Hospice was there for us then and they’ve been there ever since, calling to check we’re OK and offering us support. They turned a horrible scenario into something we could cope with and they reminded us of the human side of care. It was like being supported by a family. They earned our trust and restored my faith in human nature.
I want to do what I can to support Princess Alice Hospice so other local people can be cared for in their homes, where they want to be, whenever they need it – just as Dad was. If you’d like to help make that possible, please make a donation to our Care on your Doorstep Appeal today.
Helene was cared for at Princess Alice Hospice during the last days of her life in 2021. Throughout her mum’s illness, Helene’s daughter Jess spent time running; after her mum died, Jess decided she would put her fitness to good use and fundraise for us. Here, Jess tells us her story:
“Since mum’s diagnosis in October 2018, she fought hard, and won many of her battles. Despite the adversity, she was strong, lived life to the full, made as many plans as possible with friends and family, and we all changed our priorities to have a lovely long goodbye.
While we knew the end would come, it was tougher and greater than any of us expected. I knew that all mum longed for was a peaceful, pain free passing, and for a while, it didn’t look like that would be possible for her.
Everything changed when we got to the Hospice. Instead of failing to meet her needs, our only job, as her family, was to show her love. Everything she needed was anticipated, before we even knew it. The clinical staff showed her such respect and gave her her dignity back. In her last few days, all my mum knew was kindness and love, and I will be forever grateful to the Hospice for giving us that.
When I signed up for the Richmond Run fest Half Marathon, I hoped my mum would live forever. The 20 miles a week I completed over the course of a year helped get me through some of the darkest days, and now I want to use them to help others have what we were given. And all for free. At my mum’s worst, the Hospice staff were at their very best, and I will never forget what a difference they made to her last days and our devastating loss.
Thank you to all the angels at Princess Alice. I am in awe.”
Jess completed the Richmond RunFest Half Marathon in just over two hours and has so far raised almost £3,000.
100 miles in 100 days
90-year-old amputee Jan Bailey, was inspired by Captain Tom to get some exercise and raise some funds for Princess Alice Hospice.
Two very good friends of Jan’s who were part of a group of lady golfers had been under the care of the Hospice. First Elaine, who used the Wellbeing Centre for many years and then Maggie who was admitted to the In-Patient Unit.
When visiting Maggie, Jan had been extremely sad knowing it would be the last time they met, but was pleasantly surprised by how peaceful the Hospice was and how well her friend was being cared for. She knew she was leaving her in good hands.
On seeing Captain Tom’s daughter, Hannah, speak about his challenge, Jan decided to walk a mile a day for 100 days in memory of her friends. She started knocking on the doors of friends and neighbours in her road to let them know what she was doing and ask for their support.
Jan told us, “I hadn’t realised just how many houses were in my road, but I’ve now completed the 100 days walking up and down and have got to know so many people and watched the work they have been doing on their houses and gardens which has been fun, whatever the weather. People have been so kind and generous, it has been wonderful and I am delighted to have done it for such a great cause.”
Senior Partnerships Fundraiser at the Hospice, Kerry Brown, said, “Jan has done a marvellous job of raising funds in memory of her two close friends. 90 years old and an amputee- she’s put us all to shame, even COVID hasn’t stopped her! We’re so grateful for your support, Jan, thank you”
If you would like to do your own thing to raise funds and support the Hospice, you can find out more on their website.
Julian, supporter and runner
Julian’s wife Anne was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in 2013 while working abroad in international school teaching, and returned to the UK for chemotherapy at St Lukes Cancer Centre in Guildford. Several cycles of treatment kept the cancer growth at bay, and she was in remission for a while and well enough to start a new job. The tumours returned in 2018 and she was admitted to Princess Alice Hospice. Anne was at the Hospice for three weeks and she died on October 27th.
That Christmas, Julian’s family took part in the Princess Alice Hospice Santa Fun Run in Richmond Park, fundraising in memory of Anne. Then, when lockdown started in March 2020, Julian was inspired to take up a new challenge, again in memory of Anne. He set up a Just Giving page, shared on Facebook, with his friends and family sponsoring him.
“My daughter had a place in the London Marathon this year which was cancelled, so I decided to run my own marathon and increase the distance by ten, by running at least 5km each day until I reached the equivalent of ten marathons, which is 262 miles or 422kms. A Fitbit and GPS record steps, distance and map the route.
The running definitely had benefits for me. I suffer from chronic asthma, so inhalers are needed to help my breathing, but I was aided by a choice of uplifting tracks on the iPod. The Killers and Manic Street Preachers have proved useful companions. I feel much fitter, and my resting heart rate of around 52 isn’t bad for an old codger! Having said that, my knees are always complaining and want a holiday….
I live in Leatherhead, so there is a lot of open countryside and riverside tracks nearby, ideal for running off road, with many choices of routes. Since March, I’ve enjoyed seeing the local wildlife moving from spring into summer; trees budded, flowers bloomed, butterflies and dragonflies appeared and birdsong was everywhere. The river Mole had flooded the riverside paths and meadows in February, but is now keeping to its course. The ground was boggy and wet to start, now dried out and cracked after two months with very little rain. Many residents are now using the riverside and meadow walks. Other runners, walkers, dogs, children and cyclists have all made use of the area during lockdown, keeping to social distancing.
I started on March 26th, I haven’t missed a day since starting. Luckily the weather has been mostly sunny and dry.
I finished on 11 June 2020, after 78 consecutive days. But it’s strangely addictive. Why stop now? My trainers are calling out to be worn. Anne was living and teaching in Luxembourg when she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2013, and living in a lovely village called Manternach near the Moselle river and German border. Manternach is 508 km from Leatherhead, so I though that would be a fitting virtual destination. So that’s now my next challenge – despite the fact that I’m aching, especially my knees. The small 5km runs each day really added up, as they have to, to reach the 10 Marathon total of 422km. Physically I’ve lost weight, feel much fitter, and have “dropped a dress size” as my late wife Anne would say.
I hope I can inspire others to do a physical challenge and raise funds for the Princess Alice Hospice. My Facebook page has a lot of positive and encouraging comments. I’m not a natural athlete, and was often overtaken by fast walkers, and snails, but have really enjoyed setting a goal and with the support of family and friends, managed to achieve it. Lockdown isn’t all bad!”
As well as all that running, Julian has also found time to capture some of his experiences here.
Update 2/7/20 – we are delighted to confirm that Julian completed his ‘extra’ challenge and reached a total of 509km this week – well done Julian!
Update 26/10/20 – Julian has continued to run on a mostly daily basis and his ‘virtual’ journey across Europe has now seen him pass Walkringen, Switzerland, where he lived with Anne for 10 years; Bern, home of the international school that Julian taught at; and Geneva, home of another international school that he taught at! This brings Julian’s total distance run since lockdown to an incredibly impressive 969 km (602 miles) and he’s now aiming for the magic 1000km (621 miles).
Sheila Perry – China Trek
Sheila Perry is already looking beyond the challenge of the Great Wall of China Trek – with plans to grow in independence and take on further adventures in her life.
The trek represents for her the first determined steps in a new journey that she knows her late husband Michael would be proud to see her tackle.
She said: “Since Michael was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the staff from Princess Alice Hospice were always there for all of us – Michael, me and our family.”
During October last year Michael spent his final days being looked after by the Hospice ward staff. “They not only cared for him beautifully but also ensured that the whole family were supported during a very difficult time,” said Sheila.
Sheila is under no illusions about what the trek involves: “Signing up to do this venture will be a huge challenge for me, both mentally and physically,” she said.
“I have never taken part in anything like this before and I hope the eight-day trek will help me gain the confidence to get out and meet new people.”
Sheila is funding her own place on the trek – meaning all donations will go direct to the Hospice.
She has devoted her time between deciding on the challenge, and the date of departure itself, in training and organising other fundraising events.
On her return, she is determined to make the most of her new-found spirit of adventure.
She said: “From this challenge I hope to gain independence so that I can continue to make new adventures and look towards a future without Michael, whom I miss very much but I know he would be incredibly proud of me.”
Alison and Stuart were childhood sweethearts who moved to London from a small village in the north east of Scotland in 1982. They intended to stay for two years, but Alison is still here. Being away from all her family made Stuart’s diagnosis all the more difficult. Stuart was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, which started as a small mole on his leg, in 2001. Over the next 18 months the cancer spread and by Christmas 2002, he was unable to walk. The cancer had also spread to other areas in his body, including his brain, changing his personality.
“Stuart became very angry at being unwell and decided not to tell his family in Scotland the full extent of the cancer. They knew he was ill, but were unaware of how ill he really was, which put incredible pressure on me, but I knew it was Stuarts way of coping.
Whilst I could do whatever I could to help in a practical way, I felt I couldn’t help him with his emotions. I was also feeling overwhelmed and worried about our two sons, Iain and Alex who were only nine and 12 at the time. After having to call an ambulance on 27th December just to get him in to bed, Stuart was referred to the Hospice. An appointment with his consultant at St Georges Hospital on January 3rd 2003, told us both that Stuart had already lived for nine months longer than was expected, so we actually left that meeting in quite good spirits knowing that we’d had more time together. Stuart was still very angry though, the Chaplaincy Team at the Hospice visited him regularly and with all the positivity of the staff he came into contact with, they helped him to lose his fear and accept what was happening, he then became peaceful and content. ‘The boys began to spend a lot of time at the Hospice and were always welcomed and chatted to by staff and volunteers. They never felt scared and when Stuart died on 14th January, the boys were supported by the Bereavement Team who helped them enormously.
They wouldn’t talk to me for fear of upsetting me and I knew they were keeping it to themselves, so the support they received was invaluable. In the years that followed, I went back to work, but my youngest son Iain really struggled, thinking his mum wasn’t coming home every day. I called the Hospice to see if they could point me in the right direction in terms of some help for him and before I knew it, the very same bereavement counsellor was on my doorstep. I couldn’t quite believe that after two years, the Hospice would still support us. They never abandoned us. What they did for us was above and beyond what I would have expected. I knew then that I would do something for the Hospice, but I didn’t know what or when.
Then in December 2018, a neighbour of mine was admitted and I came to the Hospice to visit. I felt then that I could come back and offer my help in return for all the help the Hospice gave me and my boys and so I applied to be a volunteer and was accepted. Now I am an Ambassador and Community Fundraiser and get involved in all sorts of volunteering ranging from organising collecting tins for local shops and GP surgeries to speaking to children at local schools about the Hospice and the care it provides. I never know what I am going to be asked to do and I really like that. When I was working in London, I was part of a large team and I am now part of the Hospice team. I enjoy it so much.”
Heather Patel – China Trek
Heather Patel decided to take on a challenge of her own choosing – having tackled physical and mental challenges thrust upon her by cancer treatment.
She has chosen to join the Great Wall of China trek as both a once in a lifetime challenge and a celebration of life.
She’s just retired from General Practice after 34 years and chose to mark her 60th year in this truly memorable way.
She said: “I have worked closely with Princess Alice in my professional role for 28 years and am grateful to them on a personal level for the care they delivered to my sister in law, Bhavna.
“I chose to do the China trek when I was walking back to health after having treatment for cancer. My journey of recovery was with thanks and praise for all the excellent care I received from The Royal Marsden Hospital and sustained by walking.
Heather has been living with her cancer diagnosis for three years, during which time she has undertaken walks all over the Surrey Hills, the North Downs and South Downs Ways – “Basically anywhere and everywhere that there was an opportunity,” she said, “with friends and on my own, but never alone.
“Walking has been the most important therapy for me and saw me through even the darkest times.
“The Great Wall of China is going to be a challenge and celebration of life while bringing real benefit to the Princess Alice Hospice.”
Maggie Hennessy – China Trek
Maggie Hennessy’s motivation to take on the China Trek was triggered by seeing the challenge advertised last year.
She said: “I never thought I would get up Box Hill, never mind contemplate trekking on the Great Wall of China,” adding “But that’s what I’m about to embark on – fingers crossed!
She said it just seemed the right thing to do – and signed up when Princess Alice Hospice offered the opportunity for the challenge of a lifetime.
It has been just over three years since her partner Bruce died at the Hospice, where, Maggie said, both he and she were given such loving care.
Bruce loved life and was a fit an active person, tackling marathons, skiing, sailing, golf and more: “He was such an accomplished sportsman I knew he was willing me to do this,” said Maggie.
She, preferring to support him from the sidelines, has since found herself packing her suitcase with all manner of gadgets she’d never possessed before – walking poles, camel pack, kinetic tape among the rest.
Her training started in earnest in January, since when she’d been out walking most weekends. “The Great Wall Trek has given me a goal to work and walk towards,” she said.
It has struck her that she never thought the third year of loss would be so difficult, if different to the first, but it has, she said.
It has also brought different experiences and insights: “I’ve made new friends and have been overwhelmed by the generosity of family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances; people are so willing to sponsor if you just ask – and most are not aware of the funding challenges faced by hospices such as Princess Alice Hospice.
“I’d like to encourage everyone to keep raising money for such a fantastic organisation and support the valuable work they do in the Hospice as well as the community.”
Life lessons suit volunteer role
Retired project manager Fiona Bath has used her working life skills in a variety of roles since becoming an events project co-ordinator volunteer for Princess Alice Hospice.
Having spent the final 11 years of her employment in property development and refurbishment projects – spending countless hours driving all over the country – she decided to decompress for a few months before taking up any new pursuits.
Her first forays into active retirement have been to take up yoga, walking, going to the gym and starting a three-year garden design diploma course.
“I love gardening and wanted to keep my brain active,” she said.
It was yoga that led her to Princess Alice – via a fellow yoga student who is a garden volunteer at the Hospice’s Esher base and who recommended she give volunteering a go.
Fiona, who lives in Epsom, had often driven past the building on her daily commute – she once worked for Air Products in Hersham. She knew about the Hospice because friends and colleagues had been cared for there over the years.
Having checked out the volunteering opportunities on the website, Fiona was attracted to the events project co-ordinator role because it requires an array of the skills she has learned and developed during her working life.
She added: “It offers a variety of things to get involved in, doesn’t require regular commitment and you can dip in and out as much as you wish.”
After a simple recruitment process, Fiona became a member of the Community & Events Team.
She has since joined in or helped organise a host of events and activities at the Hospice and further afield, meeting dozens of new people and expanding her experiences.
Her first foray into events was to co-host a get-together at the Hospice, for a group of fundraising walkers at Easter. This has been followed by joining cheer stations for the London Marathon and Ride London, contributing to the Towpath Trundle and Summer Fete with this year’s Santa Fun Run already penciled in.
She was tasked with handling the summer fete live music bookings, co-ordinating the performance timetable, liaising with the bands and performers, and drawing up a layout for the fete.
Her project management background came in very useful, as she found herself within her comfort zone in a different setting.
On the day, apart from her responsibility for the music offering, she said she also found herself pitching in and helping out in other roles as and when – which she admits was thoroughly enjoyable, if a little tiring.
“I roped in my husband, Paul, as well – popped him in a Hospice tee-shirt, and we spent a lovely day. By the end, we were ready for home, but having really enjoyed ourselves along the way.”
The highlights of volunteering for Fiona are the variety of the roles, the flexibility, ability to undertake some of the admin side at home in the evenings or weekends – which means she doesn’t compromise any of her leisure or learning activities.
“Overall, the satisfaction of having made a difference is a great feeling,” she said.
>>>> The events project co-ordinator role has a few criteria to consider, for anyone thinking it might suit them to take part.
Desirable skills and personal qualities:
- Experience of event organising/project management
- Trustworthy and reliable
- Friendly and approachable
- Passion for the Hospice and good knowledge of the services we provide
- Outgoing and willing to be ‘hands-on’
- Good knowledge of the services we offer
- A commitment to our values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence
For more information visit https://www.pah.org.uk/join-our-team/want-volunteer/volunteering-roles/
Triathletes in training
What started as a family tribute to a much-loved sister turned into a memorable event for neighbours, friends and colleagues – and raised more than £11,000 for Princess Alice Hospice.
Rachel Smith was 44 when she died of cancer in November last year, leaving behind her husband, Graham, and three children under 12. She died in the Hospice after several years living with the condition.
Her sister Helen Marsh, said: “The care she – and we all – received in the weeks she spent at the Hospice was exceptional.”
“It was a heartbreaking and tragic thing to lose her, but was so much easier to bear because of the kindness and support shown to us by the Hospice.”
Always an active member of the community where her family lived near Oxford, and subsequently in New Malden, Rachel lived life to the full according to Helen.
So it was a fitting tribute for her loved ones to take on the challenge of the Blenheim Triathlon, which Rachel herself had conquered several times – even while suffering the effects of cancer and chemo treatment.
When Helen, a lawyer, announced earlier this year she was aiming to enter the Blenheim event, friends and family stepped forward to join her – including a few who had limited experience of the swimming, cycling and running involved.
Participants included fellow parents at Christchurch School, neighbours and friends made up a group of 20 or so entrants. Their training took over their lives from January until the event in June.
With two levels of competition, everyone found something they could aim for.
Among them, family friend and Christchurch French teacher Victoria Robinson and Helen’s neighbour Lucy Bond – another Christchurch teacher – supported each other throughout – finishing together on the day.
With everyone having enjoyed the atmosphere and camaraderie of the experience, which was followed by a picnic organised by Rachel and Helen’s mum Catherine, places for the 2020 triathlon are already booked.
Dave Caicedo – sport and support
A young man who admits he made a bad impression on his first visit, is now dedicated to helping other men facing similar circumstances that brought him to Princess Alice Hospice – and in the years since.
His experience of bereavement and sharing his journey by talking with friends and family, has inspired him to set up an informal group for men struggling with their emotions as a result of serious illness or a loved one’s death.
Dave Caicedo, a PE teacher and personal trainer, was 27 when his mum Gloria was due to be admitted to the Hospice for physio and respite care in September 2016. She was suffering secondary cancer after treatment for thyroid cancer.
But things didn’t pan out as expected, said Dave.
“She had caught an infection in transit to the Hospice and, with her immune system being so weak, her condition quickly deteriorated,” he said.
The Hospice alerted him and he dashed to Esher from work – running into the reception area, where his emotions got the better of him and he was curt with the volunteer at the desk: “I was asked to sign in, but I was so stressed I grabbed the pen, scribbled on the paper and demanded to see my Mum,” he recalled. “I was so rude to the receptionist!
“I felt so bad afterwards and went back to apologise – it was amazing – they were so understanding and kind.”
For the next few days, Dave, his brother Cesar and Dad Arturo virtually lived at the Hospice – being accommodated in the family room.
“The generosity of the nurses in caring for us as well, was second to none,” said Dave. “They made sure we were OK, as well as making Mum as comfortable as they could – it was brilliant.
“We can’t sing the Hospice’s praises enough.”
The family were at his Mum’s side when she died the following Tuesday, aged 64.
“She did get to see her three-month-old granddaughter, Evie, who’d been brought down from Liverpool by my brother; it was a very emotional time for us all,” said Dave.
Now it’s his Dad Arturo who is under the care of the Hospice – via the Hospice At Home service, whereby he receives regular visits for palliative care for a brain tumour.
“Having seen the outstanding care and compassion that Mum received before she died, Dad knows he’ll be looked after in the best possible way,” said Dave.
Having been given the chance to say goodbye to his Mum, and being supported in his experience with his family during an intensely sad period of their lives, Dave has vowed to help other men struggling with their emotions – especially related to diagnosis of cancer, or bereavement as a result.
“Talking helps so much to tackle mental health issues,” he said, “and I’ve decided to set up a men’s group based around fitness and exercise – with the opportunity to talk as well.”
In the same way as the Hospice Man Shed encourages men to undertake woodwork projects in the company of others affected by terminal illness or bereavement, Dave is aiming to help those who prefer sport and other active pursuits.
“Men find it hard to just meet up to talk about their emotions – sports and training are catalysts to get us communicating,” said Dave.
As well as boxing training, 5-a-side and circuit training, Dave is happy to organize other fitness activities to suit the people wishing to come along: “It could be a walk or a trip somewhere,” he said.
He and his wife Krystina have their sights set on the ASICS 10k in London, which they hope to complete in under an hour while raising money for the Hospice.
Their comment reads: “We were so touched by this wonderful charity who genuinely made a difference at such a difficult and sad time, and can’t think of a more worthy cause to raise money for.”
They have a Justgiving page set up for those who wish to donate – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/krystina-higgins
Dave can be contacted via his Facebook page, DC Sport and Fitness.
Rachel Edwards – Half Iron Man contender
My fundraising for Princess Alice Hospice is in memory of my Dad.
I am from Staines, Middlesex. I went to school in Hounslow, and went on to study at Southampton University School of Medicine.
I graduated in 2012 and started work as a doctor in and around Kent, Surrey and South London hospitals until August 2017.
I moved and lived most recently in the UK in Motspur Park, New Malden. I then moved to New Zealand in August 2017 with my partner Brad. My main motivations for this were wanting to have a “life adventure”, to work in and experience a different healthcare system, and make the most of the outdoor lifestyle I knew New Zealand had to offer.
I also wanted to do something I considered “brave” – and moving countries definitely is! My Dad lived in Australia at a similar age to me and often spoke fondly of his adventures there and I think this added to my curiosity about exploring the Southern Hemisphere.
While at school I rowed competitively for Staines Boat Club junior squad. I think my hours of training with this squad set me up well for the subsequent exercise-related pursuits I have since taken part in – both in terms of a good base of physical fitness, but also building mental stamina for tough training regimes and endurance exercise.
At university, other passions (mainly for partying, less so studying!) got in the way of maintaining rowing training. I was a gym go-er but infrequently. It was only really on starting work after university that I went back to regular exercise. I found it to be a good stress reliever.
Inspired to run
My Dad passed away in August 2015, we were very close, it was a very difficult time for the whole family. We were all excellently supported by Princess Alice Hospice and I was inspired to run the London Marathon as a fundraiser.
I did this in 2016 and really loved both the training and the fundraising. In fact, without the fundraising pressure I’m not sure I would have managed to get through the training! I completed a couple of half marathons in the run-up to this event as a practice. In doing that, I realised I wasn’t that bad at running.
With a four-hour marathon (and 21 seconds, which I prefer to forget!) on my first attempt, I thought perhaps I would continue to train and compete at local events. I also wanted to beat Dad’s marathon time (didn’t quite manage that, turns out he was a pretty quick runner!). I think my involvement with the marathon as my first real endurance event sparked my subsequent interest in endurance triathlon.
First big challenge and beyond
The London Marathon was my first real endurance exercise feat. Hours of fairly solitary training are tough going physically and mentally. I found ways to make it fun though! And that driver – that people were donating the whole time – was really motivating.
In the months after the marathon I found it quite difficult to continue to be motivated to run without an event in mind. The post-marathon blues that people talk about are real.
So I took a break from it. I carried on looking into other sporting things, including road cycling. My partner Brad is a very keen, very good road cyclist, and he would often spend hours on weekend mornings out on his bike on over 100km rides.
I thought it might be a “relationship goal” for me to train enough to one day be able to go out on rides with him (although at this point in time I was wobbly after about 10kms, let alone 100).
Despite attempts to get out on the bike, I could never quite get into it or enjoy it. I found London roads quite intimidating to train on and had no accomplices to train with of a similar ability. I even found Richmond park a bit frantic and hilly. I just wasn’t that bike-fit despite fairly regular spin classes at the gym.
I haven’t done any fundraising events since the marathon, I would like to do a UK-based ironman event when I am back living there, and I would be keen to use this as a fundraiser for the hospice. Watch this space…!
I find it difficult to commit to fundraising for other charities when Princess Alice is so close to my heart.
Skip forwards a couple of years to now, and I have somehow managed to complete a Half Ironman triathlon (1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21.2km run), got myself an age group qualifying spot for the World Championship Half Ironman event in Nice, France, in September 2019 and am being coached by a professional Ironman.
My triathlon journey began because Brad was training for an Ironman and training all hours and I felt lazy in comparison.
I knew I could do endurance sports after the marathon, so I downloaded myself a free “20 week beginner half ironman triathlon” training programme online – thinking I would just make a start and see what happened. Like most beginner triathletes, rather than start at a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, I just went straight to the half ironman event!
I have never been a particularly good swimmer, my cycling prowess consisted of simply owning a bike, but I knew I could run well.
Naively, I thought to myself, how hard can it be to get good at all three? Very, is that answer to that. Especially when balancing it with a full-on day job.
The hours on the training programme quickly ramped up. Having said that, with a much easier work/life balance in New Zealand than in the UK, I figured that if I was ever going to do this, now was the time.
Having started the training programme on a whim to “just see”, the more I got through it, the more determined I was to complete it and compete in the 70.3 Half Ironman event, Taupo, New Zealand, December 2018.
To help with fitting in effective training sessions, I enlisted the help of a coach – Simon Cochrane, a professional Ironman from New Zealand.
He sends me weekly training programmes tailored to my work/social commitments. They are often in excess of 12 hours of training a week. In real life this works out as around two training sessions a day with one rest day a week. I usually have a long cycle at the weekends (3-4 hours) with either a long-ish swim or run, followed by a recovery swim/ride/run on a Sunday (this can still be around two hours in duration). I can now easily do that 100km that used to scare me in London – in fact I am looking forward to hitting London roads with my new bike skills, fitness and confidence when I come back to visit the UK.
I was aiming to complete the half ironman in 6 hours. I did it in 5 hours 35 mins. Not bad for a first go and a very stressful swim start because I got lost on the way to the start line.
I completed the half marathon only a minute slower than my personal best half marathon time! (of 1:44:00) The hours of training do work! I came 7th in my age group, which was a high enough rank to secure a world championships place which is very, very exciting!
As training exercises, and for fun, I have also competed in other local swim, cycle and running events. I ran a Personal Best 10km time recently as well as won my age group for the Tour de Ranges Road cycling race.
The biggest event in the calendar is the Half Ironman World Champs in September. My goal is to get my time down to 5 hours… All training and efforts are focused on that at the moment. I am also signing up for another 70.3 event in May in Australia. This will be a good mid-year event to see how my times are looking…
I don’t believe in unrealistic expectations. If something seems like it’s going to be difficult or near impossible, it probably is, but all the more reason to have a go at tackling it.
If I were asked to give advice to someone thinking of taking up a sport or other challenging activity, I’d say: “Go for it!”
I always find that buying a new piece of kit is a good motivator to get going on something. I would also recommend finding a local club for the sports that might have a beginner squad you could start your training with. Having friends in the sport makes the hours of training way more enjoyable. You can also learn loads of tips and hints from those you meet that are more experienced at racing.
The benefits of exercise are definitely good for both the body and mind!
And finally . . .
I’ve made a great group of friends through the triathlon club I joined and now regularly go out on group rides, I own not one, but two racing bikes for road and triathlon. I can’t recommend triathlon enough. Even as various injuries have cropped up, you can just train in the other discipline and get good at that while the injury heals.
Amanda Sives – Hebrides Half-Marathon
My fundraising for Princess Alice Hospice is in memory of my cousin’s wife.
I decided to run the half-marathon in Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides in the year that I turn 50.
My parents were based on the Hebrides for a couple of years as my dad John was stationed at the rocket range based in South Uist; he was a mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).
I was born in South Uist and lived in Benbecula until I was two years old. Since then, our family have visited on several occasions for holidays.
Our most recent visit was last summer – my parents, my husband, daughter and the dog had a wonderful week in Lewis, Harris and the Uists. It is one of my favourite places in the world.
The landscape has a very powerful impact on me. The remoteness, the natural, unspoilt beauty and the quiet give a fresh sense of perspective. The trivial worries of everyday life are robbed of their power over me by the peace I feel in the silence and stillness of the natural landscape.
My cousin Jim’s lovely wife Mary Reid passed away after I had made the decision to enter the race and I thought it would be a fitting tribute to take part in her memory and to raise money for Princess Alice Hospice, who had supported her through her illness.
Lifetime of caring
Mary and Jim were both born in Kilmarnock, Scotland and moved to Hounslow more than 30 years ago.
Mary was a full-time mother to their three children and, 10 years ago, Jim and Mary became the full-time carers for their three grandchildren. The youngest of them – Robert, who is now 13 – was born with significant disabilities but under the care of Jim and Mary has made amazing progress.
He continues to live with Jim who is supported in his care by Robert’s Aunt Rosemary. Mary and Jim are well-known in their local area as generous-hearted, kind people who have always made themselves available to help out family and friends. They were familiar faces at the local pub the Ailsa Tavern where they made many good friends. It was a fitting tribute to Mary that we all celebrated her life at the Ailsa following her funeral.
Although Mary was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she continued to care for her family and live her life to the full. Over the last year, as her health declined, the Princess Alice Hospice offered invaluable care to Mary.
They were also a support for her main carers, Jim and Rosemary. Their expertise and encouragement allowed Mary to remain at home receiving palliative care until she passed away in March of this year. I know it meant a great deal to Mary that she was able to remain at home with Jim and Robert.
Benefits of running
I live on the Wirral with my husband Chris (who has just retired from working for the local authority), my daughter (aged seven) and our dog (aged 15).
My husband also enjoys running and cycling and my daughter has completed two 1k races over the last few years.
I am self-employed as a counsellor and I am about to start a part-time job teaching counselling at Chester University.
I have been running on and off since I turned 40. I began running to improve my fitness but I now find that it helps my mental and physical health. Being outside, listening to music while I run and thinking things over has had a definite benefit for me.
I do find it hard sometimes to motivate myself so having a race to train for – in this case, on June 1, really helps me get out of the door.
I have completed 10k races around my local area, mainly in Liverpool and Chester; the most recent was in April when I ran the Mersey Tunnel 10k with my friend Deb.
I have only completed one half-marathon – in 2015, in Chester. It was challenging and since then I have tended to concentrate on the 10K distance which is more comfortable for me.
The half-marathon in Benbecula was too enticing to miss and training for it has helped me find my motivation! I do not have any more races planned this year as I am waiting to see how I feel after the half-marathon in June.
My dad is coming to support me. He lives with my Mum in Somerset and is also very excited about the trip and the race. We have planned a few days sight-seeing around the islands before and after the race and he also hopes to catch up with some old friends.
I am excited to be participating in a half marathon in a very beautiful place and to be raising money for such a worthwhile charity.
Andrew Dubey-James – Facebook Fundraiser
Quick off the mark – and the first to sign up as a Facebook Fundraiser for Princess Alice Hospice – is a Teddington-based supporter raising funds in memory of his Dad.
Andrew Dubey-James celebrated his 46th birthday by forgoing presents in favour of collecting online donations for the Hospice, which provided home-based care for his father, Charlie, before he died.
“I was talking to my Mum, Pat, about the ‘Hospice at Home’ nurse (also called Andrew) who had given us such tremendous support. By coincidence, I spotted the appeal for Facebook Fundraisers”.
“There were no two ways about it, so I signed up and set a target of £200,” he said.
“The help my Mum and Dad (Charlie) received was tremendous; it was entirely through the ‘Hospice at Home’ service that Dad could stay with his loved ones. The carers who came around were absolutely amazing. They took care of everything he needed to be happy and comfortable.
“Mum was given emotional support which enabled her to spend quality time with Dad during his final days.”
Andrew’s appeal message to friends and family on Facebook reads: “For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to Princess Alice Hospice.
“I’ve chosen this charity because of the help and support they gave my family and especially my Dad during his last few weeks, so their mission means a lot to me, and I hope that you’ll consider contributing as a way of saying thank you.”
The response from those who saw his message quickly broke through his target and reached £270 as the deadline arrived.
Andrew, an Army Staff Sergeant based at DMRC Headley Court, Epsom, spent his birthday literally plastered; he recently tripped at work and broke both wrists. It didn’t prevent him raising a glass on his big day with thanks to all those who donated in his dad’s memory.
If you would like to create your own Facebook Fundraiser click here.
Corporate fundraising for Santa Fun Run – TY Danjuma Family Office
TY Danjuma Family Office is a small organisation offering wealth management and investment services to a single client in Esher. They have supported the annual Santa Fun Runs for the past two years, raising a total of £9,295.16 for Princess Alice Hospice. TY Danjuma Family Office can testify to the benefits of encouraging their employees to tackle the runs as a corporate team.
Simon Foster (pictured on the right), Chief Executive at TY Danjuma Family Office, said his staff are “passionate about taking part in the Santa Fun Run events as they provide a great opportunity to do something to actually raise money and awareness of Princess Alice Hospice, rather than just directly donating”.
“We are proud to support Princess Alice Hospice as our local charity so we often look for ways to fundraise for them, which are more than simply donating. The family office feels that corporate social responsibility is one of the most beneficial qualities that a company should portray, and their philanthropic stance embodies that.”
Simon said: “It’s not just the fundraising that is so rewarding to us, the training for the Santa Fun Run is a great reason for us to ensure we are focusing on the importance of exercise and team building too. Some employees have even formed a small office running team! They aim to set aside some time twice a week to head out of the office to train in Littleworth Common, so that when the Santa Fun Run comes around in December, they are well prepared.”
“Giving our employees a chance to give back to their working community also encourages a sense of pride in themselves and in the company that they work for,” said Hannatu Gentles, Chief Operating Officer of TY Danjuma Family Office. “We’re all proud to work for an organisation that has a strong ethical stance and is supportive of charitable programmes.”
TY Danjuma Family Office has a policy of matching funds raised by employees, allowing those who participate in charitable fundraising to double their donation amount to provide even more funding for worthwhile causes.
Katy Woollard, Assistant Family Officer and member of the family offices’ Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, said: “My colleagues and I value the fact that we have to work hard to raise funds ourselves initially, but are then gifted the additional funds towards our donation. It makes employees feel motivated to raise as much as possible and then have those funds doubled by their employer.”
Angela Grimes, Deputy Director, Fundraising at Princess Alice Hospice, said: “We are deeply grateful for TY Danjuma’s generous support for the Hospice – not just in the funds they donate, but in their attitude towards enabling their staff to contribute.
“They are a brilliant example of how employers can make a huge difference by fostering a charitable culture in the workplace. As we’ve seen, the organisation also benefits by improved morale and opportunities for team-building.”
If you’re keen to know more, you can read more about our fundraising events and how you can take part.
When Tracey’s mum, Ann, died peacefully at the Hospice, she was surrounded by 30 members of her family – many of whom had travelled down from Liverpool to be with her.
Tracey’s mum died where she wanted, at the Hospice. Tracy and her family were very grateful for the care they received: “Everyone from kitchen to ward staff were marvellous and very accommodating – which was great especially as we are a very large family.”
Last year was the second year Tracey has run in the Santa Fun Run event at Bushy Park. Her team of seven, called Doris’s Darlings, was made up of four adults and three children aged 6, 7 and 8.
In the previous year they pulled the youngest along in a cart, but last year he was very much looking forward to running with everyone. “It’s a really fun event, with a fantastic atmosphere. The boys all enjoy dressing up as elves. We usually set a target of £150 to raise.”
“Even after my mum died, the Hospice is still there to offer support. My dad goes to Man Shed every week and made a wooden box there for mum’s ashes. It’s a fantastic place, and we are very happy to be able to help raise the money needed to provide the support they offer.”
Lucy lost her nan to cancer in September 2017. She decided to take part in last year’s Santa Fun Run in Bushy Park, as her nan would have loved seeing her dressed in a Santa suit; having fun and looking silly.
“I am doing this because I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love and kindness all those at the Hospice showed to my nan. It was truly touching.”
It can be very hard for family members to see someone they love be so poorly. “The staff at Princess Alice Hospice helped to make things as easy as possible, not only for my wonderful nan, but the family too. She couldn’t have spent her last few days in a better place, and we are so grateful for the amazing care she received there.”
Although Lucy says her life won’t be the same without her beloved nan, she wants to continue to make her proud in everything she does. Taking part in last year’s Santa Fun Run, Lucy wanted to help raise much needed funds for the Hospice: “I know my nan would have loved this event and we would have shared a laugh about it. The staff at the Hospice were able to give my nan and the family so much care and attention in those last few weeks of her life, and it is comforting to know the money raised will help Princess Alice Hospice care for other patients and their families in the same way.”
Running in the Santa Fun Run at Richmond Park has become a pre-Christmas family tradition for Jonathan and his family. Last year marked the 6th Santa Fun Run Jonathan has entered since his wife Jo died of breast cancer in 2010.
Jo was transferred from hospital to the Hospice where she died a week later. “The atmosphere is very different at the Hospice. It’s a lovely place and the care she received there was wonderful.”
When Jonathan decides how much he hopes to raise each year, he looks at the Hospice’s “wish list”; for example, to see how much it costs to provide a morning’s care. “That is the target I will set myself. I like to see how any money raised can help the Hospice.”
Last year Jonathan entered with a team of eight, including his partner’s children aged 10 and 12.
“My sister encouraged me to enter the first time, as she and her husband are both keen runners. I do run, but don’t set a target time!”
“I live in Sheen, so close by to the park and I am looking forward to donning the red suit as it’s a great charity and one close to my heart.”
What do you do for your 80th birthday when you have spent your career as a cameraman travelling the world and covering war zones? Jump out of a plane from 15,000 feet to raise money for a good cause of course. Our bereavement volunteer Tony has always led a very active and exciting life. His career as a cameraman took him all around the world from Sahara to Singapore, covering anything from political events to fashion shoots to war zones. But he always preferred the thrill of the latter: “I had a wonderful life, it was never boring”, Tony remembers.
Sometimes work would take Tony to situations that most people would consider too thrilling. Whilst filming, Tony has had rocks thrown at him, slept in the jungle, spent a night in prison in Burundi, and whilst covering a war in Algiers, he nearly got shot. “But the difficult part for me was retiring”, says Tony.
Never a man to just sit back and relax, Tony joined the bereavement volunteer team at Princess Alice Hospice, which turned out to be a new kind of challenge. Six months after joining the volunteer bereavement team, Tony found himself in need of bereavement support. Tony’s ex-wife, to whom he was still very close, died very suddenly and completely unexpectedly. “But just being at Princess Alice Hospice at that time was of terrific comfort to me”, says Tony, who said talking to people at the Hospice was tremendously consoling. Tony also went along to the Hospice’s bereavement support walking groups, and after some time, resumed with his volunteering role.
“I feel very fortunate to be part of the Princess Alice Hospice family”
When Tony was deciding how to mark his milestone birthday, he knew he wanted to give something back. He decided to fundraise for the Hospice as he has lived locally for many years and witnessed the amazing work the Hospice does. Tony also wanted to do something in memory of his late ex-wife, and skydive was exactly the thing to do for thrill-seeker Tony: “I wanted to do something mischievous, and something different”. The final thing to convince Tony was when he heard of a lady who skydived for her 90th birthday, “I thought if she can do it, I can do it”.
So when asked if he has any tips for anyone who was considering skydiving and fundraising for the Hospice, Tony’s answers without hesitation: “Just do it.”
“Dad climbed Kilimanjaro many times. He loved the place.”
Julia Wallace lost her beloved Dad seven years ago. He and her mother had lived in Africa for 28 years and the family decided that it would be fitting to take some of his ashes back to one of his favourite places – Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. As it turned out, Julia got the chance not just to visit the mountain but to climb it and raise money for Princess Alice Hospice, who had cared for her father in his last days.
“Starting the mountain at £3000 helped psychologically.”
Julia joined a team of six women taking on the challenge. “I’d never done anything like that before and I knew that statistically one in 4 people don’t make it to the top,” she recalls. But Julia was determined to do her best for her Dad and Princess Alice Hospice. Setting up a Just Giving page and seeing the money start to come in was really motivating. As she boarded the plane, she knew she already had £3,000 in donations.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
However, as she’d been ill before she left, Julia was worried she wasn’t going to make it. “I took altitude sickness medicine, which really worked. And there are medics there who keep an eye on you.”
After five days walking and five nights camping Julia and her friends reached the top. She was exhausted but elated. “You have such a stunning view. It was better than any other sunset because of where we were and where we’d got to.”
“I don’t think you appreciate what a hospice does until you use one.”
Julia is thrilled at her achievement and at raising a total of over £5,000. “I know how important funds are to the Hospice,” she says. “Dad was at Princess Alice Hospice for ten days and the care he received was the best he’d had during his illness. They are just the most lovely people and everything was made memorable.” But now Julia has another motivation to carry on fundraising. Her husband walked across a desert in Jordan for Princess Alice Hospice and beat Julia’s total. “I guess I will just have to do something else to beat him,” she laughs.
“The Day Hospice is like a big armchair giving everyone a big hug.”
Liz Rodgers has worked at the Day Hospice for five years and she’s very clear about the role it plays in patients’ lives. “At the Day Hospice we help people live with their diagnosis – and for most people there’s still a lot of living to be done.”
Patients come once a week and enjoy a day of activities such as art and pottery, entertainment, complementary therapies and, if they wish, spiritual support from the Chaplaincy team. “We always tell people it’s their day and they can do whatever they want,” says Liz, “But there’s always lots of chatting and laughter.”
“You can actually see where your money is going.”
Like most of the Hospice’s services, the Day Hospice relies on the generosity of donors to keep going. “We always grateful for any donation, large or small,” she says. One example are the recliner chairs. They cost around £5,000 but they are essential to the patients. “Often people get tired easily because of their illness or their treatment. So, it’s really important for them to be able to lie back and sleep whenever they need to.”
But Liz stresses that people don’t have to give a lot to make a difference. “We get through a lot of art materials so a few pounds to buy paints really helps. And it means so much to our patients to be able to take home things they’ve made at the end of the day. Or £5 could pay for a patient’s lunch. And then there’s biscuits. If people don’t have much appetite, they can often manage a biscuit – and it’s so lovely to see them enjoying a treat.”
“It’s like a little oasis. People feel safe here.”
The Day Hospice plays a vital role in the lives of patients and their carers. “Without us, some patients just wouldn’t get out because other day centres can’t cope with their needs or provide the volunteer drivers to get them there,” says Liz. For carers too the Day Hospice provides some much needed respite.
“Day Hospice is a great example of holistic care at its best. We look after the whole person and often the whole family too. And it’s such an uplifting place to be – full of laughter and where very special friendships are made.” With the help of our supporters, we hope it will carry on being that ‘little oasis’ for a long time to come.
“We like working for a company that cares.”
International courier company DHL deliver items all over the world. But they also deliver much needed support to Princess Alice Hospice. Keith Sturge, from DHL’s office in Slough, explains how the company first got involved: “The husband of a colleague had been cared for at Princess Alice. One day I went to the Hospice with her to see his name in the book of remembrance. Our involvement with the Hospice really started from there.”
“Because we go to the Hospice, we can see where our money is going.”
Every September around 25 DHL employees celebrate Global Volunteer Day by giving up a day to work for Princess Alice Hospice. They’re put to work painting garden furniture, mending fences, delivering leaflets and helping out with admin. “We get a lot out of volunteering,” he says, “It’s so rewarding – it adds to our sense of wellbeing.”
Being at the Hospice also made Keith and his colleagues realise just how badly their support is needed. “When we realised how much it costs to run a hospice, it spurred us on”, Keith says. Over time, DHL’s support for the Hospice has grown, so that as well as volunteering for us, they have become some of our most enthusiastic fundraisers.
“You’d be surprised how much it contributes to team work.”
The company runs events all year round to raise money for the Hospice. The charity car wash day alone raised a fantastic £1,200. There are also book sales, raffles and collections throughout the year and one brave lady took part in the Santa Fun Run! “Fundraising is good for getting us together as a team and doing something different,” says Keith, “It’s a real bonding experience.”
What’s really great, is that the company fully supports everything their employees do for the Hospice. DHL provides a Match It! programme which enables the Hospice to receive further funds in recognition of DHL’s employee volunteering and fundraising activities. Fortunately for us, DHL is keen to keep up their relationship with the Hospice. “We have personal attachments to Princess Alice Hospice,” says Keith, “it’s close to our hearts.”
“Take a brave step and go there.”
Keith doesn’t hesitate to recommend working with Princess Alice to other local companies: “At some point in your life someone in your family, company or community may need help from the Hospice. It’s opened my eyes to what end of life care is and what we can all contribute. Plus it’s such a welcoming place to be – I find it a very calming experience and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
“I was very happy for Geraint to come to the Hospice.”
Alessandra Passian has a very special relationship with Princess Alice Hospice. Her partner, Geraint was cared for and passed away here and now she is helping raise money for us. Here she shares her remarkable story…
“In May 2012 my partner Geraint, 48, began to complain of sharp headaches. Then one night in June, he woke me saying “take me to the hospital, I feel really sick. We went to Epsom Hospital where tests revealed he had a stage 4 brain cancer.”
Geraint was an active man who loved golf, driving and sailing. It was truly devastating news. After surgery to remove part of the cancer and therapy Geraint lost weight and the sight in his right eye.
One weekend in May 2013 he had a really high temperature and was admitted for tests at the Royal Marsden. I was told we had days or maybe weeks. Geraint’s Princess Alice nurses were absolutely magnificent, so when the time came to move him, I was very happy for Geraint to come to the Hospice.
“I thought this is just an amazing environment.”
We arrived on a Friday in June. The room was beautiful. A nurse brought fruit and I helped Geraint feed himself. He looked at me and said “Thank you, that’s it.” And those were his last words before he went into a kind of semi-coma.
In the early hours of Monday morning, a nurse said:”Alessandra, I think he’s ready.” So I was able to put my head on Geraint’s chest and hug him in his last few minutes. I’m so pleased that I was able to do that.
“People were very kind and supportive and asked me if I was really ready to be involved. I knew that I was.”
A year later I was diagnosed with cancer. But I wanted to help this place. So I started with bucket collections and found I liked fundraising – I have since gotten involved in the summer fete and marathon. I sold Geraint’s boat “Allegra” donating part of the money to Princess Alice Hospice and also left a Gift in my Will.
I’m still being treated for my cancer. I volunteer at a couple of other places too but Princess Alice Hospice has a very special place in my heart. The people were amazingly kind and treated Geraint with compassion, with love and respect. I will always come back.”
“I asked for donations rather than presents.”
A 40th birthday is a big milestone in anyone’s life. But, as Claire Richardson approached hers, she decided to make it extra special – by using it to raise funds for Princess Alice Hospice. And she had a very good reason – she and her family had been supported by the Hospice throughout her husband George’s illness, and after his death two years ago.
“I know the money goes straight to the Hospice.”
“I cared for George at home, but we had a lot of help from Emily from Princess Alice Hospice. She was really good with him and she also gave me a lot of support caring for him. They helped in practical ways too. We’d been told we didn’t qualify for any benefits, so we were living off our savings. When Emily heard this, she sent around one of the Hospice’s welfare benefit advisors and they helped us claim the carer’s allowance and get a disabled badge – it made a big difference.”
So when Claire told her family and friends that she didn’t want birthday gifts, just donations, they were delighted to help. She hired a hall for her party, and the Hospice provided collecting buckets, balloons, banners and keyrings. “After the party I just took the buckets into the Hospice. Later, I received a letter thanking me for raising £2,000! I was delighted and really pleased that the money went straight to the Hospice where I know it will be put to good use.”
“I hope they can carry on and give people the support they need.”
After George’s death, Claire and her children continued to receive support from the Hospice. They all attended Dovetail groups – special support groups for adults and children who have been bereaved. And they have come back to the Hospice for our Light up a Life service where, along with other bereaved families, they were able to light a candle and remember George. In the summer, they also came to our Fun Day where the children really enjoyed meeting animals, face painting and other fun events.
“It’s amazing what they do – and they don’t take a penny from you,” says Claire. “I just wanted to give something back and say ‘thank you’. I’d definitely do it again and I hope I’ve inspired the people who came to my party to raise even more money for the Hospice.”
“So many people offered to help – I wanted to give them something tangible to do.”
“When you are caring for a loved one with a terminal illness, friends and family often ask, ‘How can I help you?'” says Christopher Johnson, whose wife of 30 years, Annabelle, was diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumour in 2015.
“I wanted to respond with something tangible, so I decided to ask them to sponsor me to run for Princess Alice Hospice, who were then helping look after Annabelle. Running helps me relax and after Annabelle was diagnosed I used my running as ‘me time’.”
“I have run several half marathons, but I’d never done a full one. So I jumped at the chance to do the London Marathon. I’m not setting myself a target time – my aim is just to get around the course. I’ve had to pass on the 2018 marathon due to injury, but I’ve been able to defer my place and I’ll be more determined than ever in 2019.”
Setting up a JustGiving Page was really easy
“The Hospice is very special to me, because of the care they gave Annabelle. Last year, I also lost my very good friend Mike to cancer. Thanks to the care and support of Princess Alice Hospice nurses, he died where he wanted to be, at home, surrounded by friends and family. So, I am running for Mike too.”
“I set up a JustGiving page online, with an initial target of £3,000. That eventually had to be raised to £10,000. Almost everyone I have spoken to knows someone who has been cared for by the Hospice. Two other families in my road alone have been supported by them. The response has been immediate and amazing.”
Wonderful care and amazing support
“The Hospice offers flexibility and treats the whole person not just the disease, which I really value. As Annabelle became more poorly, the Hospice homeworker support became more regular until eventually nurses were coming to the house every four hours. But eventually we realised that Annabelle needed to be cared for in the Hospice.”
“Everyone was wonderful with us. Annabelle’s drugs, food and care were tailored around her needs. We had a lovely room and I spent almost every night there with her. It was to be our last home together.”
“As she neared the end, I was told what was happening at every stage and that really helped. When she passed away, there were just the two of us. It was so quiet and peaceful. I just sat with her for a while and then went home to fetch the children. When I got back to the Hospice, a flower had been placed on her pillow.”
“I will always appreciate the fact that we were given the time and space to say goodbye in our own way. That was so precious to us all. The Hospice gave us more than I can ever repay. I will be grateful to them for the rest of my life – and as long as I can, I’ll go on raising money for them.”
“It’s just our way of saying thank you”
On May 20th 2016, Jade Sancese went for a walk along the river towpath. Her youngest son was in his buggy and her three year old was proudly sporting his Batman costume. There were lots of other families there too, with children in fancy dress. As they talked and laughed in the sunshine, Jade and her family remembered ‘Grandad Ginger Nut’ – her beloved father who had just passed away at Princess Alice Hospice.
“Doing the Towpath Trundle to raise money for the Hospice was our way of giving something back,” says Jade, “they took such great care of Dad.”
“The Hospice became our second home”
Jade’s father was only 56 when he died. Most of our inpatients spend an average of two weeks at the Hospice, but Jade’s father was with us for three months. During this time, Jade and her family visited twice every day. “It was my dad’s home in a way and I built my life around going there. Everyone was so lovely to us – and there was even a playroom for the kids. One nurse we got to know so well we took to calling her ‘Auntie Lisa’!”
“We do it in memory of Dad.”
Jade is determined to do all she can to help the people who cared for her dad. “It costs such a lot to run the Hospice – and most of it comes from donations. I was thrilled when we managed to raise £1,600 from our first Towpath Trundle. We were invited to a special presentation evening at the Hospice and our team name, ‘The Ginger Nuts’, was added to the commemorative shield.”
The family have now decided to do the Towpath Trundle every year in remembrance of their dad and grandad. But the fundraising doesn’t stop there. There’s also a collection box in the fish and chip shop Jade’s dad owned and which is still in the family. Jade is now thinking of doing something more daring, like a skydive, – “If I’m brave enough,” she laughs.
“If I’m ever that ill, I want to go to the Hospice.”
“Spending so much time at Princess Alice really changed the way I thought about hospices,” says Jade. “Now I see it as a really comforting place to be and I want to keep up my connection with it.” Jade also attends our Christmas Light up a Life ceremony where, along with all the other families, she adds a dove-shaped gift card on the tree, in memory of her father.
Seeing how her dad was cared for at the Hospice has also made Jade think about the future. “I’ve already told my husband that if I get seriously ill, I want to go the Hospice.” By raising money for us, Jade and her family are not just remembering their dad – they’re helping secure our future, so that we can go on caring for families like hers now, and in the years to come.
“They gave so much to Robert – so I wanted to give something back”
Most people who have seen a loved one cared for at Princess Alice Hospice are so grateful for our help. We’re lucky, because many of them go on to become passionate supporters of the Hospice, who like to help us in any way they can.
Val Knight is one of them. She has been a volunteer with us for many years and a few years ago she decided to make us a wonderful gift – by remembering the Hospice in her will.
“Robert was so happy here – so I don’t see it as a sad place.”
Twenty three years ago, Val’s husband was cared for by Princess Alice Hospice, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the first few years he came to the day hospice – something he really enjoyed and looked forward to. It also helped take some pressure off Val, who was still working at the time. ”He loved chatting to everyone here and the nurses made quite a fuss of him,” recalls Val.
When Robert’s condition worsened, he was admitted to the Hospice. He died here, in the place he loved, at just 43 years old. But Val’s relationship with us didn’t end there. She decided to repay the help she and Robert had received by becoming a volunteer. “At first I worked in the day hospice but later I worked for the fundraising department. The Santa Fun Run and the Light up a Life service are just two events I help with. But whatever it is, I always find it fun and rewarding to do. I love working for the Hospice – it’s like a little family.”
“Places like Princess Alice Hospice desperately need help to keep going.”
Val knows only too well the huge difference that hospice care can make. “If the Hospice hadn’t have been involved, it would have made Robert’s last few years and his death so much more painful,” Val says, “They made it easier for both of us.”
That’s why, a few years ago when Val decided to make a will, she chose to leave a gift to us. She understands how hard it is for organisations like us to fund the work we do and she was determined to help. “They do so much to help so many people in this area“, she says, “It’s important to me that Princess Alice Hospice can go on forever, giving people the care that we got.”