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 would like to find out more and take part in the 2018 Santa Fun Run click here.
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.”