Get the tissues ready – you have been warned!
So yesterday morning I drift in and out of sleep in my dream machine chair, each time I wake I’m counting down the hours excited for the day ahead. It’s about 9 am and Rebecca is awake but Steve is still asleep. The door bell rings and Rebecca brings me the post. I opened a lovely thank you card from the beautiful Sophie who thanked me for going to her 5th birthday party and one other small letter that made me cry for about the next 2 hours and this continued drive my emotions throughout the day. Now I need to take you back in time to 1991 for you to understand the enormity of the content of this letter, how much it touched and meant to me.
Julie my sister died aged just 25 years old, she had been married only 8 months to Ant. There is a post dedicated to her if you want to read the details of that part of my life’s journey. After the funeral and as you can imagine the donations that came flooding from friends and family. We decided that in her memory we would do two things with the money. The first to set up a fund to supply yearly study books for nurses and midwives who studied at Wordsley Maternity Hospital in the West Midlands. This is where Julie was practising midwifery, it used to be just down the road from my mom’s house and it was also where my son Richard was born.
The second thing that we did was approach the hospital to dedicate a room to my sister there, they agreed and it was called ‘The Shanian Suite.’ This was to be a room where families who suffered any bereavement during childbirth could be placed away from the main wards. We brought and decorated the room out. Matching curtains, bedspread, a radio, books and although my memory of the room now is faded we wanted at the time a room where grieving families could find peace and comfort in their mourning. Until this room was established you can not imagine the pain parents must have had to endure if they lost a child and then had to be surrounded by other parents celebrating their new born babies. The room was inspired for me as Julie had attended a birth where there were complications and they had to transport the mother and baby to another hospital, Julie had finished her shift but wouldn’t leave the family. They never got to leave the hospital as the baby died and this affected my sister deeply, the pain of the family, the suffering and grief. I can even now recall her telling me the story of this family, so sad. So the room all decorated remained in use until 2005 when sadly Wordsley Maternity Hospital closed and was demolished for a new housing estate. All maternity services were transferred to Russells Hall Hospital and the room was gone forever.
So I opened the letter and it was from Ant. He explains that the money collected to supply the library books following Julie’s death had been sat in an account for over 20 years, as the hospital had closed. He had always intended for the money to go to charity but he could never decide which one to donate it too. Now he knew, and he wrote ‘I am sure that Julie would be pleased that it’s going to such a good cause.’ That he himself had added to the money and was sure that it would now go to a good cause. A cheque was enclosed for £600 and made out in my name for me to choose the right charity for it to go to. The tears and emotions just overwhelmed me and I still cry as I type this story to you all. A final piece of my sister, past memories of our grief and just seeing his hand writing of her name brings more and more tears.
Steve wakes and asks the normal questions of how am I, how did I sleep whilst getting his first coffee. I replied that the postman had been and had made me cry. Steve read the letter and agreed that it was a beautiful thing that Ant had done and we both knew exactly the right place for this money to go.
There will be an extra Justgiving page attached to the blog to start fund raising for the Ian Rennie nurses. You may think this odd as I have been dedicating all my efforts to support Beating Bowel Cancer but this isn’t the right place for my sister’s money. Ian Rennie is a local charity and not countrywide. They have been amazingly supportive to me and I think albeit sad that they will be nursing me through to the end of my journey with cancer, they are nurses and Julie would want the people that nurse me to the end to have this money. It feels to me that my sister is trying to help me through this gift, stupid I know but it brings me comfort that through this money she is still part of my life and it’s journey. Thank you Ant, sometimes words are just never enough to express the depth of emotion we feel.
My mom is on holiday for a week and I couldn’t wait to hear from her so that I could tell her about the money. My mom doesn’t do showing emotion but she cried as I told her the story and about the letter from Ant. She approves completely of my need for the money to go to a nursing charity as it just seems so right to us both.
So I continue to cry on and off throughout the morning until BFF turns up and we head into town. Fund raising can be so rewarding and also so soul destroying. Because I’m in a wheelchair wearing the beating Bowel Cancer t-shirt etc people assume that I work for the charity, that I’m not a sufferer myself. Some people just walk by ignoring my words, not wanting to make eye contact as they fear I want money from them. These people hurt me, I just want them to be aware of bowel cancer, to not ignore symptoms, to just raise awareness and then there are the other people who came to speak to me throughout the day who just broke my heart and I openly cried with them in the middle of a busy shopping centre. Here are some of the stories:
An elderly lady who had her operation just one month before me, in Wycombe hospital, in ward 12 where I was with Karen. She is doing well and is in remission, no chemo required. She was discharged from hospital with no support, no after nursing care at home to deal with recovering from major surgery. She isn’t bitter but where was her help? What is wrong with our system that our elderly are just left!
Many others just approached me with stories of lost loved ones who didn’t survive. A man who lost his wife to it talked to me and we both agreed that bowel cancer was just so shit! An appropriate word hey, just SHIT.
Others came to give money just because they had lost too many people to cancer. A young lady told me of her mom who died young from stomach cancer. How her mom had been given only months to live but continued for a few years. She enjoyed telling me how strong her mom had been, how she rejoices in the lessons of life that her mom showed to her through her suffering, by not being a victim but to live life to the full. I can see and hear the love clearly from her as she talked. She just wanted to talk about her mom, remember her again, rejoice in her memory, feel her mom’s love, there is no other love like it is there?
A man wanted to know my story and after I shared my prognosis of less than a year he asked what was on my ‘bucket list’ I replied that I didn’t have one, that I didn’t want to swim with dolpins etc and he was shocked. I explained through tears again that sharing precious time with my loved ones and friends was the meaning of my life and I was content with that.
Then Steve said that I need to meet a man who I had seen out of the corner of my eye talking to my Steve for some time. His name is also Steve and this is his story.
Steve’s wife was pregnant and all was well, a few complications which were put down to her pregnancy. During birth it was discovered that she was stage 4 with bowel cancer and it had gone undetected. Following the birth she received two courses of chemo but this sadly didn’t work. She lived long enough to see her son walk for the first time. She died 5 years ago, aged just 43. Steve, was left to bring up their two sons. He saw us today and decided to finally do something to help in the fight against bowel cancer. He told me his story and I cried, just so heartbreaking. Us being there today may just have been at the right time for him and a turning point in his life to do something positive. We hugged each other several times before he left us as he held it together emotionally but I was a wreck, his sons were with him and I can not contemplate how hard this man’s life had become through this shit disease. Leanne from Beating Bowel Cancer has his details and will help him in whatever way she can. Just heartbreaking, his sons have no memory of their mom but he has a lifetime of grief that cancer caused to this family as it does with so many others, including mine.
I need to thank everyone again who came to help and support me. Leanne from Beating Bowel Cancer who never stopped all day, she never even took a lunch break. Mary from BHS High Wycombe who was on her day off and did over 6 hours, all my friends from my local Lib Dem family. Rebecca who did the last hour with Leanne so that I could go home, BFF and Sex Kitten too.
I returned home and then received this email from Leanne:
Ive just counted all the money from today.
It came to a MASSIVE £631.21! Just wow! I can’t believe how much we raised. Thank you so much for recruiting all those wonderful people and it was so lovely meeting everyone.
I hope you are feeling okay. I can only imagine how much today took out of you, both emotionally and physically so thank you, Steve and also Rebecca who were brilliant at the end carrying the big table.
I’m knackered so will send you a proper email next week and the rest of the photos but just wanted to let you know how much we all raised
And here as promised are some of the photos from our day of raising money but also awareness as young people dying of this disease and so many others that it just breaks my heart.
There was also one other special visitor to us today, Steve’s mom. I wrote a post about him and his family, they are the reason I contacted Beating Bowel Cancer. Steve died at the age of just 33 years old. His mom and sister came by just to say hello. We cried together as I listened again to their story which I shared with BFF. They are lovely people, just normal like us all but struck my grief of a loved one. It was so special seeing them again today, they know the pain a family goes through with this disease, they know suffering and loss.
So not my normal post of 1/2 biscuits, fags, coffee’s, ungrateful rescued cats and spike the squirrel but a dedicated post of thanks and appreciation not just to the people who supported me today but to also the generous people in High Wycombe. It’s now 4.50 am and today hasn’t even started but I wanted today’s post to just contain all the details of the day as promised and I intend to rest up now as I suffered in pain for the whole evening but it was worth it. If we touched people, if we helped someone and if we even made someone think to go to their doctors as they have concerns then I think it’s mission accomplished and I can cope with the pain and this will fade unlike the grief I saw today.
Final thanks to Jx and Jenny who donated even more money on top of all the other donations they have previously made, a £20 anonymous donation, Chris for his ‘pay day’ donation, my ex boss who again has already given and £242. 46 from my wonderful BHS Kingston team. The grand total is now at £3315.46 which is amazing as I thought asking people for just £1 for the Cancer Free video was enough to ask.
And final, final thanks to Rita who will be lighting candles today and saying prayers from my weekly prayer list. I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday enjoying the sunshine and have picked some daisies xx