You are not alone: Jennifer Pickavance remembers her mum, Michaela, and the kind and compassionate care she came to know at Wirral Hospice St John’s #care #hospicehero #wirralhospice #support #hospicecare #caring #thankyou #lightupalife

Emma, Michaela and Jen

In what has been a challenging time for all of us, Jennifer Pickavance, ‘Jen’, and her sister, Emma, and their wider family, have been through much more than many.

Jen and Emma’s mum, Michaela had been living with a primary diagnosis of lung cancer, complicated by tumours in her brain and vertebrae, since September 2017. Jen assures us that her Mum lived her life as well as she possibly could in these last few years, holidaying and socialising with friends whenever possible, before she sadly passed away at Wirral Hospice St John’s in April.

The hospice’s Jamie-Leigh and I met with Jen as she has volunteered to speak on a pre-recorded film we’re producing for our annual Light up a Life commemorations*, and she told us all about Michaela, her lovely Mum.

She was my best friend, we spent every minute we could together and I couldn’t have asked for a better mum. I find it hard put into words how much she meant, and still means, to me and how much I love her.  

After mum recovered from anxiety and panic attacks herself, she wanted to pursue a career in mental health to help others. She was in her 40’s when she attended Chester University to study Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). We were all so proud when she attained her Diploma in CBT and when, soon after which, she became a high intensity CBT therapist at Inclusion Matters, Wirral.

Emma and Jen hug Mum, Michaela, at her graduation

When her illness was first diagnosed it appeared that her prognosis wasn’t great, but Dr Carlo (Palmieri, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre) was amazing and found she had a rare type of lung cancer which meant her initial treatment would not have to be as intense as it sometimes can.

For two years, she was doing really well. She was as fit and healthy as she could be and, for the most part, got to enjoy the things she loved doing, nice holidays and being with family, she was close with her sisters Trisha, Donna and Lizzie (she was the second oldest) and had a wide circle of lovely friends.

By late 2019 however, the illness was catching up and she underwent radiotherapy and an intensive course of combined chemotherapy and immunotherapy. By January she’d experienced a seizure and was admitted to Wirral Hospice’s inpatients ward.

She had already been an outpatient at the hospice for over a year under Dr Helen (Emms, a consultant at the hospice), whom she loved, and Mum had also been a patient in the hospice’s Wellbeing Centre where she took part in arts and crafts and aromatherapy sessions which she really enjoyed.

She was able to access counselling too which I think helped her a lot. The hospice was a whole new experience for her. I knew she felt safe and at ease in the calm and caring atmosphere of the hospice.

The hospice team really helped her manage her anxiety and went above and beyond for her.

Her 53rd birthday fell on the 8th March and the hospice helped us arrange a party in their family room which meant a great deal to us all. It’s a lovely memory we will cherish forever. She liked everyone she met at the hospice and had a special regard for the hospice’s Tracy, and many others, who showed her so much care and compassion and always managed to cheer her up.

I know my mum would have loved to be at home towards the end of her life but it wasn’t possible and the hospice was actually the perfect place for her as they cared for her in ways I don’t think we could have.

I can’t thank the hospice staff enough for what they did for our family, one of the nurses, Sandy, held my mum’s hand in the moment she passed away. That’s not a job just anybody could do, I will always appreciate that and hold it in my heart forever. 

I am so beyond grateful for everything the hospice did for us, and does for others. I have never experienced the loss of a loved one before. The hospice made our heartbreaking experience that little more bearable.

The continued support they’ve given me is so appreciated, I am forever grateful”. 

It was a devastating time in itself for Jen, Emma and the family, Michaela was only 53, but their pain was further compounded when, in the same week, their Nan, Pat, and Grandad, George, Michaela’s parents, passed away after succumbing to COVID 19.

It’s been, simply, heartbreaking!

At only 23 years of age Jen has coped with so much this year. She has a great supportive network of aunties, uncles, cousins, her Dad and his family and lots of close friends. She talks all the time to her sister, Emma, who lives in London with her boyfriend, and who makes regular trips home to Wirral for ‘quality sister time‘ whenever they can.

Jen also looks after and takes great comfort from their dog, Candy, a cute Bichon Frise.

Jamie-Leigh and I came away from meeting Jen in complete admiration. She’s been, understandably, tearful at times, but so brave and so eloquent.

She’s a real credit to her whole family and, of course, Michaela, her lovely mum!

Michaela

NB: *(Due to the COVID-19 restrictions and to keep everyone safe, the hospice has made the difficult decision to cancel the annual outdoor Light up a Life switch-on service for this year.

The hospice is instead endeavouring to reach out to even more families across Wirral with a pre-recorded film of the lights switch on service. This will be available to view from the comfort of people’s own homes, via the hospice’s website, from 6pm on Sunday 6th December.

The short film will capture the spirit of the lights switch-on, interspersed with carols from a socially-distanced hospice choir featuring locally renowned singer, Sarah Mullis. It will also contain the recollections of people, like Jen, whose families have experienced the hospice’s dedicated care as well as heartfelt thoughts and readings from the hospice team, including some wonderful volunteers.

More details can be found at www.wirralhospice.org/light-up-a-life

Spotlight on Matty Pree – Boxing-off an eye-catching bike ride, within the current COVID 19 ‘allowable exercise’ rules #fun #cycling #hospiceheroes #fundraising #caring #support #thankyou #staysafe

MattyMatty Pree is already a hospice hero. He’s completed three other significant bike rides since 2015 to raise funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s and now he’s just completed in a nice way, his most ‘daring’ yet!

Yes, that’s because, on Saturday 25th April, Matty cycled 18.8 miles on a special route around Northwest Wirral to sensitively comply with the lockdown restrictions of our current COVID 19 crisis. (The ride only took him an hour, which is much less than his previous or future* planned cycling fundraisers for the hospice) 

He was in training for a 193 mile ride this summer for the hospice but the coronavirus has put paid to that (look out for the *From Chepstow to CH46 in 2021). 

So he’d been thinking about what he could do to help raise some funds, stay within government guidelines but, do something eye-catching to capture the imagination?

Well, what about riding around NW Wirral wearing only his BOXERS?

Yep! Tick! Brilliant! Well in Matt! And, it certainly caught people’s attention Can we call you ‘Cyclo-Matt’ (like Speedo Mick)? (He was also clear that he would also have to wear a safety helmet though!) 

Matty's dad Ronnie and darceyI asked Matty why he supports the hospice and he told me about his Dad, Ronnie, who passed away here in 2015 after living with lung cancer which metastasised into a brain tumour. (Ronnie is pictured here with Matty’s Daughter, Darcey) 

“The hospice was absolutely brilliant with my dad. The whole team were fantastic, second to none, and made Dad, our Mum, Mary, my brother, Phil, and I feel as at home and welcome as it was possible to be.

My dad was married to mum for 43 years, he’d been a taxi driver and loved his fishing, crown green bowls and he was a dab hand at Bridge.

He was also a doting grandad to my daughter Darcey, who was only two when he passed away, and my brother, Phil’s children, Jessica and Jake.

We loved him dearly and miss him deeply but he could not have asked for better compassionate care when his illness was at its most challenging.”

Matty's dad Ronnie and Mum MaryIt’s emotional for Matty to recall but he smiles when he starts to tell me about the other bike rides he’s done in his dad’s honour and to raise funds for the hospice. (Ronnie is pictured here with Matty’s Mum, Mary)

The first one was The Wild Wales challenge. Around 100 miles of cycling taking in 10,000 feet of climbs. Spectacular views which Matty only vaguely recalls as it was both exhilarating and exhausting!

In 2017 and with his friend, Chris Iveson, he took on The Way of The Roses, over two days from Morecambe to Bridlington, up-hill and down-dale, this time for a measly 175 Miles!

Then the Ride around North Wales, this time 143.5 miles in July 2018. It was the hottest day of the year and again some of the most beautiful scenery may have been missed as Matty powered on, taking in gallons of water.

Wow, well done sir! Along the way Matty’s rides, on his lonesome or with a pal, have raised a couple of thousand pounds for the hospice, for which he has every right to be very proud.

So, on Saturday 25th April, at 12 noon he set off, for an hour, down to his ‘boxies’, the way you do, and following a circuit which startsed at home in Moreton took in Upton, Arrowe Park, the ‘Barnston Blast’, Heswall, Thurstaston, West Kirby, and through Hoylake and back home, via Moreton town centre.

If you’d like to see the route Matty took and, maybe, give the fund a little boost check out Matty’s ‘Just Giving’ page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matthew-pree4

On finishing the circuit Matty said,

“I was a bit nervous going out in my pants at first, but after a few miles it was fine. Got lots of beeps and shouts of encouragement which was nice. One slight downside was I almost had a collision with a car, the first one since I was 19 and I was in my underpants. A car pulled out on me and I hit the side of the bonnet. I reacted quickly enough and it was a minor bump. Felt sorry for the lady driving she was a little shaken up. She apologised and offered to donate. All in all had a good ride out in my pants and the weather was great. I raised even more than I have for any of my rides, that must have been the choice of clothing! I am not sure I could cycle across Wales in a day in my boxers though.”

Matty and Son LucaNowadays he’s also got young son, Luca, alongside Darcey (now 7), looking up to their inspirational dad (pictured left).

Thank You Matty, absolutely superb!  Maybe next year’s 193 miler will top the lot!

However, when he does get around to that challenge, it’s going to be hard doing all of that distance in just his undies!!!

  Author: Billy Howard

If you’d like to take on a challenge during lockdown or even later in the year for Wirral Hospice St John’s, check out www.wirralhospice.org/getactive and as soon as you’re ready, get in touch with the Fundraising team on 0151-343-0778 or fundraising@wirralhospice.org and we’ll support you all the way!

Here’s Ronnie Pree, Matty’s dad, in his younger days, pictured below.

Matty's dad Ronnie in younger days

 

Spotlight on teenager, Finlay Costello-Smith, who is sporting a PHENOMENAL haircut for Wirral Hospice St John’s #fun #hospiceheroes #fundraising #caring #support #thankyou

Finlay 4 (2)A number of significant events recently came together for teenage Everton FC fan, Finlay Costello-Smith, to raise some funds to honour both of his late grandads, Patrick Costello and Bob Smith.

Both Patrick, in 2007, and Bob, in 2013, had lived their final days at Wirral Hospice St John’s. In 2013, Finlay’s mum, Mary, completed the BTR Liverpool half-marathon in their memory, just days after father-in-law, Bob had passed away. She raised a much appreciated £900 for the hospice.

Mary speaks glowingly of the care and support shown to both men at the hospice and how it holds a special place in all of their family’s hearts. Finlay adored his grandad Bob with whom he enjoyed really nice times as a younger child and although he was very young when grandad Patrick died, both men’s memories are kept well alive by the Costello-Smith’s and their close network of family and friends.

The month of March is significant as both men had died in that month and Finlay, now 14, had decided he wanted to do something to remember them.

Now, we all know that COVID-19 has closed schools around Wirral to all but a few children. Finlay is one of those ‘home-schooling’ and most markedly missing his mates (although we know modern technology can help us all to stay in touch, and Finlay is no different).

However, not being in school also gave him his chance to get a haircut that may have, in normal times, gone against school rules!

As we mentioned Finlay is Everton mad and one of his favourite players is Brazilian star, Richarlison. Finlay’s had a little bit of time to ‘gen’ up on a few of the Brazilian stars of the past and he’s been particularly drawn to their former national team superstar, at the time the world’s best player, Ronaldo* who was known by his countrymen as, O Fenómeno, The Phenomenon.

Finlay Ronaldo 2 (2)

(*Not to be confused with the contemporary great, Cristiano Ronaldo, a superstar himself in the modern era. Nowadays, the older Ronaldo (pictured here), has picked up a bit of a reputation for liking his food so he’s become known as ‘fat Ronaldo’ which clearly distinguishes him from his younger namesake).

Older readers might remember that in the 2002 Ronaldo had helped Brazil to win the World Cup Final (the third final he had played in and his second victory) scoring two goals in the match. They might also remember that he was sporting, what has become, an iconic hairstyle!

Ronaldo had had all of his hair shaved off, except for an ‘island’ at the front (also in the picture here) telling the press afterwards that it was to deflect them from focusing on a small injury he was carrying.

Finlay 3 (2)

So Finlay has taken the opportunity to have a severe ‘Ronaldo’ cut and to get family and friends to sponsor him, in order to raise funds for the hospice. Mum, Mary, picked up the shears on 29th March and now Finlay can emulate one of the greatest players in football history.

Finlay was also thrilled when his Just Giving page was picked up by his current idol, Richarlison, and featured on the player’s Instagram page.

So far Finlay has gathered a hair raising £700 (plus) via Just Giving and the page is open for a while longer if you click here

So we say to lifelong Evertonian, Finlay (in memory of his grandad’s and the specialist care his Mum remembers Wirral Hospice St John’s delivering to them both) the Everton FC motto, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum young man, meaning, nothing but the best!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight on Leanne Jones and Kristy Maughan: Knocking it out of the park for It’s a Knockout, 2019 #fun #hospiceheroes #fundraising #familysupport #caring #support #thankyou

Leanne and Kristy 6        Leanne and Kristy 4

BOOOOOOMMMMM!

Leanne Jones (l) and Kristy Maughan (r) have arrived at Wirral Hospice St John’s to tell me how motivated they are for the annual It’s a Knockout event at New Brighton Dips on Sunday 21st July.

They’ve arrived with a friend and colleague Don Hazlehurst, from the DWP offices in Birkenhead, and they’re eager to tell me how much they’re looking forward to embarking on the fun-filled obstacle course to raise money for the hospice and, also quite important to them, very important, REALLY important, they’re going all out to WIN!

There’s a competitive streak alright as they recount their victory of a couple of years ago, only to be judged as 3rd in last year’s reprisal. Ooohh, it hurts, I can tell you, and they’re determined to make up for it this year.Leanne and Kristy 8

It’s all in good fun. Well, they really (no, really) do want to win, but they also know that, most importantly, the funds they raise go to Wirral Hospice St John’s, which they so clearly adore.

I start by asking Leanne why the hospice means so much to her. She’s had an affinity with us for over ten years now. Her Dad, Gary, was only 46 when he passed away here with oesophageal cancer here in 2009. He’d been at the hospice in two periods for help with pain management and with his breathing.

“The hospice couldn’t have done more for us. The care was absolutely excellent and all of the staff and volunteers were so nice to me, my sister, Louise, brother, Michael and my mum, Sue. After Dad passed my Mum found the bereavement counselling so beneficial and it really helped with our loss and explaining it to the younger children and grandchildren.”

Leanne and Kristy 2Don, who is here to support Leanne and Kristy, actually got to meet Leanne’s dad through working with Leanne and became good friends with him. He was keen to support Leanne and the team and was in the team that finished third last year, (come on, it’s a bronze medal!) 

Kristy – don’t dare spell it Kirsty! – is on another plain of competitiveness again! She’s so worried about the will to win in her family that she is humming and hawing about allowing her 8 year old son, Theo, to enter the junior It’s a Knockout on the day.

“He’s worse than me, he’ll just take over. He’ll be ordering the other kids about. It may be next year for him.”

Kristy’s Dad, Les, was also treated at Wirral Hospice St John’s. Les was a big man, six feet two and had been a landscape gardener. Bowel cancer was his condition and, like so many families, they chose to focus positively on living as well as possible for his whole life.

Les was known as Goggog to Theo, (who hadn’t quite got his pronunciation around ‘grandad’ as a baby) and his big sister, Tia. He died at age 55 and left a massive gap for the whole family Kristy, her brothers Tim and Craig, her Mum Lorraine and Les’s Mum, Kristy’s nan, Flo.

“I remember people at the hospice, including families who were also with their loved ones, forming a mini-community. The staff and volunteers were really lovely. Mum and I had bereavement counselling which I know helped Mum and helped me personally, giving me strategies to explain Dad’s passing to my children.”

Leanne and Kristy support the hospice in many ways throughout the year. They support our Summer Memories campaign by buying a commemorative flower every year and also Light Up a Life around Christmas time.

Right now, I think we’re beginning to understand,  they’re looking forward, in a big way, to It’s a knockout!

The DWP staff see it as a team bonding exercise for those who take part and all their colleagues who sponsor them and come down on the day to support them.

Leanne and Kristy 7Don, unfortunately, can’t be in this year’s event and as the team were called Don’s Warrior Princesses (D.W.P. I like what you did there) last year, they might be competing under a new name!

It’s a great, fun, day with plenty for the whole family. Ice Cream, fast food, tombola, face painting, fair rides, stalls and the kids favourite, junior assault course. The spectacle of the teams as they play off in It’s a Knockout is great fun in itself and the upbeat music keeps the whole thing moving.

So, we’ll see you all there on Sunday 21st July and, whatever you do, don’t get in Leanne’s or Kristy’s way!

Author: Billy Howard

He’s a Knockout! Spotlight on Mark James, a hospice hero, who often leaps over foam-sprayed inflatable obstacles to raise funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s #hospicehero #supporters #itsaknockout #patientcare #support #fun #fundraising

Get ready for Sunday 21st July at New Brighton Dips where Wirral Hospice St John’s will be holding our 4th Annual ‘It’s a Knockout’ extravaganza.

Mark James 5Teams of 6-10 people will compete with each other over a range of inflatable obstacles, sometimes dry but more often sprayed with foamy bubbles, which sees the participants slip-sliding all over the place as they try to win points for their team. (On the left of this picture is Mark James, in action at last year’s event. More about him to follow).

It’s a fantastic, fun filled, frenzy of foam-filled fabulousness, in the image of the famous TV show, It’s a Knockout, which ran from the 1960’s through to the ‘80’s. It’s massive fun for everyone involved and, for all those watching too.

Fun is exactly the right word, because the competitors and their supporting friends, family and, in fact, hundreds of people from the whole Wirral come back year after year to join in, and roll around with laughter from the sidelines at, all the pandemonium. This mayhem is complemented by pulsating upbeat music which is enough to get everyone moving as the chaos unfolds.

The competition is the central attraction of the day, but everyone can take part in the fun day which surrounds the event. There’s loads for the family to do, fairground rides, food stalls, ice-cream, face painting and the kids’ favourite, an inflatable assault course.

So, it’s a brilliant day for everyone and a really important fundraising event for Wirral Hospice St John’s. Many people recognise this and are delighted to sponsor their friends and family to take part. Many of the participants inspire others to get involved because it is their way of making their contribution and saying a personal ‘thank you’ to the hospice.

Mark James & coOne such person is Mark James (the furthest man on the left, in blue trainers, as you look at this picture). His Mum, Maureen (known fondly as ‘Mo’), was receiving our specialist care and support when she passed away at the hospice in 2010 and he’s been raising funds for us every year since.

Mark recalls the hospice team caring so attentively for his Mum, taking away any stress and pain that her illness had brought on. He heaps praise on the doctors and nurses whom he describes as, “simply brilliant. Wirral Hospice St John’s made that time in our families lives as nice as it possibly could be. We’ll be eternally grateful.”

Mark is a marketing manager for a software company in his day job. He’s also, it’s fair to say, driven by keeping himself fit and encouraging others, through his fitness business, Better Body Fitness (BBF), to also look after themselves. He’s also encouraged 3 teams, of 10 people each, to contend in the 2019, It’s a Knockout. One of which he’ll lead himself!

BBF brings together people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability on three evenings a week to take part in fun exercises and circuit training, to get their hearts pumping. I joined him on one such evening at The Grosvenor Assembly Rooms in Wallasey,  to get a flavour of their challenges and, importantly to say Thank You to the groups for their support for the hospice (extended also to others who would have been around on different evenings).

It really is a mix of people ranging from people who are fitness fanatics to people who just want to be active, enjoy themselves and lose a few pounds. Everybody does the same exercises together, but at a pace, repetition and level which suits their current capabilities. They have a gentle motivator in Mark, although he can transmit a ‘bootcamp’ vibe for those who need a stronger challenge! 

Mark James 2

They’re a happy group. Lots of laughs are had during the 45 minute session. First, there’s a nice, easy, warm-up of stretches and light walking or jogging to get the circulation going and then the volume on the background music is turned up. It’s Pump up the Jam, and OFF WE GO.

Squat thrusts, star jumps, sit ups, press ups, running, jogging and walking, I can see that the gents and ladies from this group are going to be able to strive for a win in It’s a Knockout. (But there’s no foam or obstacles in the Gym so that might well level the playing field on the day!)

At the end of the session there’s a nice warm-down and the members are all aglow. I can tell they’re already looking forward to their next workout.

After the session I ask Mark about some of his other fundraising for the hospice. I know that through various events since 2010, including It’s a Knockout, he has already raised over £6,000 for the hospice. Various feats of endurance and iron man events have contributed to this, but perhaps the one he considers the toughest is The Rat Race (Mark pictured here at the end of the small matter of a 200 daunting obstacles over a 20 mile course!)

Mark James (2)

I asked Mark one final question, how, with a busy day job, his fitness business and a young family (Dylan, 7, and Mollie, 4), how does he pile it all in?

“I’ve got a very, very patient wife, Gemma, she’s a nurse.” Ha, now it becomes clear!

Gemma actually returned to nursing in 2018 after maternity leave and actually spent time here at Wirral Hospice St John’s in her ‘refresher’ phase. She has seen life as a family member and now, from the inside, as a returning nurse. She was really inspired by the care and support delivered at the hospice which, she told Mark, had added greatly to her all around experience.

Mark’s favourite quote and the maxim by which he lives, and which he also used as the sign-off of a speech he made earlier this year at a 400 person conference called ‘Ignite your Inner Potential’,  is from Will Smith:

“If you’re not making someone else’s life better then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better.”

What more can we say? Just, THANK YOU very, very much to Mark, and Gemma, all their family and friends, and, of course, all the members from BBF. We’re looking forward to you knocking us all out in It’s a Knockout, 2019!

Author: Billy Howard

(It’s a knockout is on Sunday 21st July at New Brighton Dips. If you’d like to enter a team of 6-10 people at £10 per person call Teresa, Jamie-Leigh or Sarah on 0151 343 0778. We also ask individual teams if they can also raise a minimum of £750 between them, through sponsorship, we would be extremely grateful).

Mark James 6

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