13th July 2021

    Pilgrims Hospices help family make lasting memories during COVID-19

    In January 2021, Malcolm Ball from Oare near Faversham was referred to Pilgrims for pain management of his terminal colorectal cancer.

    He and partner Amanda Brown decided they wanted to become civil partners; they’d been together 20 years but never married.

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities to do this were limited, but Pilgrims helped to make it happen and give the family memories that will last forever.


    COVID-19 has presented unique challenges for hospice care, with restrictions impacting on peoples’ end-of-life experiences. Despite this, Pilgrims has adapted and continued to go above and beyond for patients and families in these extraordinarily difficult times.

    After a few weeks in the Canterbury hospice, Malcolm found that not only was his pain stabilised, but also that the hospice itself came to feel like a refuge. He made friends with other patients and staff, particularly Steve Allwright, a Healthcare Assistant (HCA).

    Amanda said: “It made an enormous difference to him that Pilgrims staff were always on call, ensuring he received the best care. Steve felt like a friend to Malcolm and made the hospice feel like a home away from home.

    “Everyone at Pilgrims went beyond the call of duty to look after us, both emotionally and physically. Martyn Yates, Spiritual Care and Complementary Therapy Lead, was fantastic in helping us organise our civil partnership. We planned for it to happen in Sittingbourne but Malcolm was very poorly by the set date, so with Martyn’s help we sought an exceptional licence to marry in our own home.

    “However, when the day came, Malcolm was anxious and didn’t think he’d be able to leave the hospice, which had become a place of sanctuary and safety for him. With his sister, Karen, and brother-in-law, Tim, waiting outside to bring him home, our plans looked in jeopardy.

    “Steve, who was off work that day, gave up his time to come in and chivvy Malcolm into the car: “Do you want to get married?” Malcolm replied yes, so Steve said, “Well come on then, I’ll come with you, let’s go”. And with that Malcolm came home for a fantastic ceremony surrounded by flowers. Our son, Emil, and his partner, Tracy, were witnesses. We couldn’t have a party due to lockdown, but the ceremony was broadcast via Zoom to family and friends near and far.”

    Malcolm with his son, Emil

     

    Steve added: “During the time Malcolm spent with us, I got to know him quite well. Even through his tough days we always had time to chat and I was honoured to accompany him to his wedding. Amanda was a tower of strength during Malcolm’s illness and he could not have picked a better partner to help him through his journey. It was a privilege to have known them both.”

    Steve also helped Malcolm produce a voice recording to leave as a legacy for Amanda, using The Blackbird Project initiative developed by Pilgrims.

    Steve said: “One Saturday morning, Malcolm and I sat down and scripted an agenda of his life with Amanda; there were around twenty five parts to his story. Once we had put this in place, Della Green, Occupational Therapist, recorded Malcolm’s story with him, which was then transferred to a memory stick and given to Amanda. I think it was one of the longest recordings ever made since the conception of The Blackbird Project, over an hour long.”

    Amanda added: “It feels very special being able to hear Malcolm’s voice now, talking about our life together. It’s hard too while things are still raw, but I know that having the recording of him speaking about some of the things that meant the most to us both will be a lasting comfort.”

    In those last days, everyone at Pilgrims did all they could to allow me as much time as possible with Malcolm, calling me back overnight when there were changes, and I was able to be with him at the end. That care and consideration has done much to ease the trauma of the last year.

    Amanda

    Malcolm stayed at home for three weeks after the ceremony before returning to the hospice for his final days, as he had wanted.

    Amanda continued: “In those last days, everyone at Pilgrims did all they could to allow me as much time as possible with Malcolm, calling me back overnight when there were changes, and I was able to be with him at the end. That care and consideration has done much to ease the trauma of the last year.

    “Pilgrims is the most amazing place. I feel so lucky, as I know Malcolm did, that we were able to benefit from the care offered. If only there could be a Pilgrims or other such hospice everywhere; to have that level of individual attention and care is something I wish for everyone.

    It’s been such a comfort since Malcolm’s death to be able (with a little licence) to talk about us as husband and wife, and to have the memory of our wedding in our living room, with the support and love of family and friends watching it online, however distant. I hadn’t realised how important it would feel to me, but it means the world.

    Amanda

    “And as for our civil partnership ceremony, it wouldn’t have happened without the enormous generosity and pure kindness of all the staff involved; Steve above all, but also everyone who went above and beyond. On the day itself, when I started to think it might all fall through if Malcolm couldn’t get home, I discovered that behind the scenes, Pilgrims and the register office staff had been working together to try to ensure it could happen.

    “It’s been such a comfort since Malcolm’s death to be able (with a little licence) to talk about us as husband and wife, and to have the memory of our wedding in our living room, with the support and love of family and friends watching it online, however distant. I hadn’t realised how important it would feel to me, but it means the world.”


    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.

    17th November 2020

    The Blackbird Project fundraising milestone

    In 2018, Sheena and Nick Jackaman and their daughter Anna started to create a legacy for their son Ben, who passed away at Pilgrims Hospices Canterbury in 2017, aged 34. For many families who lose a loved one, it is often realised that although they will have lots of photos and mementos to remember them by, they don’t have the sound of their voice. Pilgrims Occupational Therapist, Julie Cox, was aware through her work that many people like telling stories about their lives and the comfort that can bring for the bereaved to hear. It was then that The Blackbird Project was created.

    Ben Jackaman

    Nick and Sheena have been supported by their friends and family both here in the UK and as far as France who have taken on their own charity challenges, organised events and shared their support to continue this project. From one family friend running an Ultra Marathon to another organising a music event and many other fundraising activities, an incredible £10,606 has been raised so far.

    Nick and Sheena said, “We would like to express our gratitude to Pilgrims Hospices for establishing and developing The Blackbird Project. It is heart-warming to hear the responses and personal stories of how the Blackbird voice recordings are cherished. To support this charity is a privilege and has given us strength and purpose. We will always be extremely thankful for the compassion and skilled care given to Ben by all the staff at Pilgrims at such a sad time and for the continued support for his loved ones.”

     

    We would like to express our gratitude to Pilgrims Hospices for establishing and developing The Blackbird Project.

    Nick and Sheena Jackaman

    The project has been led by Occupational Therapist, Justine Robinson, who describes how voice recordings play an important part in creating precious memories for families. She says, “The Blackbird Project gives people a chance to leave a memory, a family story, read a favourite book or poem or just a few words of love and comfort. As well as giving the person doing the recording a sense of peace it leaves a permanent recording and the personality of their loved ones.”

    For all of us, 2020 has been a challenging year due to COVID-19 and the Pilgrims team has continued to find ways to keep families connected. More patients have turned to the project to leave a voice recording for their families. Justine and her team are also continuing to enable patients in the community to access the project by finding ways to support recordings.

    Ben playing his beloved guitar

    The fundraising and support led by Sheena and Nick will enable this project to continue to be there as a resource for families and allow the project to develop in the future. They describe the inspiration for its name, a family favourite, ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles, a song much loved and performed by Ben. Their hope for the future of The Blackbird Project is that “the memory messages continue to comfort the patients and supports well-being in the loved ones left behind”.

    If you would like to find out more about how you or a loved one receiving care from Pilgrims can access The Blackbird Project please contact: justine.robinson@pilgrimshospices.org.


    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured.  The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress. 

     

     

     

     

    6th September 2019

    On the homeward run

    Tim Wrigley took on a powerful and emotional challenge to run a 110-mile ultra-marathon in memory of his friend Ben Jackaman who passed away in 2017 after a short battle with a rare and untreatable cancer. The epic run from Lake Windermere in the Lake District, back to his home near Tadcaster in North Yorkshire has so far raised £2,111.99 for Pilgrims Hospices who cared for his good friend Ben. Tim was determined to help raise funds for the hospices’ Blackbird Project, he completed this mega challenge in just over 31 hours and 30 minutes.


    Tim said: “The Blackbird Project provides a special recording service for patients to share messages, poems, and thoughts or anything else they would like to say and pass on to their friends and family.  The project was co-founded by Ben’s parents and sister Sheena, Nick and Anna and has been eagerly supported since Ben’s memorial fund was donated to Pilgrims Hospices.

    “When close friends and family die young, it’s a reminder that we don’t always get to choose what we do, so we can’t always put things off for another day.

    “I’m counting myself lucky to have my physical and mental health, taking on this challenge and having such tremendous support and sponsorship from people around me has been a rewarding experience.”

    Tim’s challenge idea was formed some years back when sitting in a traffic jam after a weekend climbing and walking in the Lakes when someone shouted out ‘we could walk faster than this’ and so it began.

    The furthest Tim had ever run was around 30 miles, therefore this was a huge leap in the distance to undertake.

    He set off from Bowness, Lake Windermere and did not stop moving except for the occasional comfort break until he reached home. The logistics were complicated and involved a team of more than 12 people providing support by meeting him at various locations with food, drink, and fresh clothes. It all took a lot of co-ordinating and virtually no sleep for anyone.

    Tim added: “I managed to finish even though it took longer than I had anticipated, however, I’m pleased to complete it. My feet are less pleased but the blisters, aches, and pains will pass!

    “I couldn’t carry the 12,500 calories of food and 10 litres of water cloths, torches etc. all the way; so a huge thank you goes out to my support team who kept me fed and watered and provided company and good humour throughout, and the people who ran with me for sections of the route and of course everyone who donated. I needed all the support and I would never have completed it without everyone else. It was definitely a team effort. And, a big thank you to everyone at Pilgrims for looking after my friend Ben, this was the least I can do.”

    Lydia Todd, Pilgrims Hospices, Community Fundraising Officer said: “A massive congratulations to Tim, what an incredible achievement!

    “I’m sure Tim’s story is going to inspire many more people to raise funds for local hospice care and help us to continue being there for over 2,400 individuals each year, so thank you for being so generous in supporting Pilgrims.

    “Congratulations and thank you once again, Tim, for taking on such an epic challenge to support The Blackbird Project at Pilgrims Hospices.”

    You can still support Tim’s effort by donating to his  JustGiving page.

    If you would like to know more about The Blackbird Project please visit this page or call Heather Sawney 01227 459 700.


    If you or someone you know is coping with a life-limiting illness and you think you may benefit from Pilgrims support, talk to your GP or Healthcare Professional about the option or visit support for you.

    10th May 2019

    Pilgrims Hospices helps Mario to leave lasting legacy

    Mario Romeiro from Folkestone has had an interesting and varied life. Born into the travelling circus, his trapeze act Mario and the Flying Romeiros performed all over the UK and he later married into a fairground family. After being diagnosed with Ampullary carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, Mario is now preparing for the last part of his life with the help of Pilgrims Hospices.


    Ever since his diagnosis Mario has been recording his experiences, initially by writing a cancer diary. He wasn’t able to be with his family to break the news, so the diary helped him to communicate everything to them. Then, in August 2018 Mario was referred to Pilgrims Hospices and began accessing services at the Ashford hospice. He attends Time to Create sessions in the Therapy Centre, where patients and carers spend the afternoon together doing art and craft projects. Naturally skilled at drawing, Mario has a BTEC qualification in Art and Design and enjoys these creative groups.

    He said: “The Pilgrims team are brilliant. If I have any problems I can tell them how I feel and they’ll help to make sure I’m keeping well and that my symptoms are managed.”

    At first, all I heard was ‘cancer’. It doesn’t need to be like that. Pilgrims has helped me to live well; coming to the Time to Create groups is really good for me, otherwise I’d just sit at home. I come here and meet others in the same situation and that really helps.

    Mario

    Mario also does tattoo work from home. His youngest daughter, Rebecca (21), has asked him to tattoo ‘I love you’ on her arm in his own handwriting. The family are preparing in lots of other ways, too. Mario is planning his funeral to take the pressure off his loved ones and make things as easy for them as possible. He has chosen to be cremated, and his children plan to have his ashes made into jewellery as a special keepsake.

    His oldest daughter, Sammy Jo, had asked Mario to make voice recordings after he was diagnosed, so The Blackbird Project arrived at the perfect time. This is a new service offered by Pilgrims, enabling patients to record messages for loved ones and store them on bespoke blackbird-shaped USB sticks to keep forever.

    Artwork by Mario

    Mario said: “I’ve got to learn how to die gracefully. That means not being as stubborn and letting people know how I’m feeling. I’m recording goodbyes and thank yous, my parting messages to the kids and the missus, so they can listen to them after I’m gone. There might be a time when they’re feeling a bit rubbish and then they can listen to my voice and remember: ‘Dad would want me to get off my bum and enjoy life.’ I hope my messages can help them in that way.

    “I think some people can never say what they want to when people are there, so The Blackbird Project gives them that opportunity. It’s a great relief knowing that the recordings could bring comfort to family and loved ones.”

    Pilgrims is helping Mario and his family to make the most of the time they have together. Asked what advice he would give to others in his position, he said:

    “Don’t think it’s the end. At first, all I heard was ‘cancer’. It doesn’t need to be like that. Pilgrims has helped me to live well; coming to the Time to Create groups is really good for me, otherwise I’d just sit at home. I come here and meet others in the same situation and that really helps.”

    In Dying Matters Awareness Week, Pilgrims Hospices will host a day-long festival with speakers, workshops and stalls to provoke conversations about and provide information on death and dying.

    From practical things like writing a will, to creating a beautiful and meaningful funeral and much, much more.

    This is a free event with some ticketed sessions. All are welcome.

    Find out more and book tickets at pilgrimshospices.org/bigconversation.


    If you or someone you know is coping with a life limiting illness and you think you may benefit from Pilgrims free services, talk to your GP or Healthcare Professional about your options or click here to read about our Wellbeing and Social Programme.

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