A cycle for Shirley
Raising money for Saint Francis Hospice while doing something you love is easy, as Neil Doherty recently discovered.
An ardent cyclist, Neil hopped on his bike, rode 1000 kilometres, and raised a tremendous £2,000 for our patients through a Crowdfunder page.
"I knew I had to do something to say thank you to Saint Francis Hospice for taking such wonderful care of my cousin," he declared.
Neil's cousin, Shirley Jones, was born and raised in Dorset. After working in Belgium for NATO, she moved to Barking and Dagenham to pursue a long career in charity.
"She was a kind and caring person who always put other people first," Neil remembered.
Shirley received her first cancer diagnosis when she was just 56 years old.
"The chemotherapy worked so well that when she returned for a scan, her consultant thought that the machine was broken", he fondly recollected.
Cancer returned to Shirley's lymph nodes, and she combated the illness once again. In 2019, she received her third diagnosis; cancer had spread to her lungs. Sadly, this time, the cancer was inoperable and terminal.
Shirley's sister-in-law and brother, Mervyn, were suddenly plunged into caring. Living in Shropshire, they alternated with one week on/one week off. The couple would pass each other on the M40 during the 400-mile round trip.
"Because of the pandemic, Shirley's chemo was cancelled," Mervyn explained.
"She was at home, in pain, and not getting any clinical care. We had no experience of looking after someone with a critical illness and made it up as we went along. Saint Francis Hospice stepped in to fill that void, which is what we desperately needed."
In May, Shirley became came to stay on our ward.
"Emotionally, everyone at the Hospice was with us", Mervyn recalled.
"The conversations about Shirley's care were friendly rather than clinical. We felt as though the Hospice put its arm around us and said: 'Don't worry; she's with us now'. I could go back to being her brother again rather than her carer. Everyone there was magnificent."
Shirley spent a peaceful final three weeks with us before passing away. She was 60 years old.
Many of Shirley's family and friends couldn't make her funeral due to social distancing — including Neil, who was locked down in Dorset.
"The cycle was the least I could do," Neil explained. "The Hospice relies on everyone out there to find the £23,000 a day it needs to survive. So many of the Hospice's events have been cancelled, but the patients who need the Hospice's care are still there".
"We're all very proud of Neil for helping the Hospice in memory of Shirley," beamed Mervyn.
You can help people just like Shirley get the care they need throughout the coronavirus pandemic by supporting our Urgent Appeal — for as little as £3 a month. You can find out how you can make a difference here.