A tribute to Michelle

Written by: Joe Emery

When the Ttoffali family from Upminster lost someone very dear to them, social distancing meant that many people were unable to offer their support in person. They have since found comfort in messages and donations through a Tribute Fund for the late and much-loved Michelle Ttoffali.


Michelle was just 45 years old when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which had reached her spine and ribs. Michelle's husband, Chris, recollected how his wife's initial reaction to her diagnosis wasn't to question how long until she'd die, but how long she could live.


Michelle, who had worked in education for her entire career, took solace in that treatment was available, and people had lived for many years with the same illness. Michelle underwent medical trials, changed her diet, and researched natural remedies that she could use alongside her chemotherapy.


"She was a rock throughout and did everything she could to extend her life," Chris remembered.


After responding well to treatment for over four years, tests revealed that the cancer spread further to Michelle's brain. It was Michelle's wish to pass away at our Hospice for the sake of her children, Lydia and Sia, aged eight and twelve.


Two weeks later, on Sia's birthday, our Hospice at Home team broke the news to Chris that Michelle was showing all the signs that her passing was imminent.


"I didn't know what to expect when I got to the Hospice," Chris admitted. "I certainly didn't anticipate beautiful gardens. It was so peaceful. The nurses told me exactly what to expect and when right up to Michelle's last breaths, which prepared me for when that moment came."


Michelle passed away peacefully at our Hospice in May. She was 50 years old.


"Even though we were at the Hospice for less than a day, I'll never forget the care and dignity the nurses gave her," Chris said. "We were able to spend our last moments together in the privacy that we needed."


Due to social distancing rules, only 10 people could attend Michelle's funeral. Chris set up the tribute fund for those who couldn't be present but wanted to celebrate Michelle's life.


"I put the whole order of service on the page so that people could play the songs and read the poems we had chosen from their homes," Chris explained.


Michelle's friends and family have shared stories, photos and videos in her memory. 


"Michelle brought laughter, joy, love and friendship to many," Chris said. "Her smile and love for life would light up the room, and her spirit will always be with us."


Our Family Support team has provided bereavement therapy for Lydia and Sia throughout the pandemic through video calls, as they try to come to terms with the loss of their beloved mum. We're now taking small and measured steps so that face to face therapy can resume.


If you'd like to find out how you can set up a Tribute Fund in someone's memory, please visit www.sfh.org.uk/tribute-funds.


A Tribute Fund doesn't have a time limit and is where you can donate, leave messages and light candles to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions for many years to come.