Ria's lasting legacy

Ria by the Victorian pond at the hospice with Kaz, her mum and dog (cropped)
Written by: Kaz Melvin

Ria Melvin was a brave, talented and adventurous young woman who loved the outdoors. After she died in August 2021 aged just 25, her family donated £20,000 of fundraised money to a gardening project at Saint Francis Hospice in her memory so more patients and families could enjoy the beautiful gardens all year round.

Here Kaz Melvin shares how her sister Ria came to be cared for by the Hospice after treatment for her brain tumour was unsuccessful and how the charity helped her to find peace and comfort towards the end of her life…..



My sister Ria was a fit, healthy and outgoing 23 year old, who loved the outdoors, going to festivals and playing football. After graduating from Loughborough University, she had gone travelling and was about to begin a career in the police. 

In December 2018, Ria went to Devon with our parents for Christmas. One morning, she woke up with a severe headache and no strength on her left side. She tried to get up but collapsed on the floor. She was taken to hospital where they discovered she had a brain tumour. She was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and given a prognosis of 12-18 months to live.

How the Hospice became involved

Ria really benefited from a lot of services at Saint Francis Hospice and it improved her quality of life. We did not notice at the time but in hindsight, it helped her so much on her journey.

In the beginning, when she was doing well, she was not open to Hospice care. She was young and optimistic but in the last 6 months of her life, we had a lot of support from different services that had a big impact on us as a family.


Ria ringing the cancer-free bell

Ria ended up really enjoying going to the Hospice and having honest conversations was a relief for her.

It was a space outside the home environment and it helped just being with people who understood what she was going through. She did not have to pretend everything was ok.

Finding ways to relax with the Therapies team

Ria had Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy. She loved the creative therapy sessions the most and painted a bird box which we still have hanging in our garden. She found it really relaxing and it calmed her mind. Although she could not access the full complimentary therapies service due to COVID-19 they were kind enough to make up some lovely aromatherapy creams of her favourite scents, we used them to massage her hands which gave her some essential moments of relaxation.

Being wrapped in the arms of Hospice care

Towards the end of Ria's life, we also benefited from the professional medical and emotional support we received from Dr Corinna Midgley, the charity's Medical Director. She came around to our house and had some really powerful conversations with Ria and us and it helped us to know what to expect.

Dr Corinna was always liaising with the community nursing team and it felt there was a wrap-around service that everyone was communicating with each other. It meant so much to know we had someone there to call upon if we ever needed to.

The Hospice was pivotal in enabling Ria to be cared for at home. They made it work by collaborating with the hospital and community nurses. It was what Ria wanted and it was what we wanted for her. The doctors and nurses taught us about medication and they did everything so Ria could die with dignity.


Ria at home in her mobility chair

The community nurses and the Hospice at Home team kept Ria comfortable in her last 4 weeks while she was at home. We are really grateful for that. Everyone at the Hospice seemed to go above and beyond to make the end of her life as good as possible.

Emotional support that helped our whole family

Counselling has been a big part of our connection with the Hospice. Ria had counselling for around a year on and off with Sue Spong and she developed a really close connection with Sue. It enabled Ria to process what was happening to her as this was not something she was able to discuss with anyone else. Sue came to see Ria the day before she died and it meant a lot to us as a family.


Ria, her parents, sister Kaz and dog, Poppy

I have also benefitted from the counselling service. Seeing Briony and now Corinna for bereavement counselling has really helped me to process my emotions through this journey.

Giving back to the Hospice 

When Ria no longer had any treatment options in the UK, we set up a Go Fund me page to raise money so she could travel to Germany for specialist Immunotherapy we raised an incredible £170,000! Sadly, it was unsuccessful. When Ria died we wanted the money to go to places that helped Ria and Saint Francis Hospice was one of those places.

We also wanted to raise awareness of hospice care. Saint Francis Hospice is not just a bed for you in the last few days of your life, it helps you to live better for however long you have and I think it is really important for people to know that.

The Hospice helped Ria so much when she was alive and after she died, the Hospice helped our family in bereavement and continues to do so.

I did not know that 85% of the Hospice's care is in the community and I am a health care professional.


Mum, Carol, Dad, Neil and Sister, Kaz sit in the finished Pergola

at the Hospice that they funded in memory of Ria.

Ria's pergola is a lasting memorial of my sister

It was important to us as a family that Ria was honoured in the right way and our first thought was that Ria loved the gardens. She loved being outside. When we spoke to the Hospice and found out there was a gardening project on the wish list, we knew it was meant to be.

It's wonderful to know more patients and families like us will benefit from the improvements to the garden which include an all-weather pergola and wider paths so patients can be taken into the gardens in their beds if they wish to.

Knowing we are helping other people has given us a lot of purpose and a meaning to keep going. We have been able to channel our grief into something positive - It is hard to do but it has helped us through a difficult time.


Brentwood - ladies with candles

Remember a loved one

Making a donation in memory can be a wonderful way to keep your loved one's memory alive.

Help us be there for more people like Ria.