Dan (Heather’s Husband) and Lewis (Heather’s Eldest Son) tell Heather’s Story.
Lewis: She was a normal woman, a normal mum, hardworking with two jobs. She did everything for me and Marcus. We weren’t spoilt but she gave us an amazing life, all the Christmas presents you could want, just a great mum.
She got breast cancer, and it was like she was two different people, before and after the diagnosis, in a good way. She just was more joyful and was taking life in. We sat down and wrote her bucket list together and we had so much she wanted to do. She was diagnosed in 2019 and got the all clear in May 2020, but then it came back and we were told she was terminal at the end of 2020. Because of the lockdowns and her having chemo, we spent lots of time chilling indoors together.
She has lots of things she wanted to do- on her bucket list was visiting Amsterdam and New York, but lockdowns stopped us doing those. We did lots of things though; we went to the Grand Hotel in Brighton for afternoon tea, she went to the Dorchester Hotel as a guest of honour and met Razor Ruddock and Bobby Davro. We stayed in the Shard, had cream tea at the Savoy, and met Britain’s Got Talent comedian Daliso Chopanda and went giraffe feeding! We went to Twickenham and met the rugby team- they were so nice saying hi to us and waving from the pitch because they recognised us! She also wanted Gordon Ramsey to tell her to F*** Off, and her sent her a video saying it!
She was inspirational as she just kept going- she didn’t let her illness stop her. She had seizures, some were serious and some were a shake of the head that she couldn’t stop, for some people that would stop them going out. One time we were in Kingston and she was still walking then, but with a walking stick, and she felt one come on, so we called the ambulance. She got through it and then decided she wanted to carry on with our day out. She just cracked on like nothing had happened, she was like that. It was mind over matter.
Dan: Heather wanted to have a party for her 40th birthday in 2020, but because of COVID she couldn’t. She wanted to have a boob party for her 41st, because she only had one boob, but she decided to have a wig party as she was going bald by then. Everyone wore their wigs for the whole night, plus the Euros were on so we all crammed into the front room to watch the football. It was a chilled out night, even though she was getting tired by then. Her last party was at Selsey Golf Club in July, where we had got married in 2018, and that was called her ‘Wake me up before I Go Go’ party. We had everyone we knew there, it was definitely a night to remember.
Lewis: It was just before that went she got lots of attention because she got featured by chance on ITV’s This Morning with Alison Hammond, and that made lots of people follow her Instagram page @heathers_cancer_journey. Lots of people were messaging and being really kind. She had the social media page for ages, and friends and family had been following her, as she wanted to share her story, and make sure people knew about the signs of inflammatory breast cancer.
Dan: It was important to her that if just one more person could know the signs and decided to check, then she could have helped them. She wanted to show that you can still live a life even in your last few months.
The St Wilfrid’s team were a massive comfort to us. You knew you weren’t on your own, we did have a lot of help but the Hospice team really knew what they were doing. She was on so many medications it was like a pharmacy counter, and we aren’t medically trained so they were so helpful and just kept us all at ease.
The Hospice team were very kind, they had a way of coaching us, and helping us, they never told us we did anything wrong. It helped us to draw a line: at one point we, the family, were the carers, then St Wilfrid’s team got involved. They helped us to create a plan with Heather, and it was stuck on the fridge, so we knew what to do if the paramedics came. They really listened, just little things like she didn’t want her teeth brushed by someone else, and so she felt like she had choices. No one tried to hide anything, even the worst, but they explained everything realistically, as Marcus was 14, but really nicely to us so we knew what to expect. All the nurses are very comforting and warm and it helped Heather relax as she knew people who knew what they were doing were in charge.
Lewis: One time, Mum had had her syringe driver changed. The team had finished and left, but we were worried about her breathing. We called the Hospice and they came straight back, within 15 minutes, and checked everything and reassured us that it was normal. We didn’t think they would come that quick. They could have said that over the phone, but things like that made our time with Mum easier.
Dan: The Hospice team have really helped us a family too, they’ve always been there if we needed to talk. Joe from the Family Services team has given some of us counselling when we’ve wanted it. It’s just nice to offload to someone who doesn’t know you. I’ve had support from the team right from when Heather had her terminal diagnosis last April. The grief is like something I’ve never experienced before and I have had to develop ways of coping with it.
Lewis: Her last outing was to Victorious Festival in Portsmouth. She was in her wheelchair, we were going to meet the singer Craig David, and ended up chatting with his mum for ages. Then she said she wanted to go backstage, and when someone’s in a wheelchair you don’t say no to them! So, I left and later I got a text with a photo of Mum and Dad with the singer Rag’n’Bone man! She really wanted to go- it was mind over matter for her. She passed away just a few weeks later
Lewis: I chose to do a skydive to support St Wilfrid’s, as I had wanted to do one, and it was good to support the Hospice. I discussed it with my Aunty who works in one of the St Wilfrid’s shops and she said why not look into it. It was moved due to weather conditions a few times, so I did it after Mum had passed away. You see the plane go up and then you can see things falling from the sky. It was when the body suit went on me that it all became real all of a sudden. The jump itself was over so quickly, I was the first one to jump too, and was the weirdest feeling ever!
Dan: I was nervous for him! I was massively proud too, and was holding back tears.
As a family, we think it’s so important to support our Hospice. You never know when you’ll be in our position.
Lewis: You never think it will happen to you. Life just goes upside down, your lounge becomes a hospital ward, and all of a sudden you become a carer.
Dan: Heather was so young at just 41, and is so missed by us all. Please support St Wilfrid’s Hospice as all of us will need their support at some point.