Sam's mum, Crystal, was cared for by Trinity. Here he reflects on the final weeks she spent at the hospice and explains why he is fundraising in her memory.

"My name is Sam, I’m 27 years old and I grew up in south west London, just down the road from Trinity. Now I live in north London with my fiancée Natalie and work for a technology company. After a four and a half year battle with cancer, my Mum Crystal lived out her final 3 weeks at Trinity at the end of 2017/early 2018.

Whilst it was an incredibly difficult time for me, my Dad Adrian and my sister Izzy, all the staff at Trinity did everything possible to make the process easier, for which we are all eternally grateful.

Having been discharged from hospital and before moving to Trinity, Mum spent a couple of days back in our family home, which was really tough on us all. She couldn’t get comfortable anywhere in the house and it was taking a visible strain on my Dad emotionally, who was caught between being her doctor and her husband. It made the mood in the house very trying.

Moving Mum to Trinity alleviated these problems and suddenly we had this beautiful, peaceful place in which we could spend invaluable time together as a family, with state of the art equipment and dozens of staff and volunteers on hand to help us in any way we needed.

Our focus was able to shift immediately to being family members first and (as much as possible) relishing those last moments together rather than having to be the caregivers.

The overarching situation aside, we have nothing but positive memories of those three weeks spent at Trinity and of the people we encountered. During that time, Mum regularly referred to herself as an “upside-down beetle” that could not turn herself over and was so thankful for all the staff and volunteers that helped her with absolutely everything. In fact, she even managed to proclaim that statues should be erected to honour certain staff members, a sentiment that we all of course echo.

In general, the hospice was incredibly accommodating to our family, saying that we should treat the place as if it were our own home. We duly obliged; my Dad stayed over most nights (and without fail was offered a cooked breakfast each morning), whilst our golden retriever Tilly got to know the place very well, with daily visits spent introducing herself to other patients and lots of time playing out in the garden. It was honestly a better service than you would get in a 5* hotel.

When my Mum had the wacky idea of inviting 40-50 of her friends and family over for a party on Christmas Eve, unbelievably, we were told that that would be absolutely fine!

It was surreal seeing so many loved ones gathered at the hospice to say goodbye to my Mum – especially at a time when we ‘should’ have been sombre and upset, but instead we were laughing and joking over some bubbly and nibbles! It’s a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

My friend Lars and I are planning on cycling the renowned Land’s End to John O’Groats route that will take us from bottom to top of the UK, totalling 969 miles. We are aiming to raise at least £7,500 to be split between three charities, including Royal Trinity Hospice (the others being Cancer Research UK and Become). 

We are now over three quarters of the way to our target, which is fantastic. We will continue to bombard friends and family with fundraising messages, as well as posting live updates on social media whilst on the ride itself, and hopefully we will reach and maybe exceed our target. 

Whether supporters have had direct experience with the hospice or not, all donations will go such a long way in helping families like mine.

  

One thing I have a certainly picked up is that there is no right way to feel throughout a situation like this, or to grieve once the situation has concluded. People may say about the ‘seven stages of grief’ and ‘how you are going to feel’, but honestly, I don’t believe these to be true. Every single person is unique, and grief is not prescriptive.

However it may feel, it’s important not to judge or try to make yourself feel a different way – in the immediate aftermath of my Mum dying I actually felt remarkably at ease with it all, mainly because we’d had a chance to say goodbye over a period of a few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments, and in those instances, it is important to reach out to people for support – be them family, friends or professionals. 

Finally, and this may sound unexpected, but I will end with this: where possible throughout the situation, take time to smile, take time to laugh, take time to have fun and take time to have positive conversations.

In future, when reflecting upon a tough period, it is so critically important to have fond memories to look back on, because they will help counter the pain inevitably experienced after a loved one has died. It will not solve the problem, but it will certainly make it easier."

You can support Sam on his journey to raise vital funds for patients and families, like his, that are facing life-limiting illness here