Special Day – Willow Foundation

Last week my hubby and I returned from the most wonderful weekend spent at a beautiful little cottage in Devon courtesy of the amazing Willow Foundation. The charity works with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to fulfil uplifting and unforgettable ‘Special Days’.

I’d heard about the Willow Foundation via social media and thought what a fantastic idea it is to be able to give those living with life-threatening illnesses a special day treat. Having read the stories of others who enjoyed special days I decided to give it a go and apply. You fill out an application form providing medical details and put ideas of what you’d like to do for your special day. I said I’d either like to spend a weekend at a cottage with a log fire and a hot tub with my hubby, go out for a night out at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London or go for a trip in a VW campervan.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, but I really just wanted to do something special with the man in my life who has been so amazing and supportive and who has held me up over the last year. My husband has supported me through all my operations and treatment, being positive, keeping me in good spirits and always telling me how beautiful I am when I’ve felt so hideous inside and out! He’s juggled working full time, taking me to and from endless hospital appointments, caring for me, cleaning, cooking and being my rock – I could not have got this far without him.

The lovely Practice Nurse who had been regularly changing my Picc line dressings at my local doctor’s surgery signed my form and I popped it off in the post. I had almost forgotten all about it until I received a phone call from a lady at Willow to let me know my application had been granted!! We decided a weekend away in a cottage would be an amazing treat and Liz (my ‘Special Day Maker’) set about organising it for us. I was so ecstatic and grateful that they’d granted my wish. It was lovely for us to have something to look forward to when my treatment had finished and for us to be able to enjoy ourselves and try and forget about the world of cancer.

We found a really lovely romantic cottage located in North Devon. As it was a popular destination they were already booked up quite far in advance, but there was a date free in March so Liz booked in our weekend for us.

I finished my radiotherapy treatment in January, and having recently just returned to work in February, it was so nice to have something to look forward to in the coming weeks. Just before the weekend arrived I received my Special Day pack. This contained all the details of our trip and booking confirmations – they even included a taste card and had printed off maps and directions for us!

We were so excited about our trip and as the date finally arrived we set off for our weekend away. We were absolutely delighted when we arrived at ‘honeymoon cottage’. For the next three days our home was an 18th century thatched cottage in a picturesque little rural village in Devon surrounded by rolling green hills.

SpecialDays2The cottage had so much character and charm with its original features, ancient wood beams and inglenook fireplace. It was beautifully decorated and had a wood burning stove, a huge free standing copper bath big enough for two, a hot tub in the garden and all manor of gadgets and a Bose surround system that was playing out music in every room.  There was even a fresh loaf of bread that had been baked for us upon our arrival!

We spent our weekend eating delicious food, relaxing by the fire, drinking champagne in the hot tub, roaming around the area and generally having an amazing time together. The weekend was a welcome break and it gave us the chance to relax, reconnect and create some very special memories.

Being diagnosed with and treated for cancer is a truly terrifying experience and the path I have been walking this last year has been fraught with worry, fear, stress, pain and anxiety. I have had amazing support from my family and friends who I can’t thank enough. After all the months of surgeries, treatments and being in and out of hospital so much it finally feels like life has returned to some sort of normality at last.

We are so grateful for our weekend away and I would like to sincerely thank Willow for their generosity and kindness in granting me my Special Day.

If you are aged 16-40 and are currently undergoing treatment for a life-threatening illness you can apply for a Special Day here.

Thank you

As the time is approaching to wave goodbye to 2015, I felt it only right to express my heartfelt gratitude for the love and support I have received this year. My illness has taken many things away from me, but over this time I have also gained so much and have been utterly overwhelmed by the love, kindness, encouragement and help that I’ve received. Not only from my husband, friends and family, but from work colleagues, and new acquaintances from corners of this world that I did not know existed before.

My hubby has been my absolute rock and strength. I wasn’t expecting the in sickness and health part so soon in our married lives, but he has been true to our wedding vows and has been the shoulder that I’ve leaned on and the rock upon which I’ve rested. He has been so strong for me in my darkest hours, shining a light on the path that we are currently walking together.

He has been at my side every step of the way, caring for me, comforting me, protecting me and holding me up when I have been at my weakest and lowest. He has juggled working full time and taking me to and from appointments (at two different hospitals at times). He has been my best friend, nurse, cook, cleaner, hairdresser, my voice, my ears, my everything. He has supported me through all my operations and treatment, keeping me in good spirits and always telling me how beautiful I am, even when I have looked and felt absolutely hideous! I am truly blessed that a soul so beautiful as his, walks this path with me.

All of my friends and family have been so wonderfully supportive I absolutely couldn’t have got this far without them. They say you find out who your real friends are in situations like this and I have to say I am truly blessed and lucky to have such kind, caring and loving people in my life. Whilst the path has been a hard one to travel, one thing having cancer has done, it has shined a huge light on the many special, down right amazing people who I’m lucky to have in my life.

I have been comforted by the support gained from the lovely ladies I have met through twitter, my blog and the forums I have joined – the ‘sisterhood’. Their posts and writing have served as knowledge, inspiration and encouragement for me. I had the pleasure of meeting in person with one of these ladies, who was just as lovely in person as she is online. She moved me to tears when she presented me with a beautifully wrapped basketful of presents. All had been so carefully thought about and lovingly wrapped to be opened at various points in time. Each one had a message tag attached such as ‘Open me when you need to feel calm,’ ‘Open me when you need to smile,’ ‘Open me when sleep won’t come’ and ‘Open me when flowers arrive.’ Such an expected and lovely gift from someone who has only so recently come into my life.

If 2015 has taught me anything, it is that I am loved and I thank everyone who has taken the time to be there for me. So, so many kind gestures have been made for both Pats and I. Our house has been continually filled with an incredible amount of beautiful flowers and get well cards. I have been moved to tears by the amazing and really thoughtful presents which have been so gratefully received. Cards with such heartfelt emotions, positivity and support, well-meaning and encouraging phone calls and text messages to spur me on. I can’t tell you how many times a simple gesture has lifted my spirits and kept me going through what has been the toughest chapter of my life.

My employers have been the most lovely, understanding and supportive you could wish for and I really cannot thank them enough for their kindness and generosity.

I owe a very big thank you to the brilliant NHS service and all the fabulous doctors and nurses who have cared for me this year and helped saved my life. I have nothing but the utmost respect, admiration and appreciation for them. Their professionalism, expert guidance, compassion and patience with the millions of questions I’ve fired at them have all helped to make the whole experience that little less horrid.

I have also received tremendous support from some absolutely fantastic charities this year – Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan, The Haven, Look Good Feel Better and The Willow Foundation. I shall be doing my best to give something back to them over the coming months and years.

Thanks to all who have taken the time to read my blog and for all the supportive comments and help and advice offered. I’ve found writing this blog to be a very therapeutic, healing and powerful tool over these last few months. I hope it’s helped to keep my family and friends updated – and I apologise for the times when it may have been a little too honest and raw.

I wish you all happy holidays with your loved ones and I hope that you have a wonderful year ahead. Life really does throw you lemons at times, that’s the one given in this world. I do know that in the depths of the hardest points in life, there is also so much love and positivity to be gained (although it’s hard to always see this). The low times can also remind us how bloody awesome life actually is. Don’t waste it – grab it by the balls folks. Dream dangerously. Be awesome. Hug your loved ones tight and tell them you love them. Appreciate all that you do have, rather than what you don’t. Be wise, be kind and be thankful.