Terri’s daughter Jess was cared for by Martlets before she died at the age of 21. Terri tells us about the care Jess received and the appeal she runs every Christmas in memory of her daughter.
“Jess was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in 2011 when she was just 15. After years of chemo, invasive treatments and a massive operation, she beat cancer twice, but relapsed in 2015. She then lived bravely for 22 months knowing she was terminal. During that time, she was an inspiration for so many young people with cancer and chronic illnesses. She was passionate about supporting people with mental health issues too.
Jess hardly ever complained; she just wanted to be positive and to enjoy the time she had left so that we had happy memories. Although she was on chemo, she still had an appetite and loved going out to eat. She had cravings for pizza, and ‘burgers without the burger’, as she didn’t eat meat. We would also go to the cinema a lot and Jess loved getting the biggest box of popcorn possible. She would often fall asleep though in 10 minutes with her head on my shoulder. Then I’d be sitting there watching the film trying to get through this huge tub of popcorn.
Care at Martlets
Jess looked forward to going into Martlets as an outpatient for physical therapy; the physiotherapist would give her an amazing massage that helped take some of her pain away. All the staff there were incredible – I just can’t speak highly enough of them.
Towards the end, when Jess started to decline, Martlets arranged for nurses to come and look after her at home. But when Jess woke up that Friday morning, she said, ‘Mum I think we need to go into Martlets now’. I knew things weren’t looking good, so an ambulance came and took her straight into the inpatient unit. The nurses were just incredible – not just in caring for her but for me too as I was in pieces.
Jess was adamant on that Friday that she wanted to have her nails done as she loved her acrylic nails. So, we had someone come into Martlets to do that which was lovely. The nurses made a point of giving her time to enjoy that experience; they came back later so she could have that time without being interrupted.
The room was always full of people coming to visit her. And although she was sleeping all the time, she could still hear the laughter. I just wanted to make sure the room was full of joy. Because I knew that she would still be able to hear things even after she couldn’t interact with us. She woke up at one point towards the end and said, ‘I’m at my party Mum’. About an hour later she opened her eyes and whispered, ‘Can you pack my bags I’m going on holiday’. But I knew where she was going. She passed away on the night of a pink full moon which, according to folklore, represents the end of pain and suffering.
Remembering Jess at Christmas
Jess loved getting new pyjamas on Christmas Eve. We’d all get into our PJs, make hot chocolate and watch a movie – our favourite was ‘Elf’. Jess loved decorating the house at Christmas; she bought some new decorations which we’ve put on the tree every year since she died. One is an angel that goes on top; it reminds me of that last Christmas we had together. We’ve kept Jess’s decorations and some traditions she loved. But as a family we’ve also started doing things bit differently at Christmas because it’s so painful otherwise.
Christmas is very bittersweet for me. Everyone around us is happy and smiling but we still miss Jess so much, particularly at this time of year. Jess was our Christmas. Each year has been a milestone; you learn to deal with your grief in different ways every time Christmas or her birthday comes around. At Christmas there is such a big expectation for people to have a good time. That can be hard for families who are grieving. You’ve got to find your own way through in your own time and do what feels right.
Four years on I still don’t know how I’m going to feel on a special day like Christmas or Jess’s birthday; I might be in the mood to celebrate, or I might want to have some quiet time on my own. It’s the pyjama appeal I set up to remember Jess that really keeps me going.
Please remember Martlets this Christmas
Because Jess loved new PJs at Christmas, it was her last wish that I get an appeal going to donate new pyjamas to hospitals and hospices at this time of year. We’ve been running it as a public campaign for five years now. It really puts a smile on the faces of kids and young adults who have to be in hospital or in a hospice over Christmas time. We always deliver some to Martlets and I know Jess would love that we’re doing this in her memory.”
Martlets’ care is free thanks to the generosity of our brilliant donors and fundraisers.
This Christmas let’s remember together and celebrate the precious moments that make this time of year so special. With Martlets you can leave a donation in memory of a loved one and if you wish to add their name to our Order of Service please make your donation before December 5 2021.
Join us as we remember together at our Light up a Life Service on Sunday 12 December which will be held in Martlets’ gardens.