We never really know who receives our boxes of kindness as we distribute them to the Seamoor unit at North Devon district hospital every few weeks for our Amazing Chemotherapy nurses to hand out to intravenous Chemotherapy patients, so it's always lovely when we see a message pop up in our inbox from a receiver.
The story I'm going to share with you today is a very special one regarding a local lady called Jennifer from Ilfracombe who sadly passed away two days after Christmas from Sepsis that she was sadly high risk from due to her Chemotherapy lowering her immune system.
I was surprised to receive an email all the way from America, Charles who is Jennifer's brother, he lives in Manhattan and had messaged us telling us his sister had received one of our boxes of kindness while he was visiting her back in the summer.
She had given him her ChemoHero Band within the box on the condition that when she finished her treatment he was to return it to her!
Sadly after Christmas when Jennifer passed Charles returned to England with his wife and daughter to support Michael, Jennifer's husband and their son during her memorial service but he also felt he wanted to return Jennifer's ChemoHero band to be with her.
A few days later he contacted us and we were honoured to meet with Charles and Michael and Jennifer's family.
It was an emotional meeting....as we never usually meet the families the boxes of kindness go to. I feel at times we underestimate just what our charity and the simple items of a ChemoHero band within it means to the patients!
Having never met Jennifer in person I could see she was a lot of fun as this certainly shone from her families eyes as they reminisced about her charity and antique shopping habits....giving us an insight into why she loved her ChemoHero box.
We spoke about Jennifer and how well she had been responding to her Chemotherapy but sadly it was Sepsis that took her from us.
Her body got an infection and started to attack its self, causing organ failure.
Sepsis, if caught early enough, can be reversed but when muddled in with general side effects from chemotherapy can sadly be missed.
Jennifer's memorial money was so kindly donated to ChemoHero as well as her family pledging to raise more in the future.
One thing that has been highlighted for us as a charity for Chemotherapy patients is the need to start to put Thermometers within our boxes of kindness and after meeting with Jennifer's family it only seems right that this is how we continue a legacy in Jennifer's memory.
With the help of Jennifer's family every single box of kindness will contain an electronic in mouth Thermometer, with a simple sticker with her name on.
One of the first signs of Sepsis is a raised or lowered temperature so we hope by patients taking their boxes home on their first treatments and having their thermometers they will be able to be keep on top of their temperature and seek medical help at the very first point of feeling unwell.
There are around 123,000 cases of sepsis a year in England. Around 37,000 people die every year as a result of the condition.
We hope in North Devon we will be a part of lowering this statistic.
We would like to share some words from Jennifer's brother.
In early October 2017 my sister, Jennifer was diagnosed with bowel cancer that had spread to her liver. Her doctor had shown her how much significant progress she had made after three chemo treatments. We were all high-fiving. She said, "bro, I think I dodged a bullet." Sadly, on December 29th around midnight her time, she passed. A major infection had taken her life.
I feel fortunate that Laura and I were able to visit her and her family in November, in her hometown of Ilfracombe, Devon England. She looked great and was super optimistic.
At her house one night, she brought out a care package that ChemoHero had given her when she received her chemo at the hospital. She pulled out the books, honey, skin products, scarf, and wristband that I now wear in her memory. She told us how much it meant to her and how kind everyone had been.
I'm deeply saddened by the loss of my "Sostir," as I had nicknamed her. One of the memories that brings me comfort is the thought of how supportive ChemoHero had been to her.
On January 19th, 2018 my significant other Laura and my daughter Sophia travelled from New York to Jennifer’s hometown of Ilfracombe, North Devon. We met up with my UK family, including brother-in-law Michael and nephew (Jennifer’s son) Elliott.
The funeral was held on the afternoon of the 22nd at the Barnstaple crematorium. Although grief-stricken and sad, all of us reminisced about the wonderful person my sister was. Everyone talked about her sense of humor. Nobody else came close to matching her antics, her faces, her wit, and how she told a story. She was the funniest person I knew.
A few days after the memorial service, our small band met with Lisa and Ken from ChemoHero. The work her organization does is truly inspiring. As she said, their mission is not to provide funds to eradicate cancer, but simply to bring comfort where very little exists for people undergoing treatment. I should also note that Lisa and Ken had both been struck by cancer.
We mind mapped ideas for new items to include in ChemoHero’s care packages, which included thick socks and thermometers. A couple of weeks later I got an email from Lisa with a beautiful sticker with Jennifer’s name on it. The sticker will go on the thermometer boxes. I couldn’t think of something that my sister would be more honored by.
Thank you, Lisa and ChemoHero for all the work that you do and for bringing caring and comfort to those who need it the most.
I ask that you join me in supporting the wonderful work being done by ChemoHero in their community in Devon by making a donation in Jennifer's (Sostir’s) memory.