Our Rise to the Challenge month focuses on giving local people the opportunity to do something amazing while raising vital funds for Willen Hospice. This money helps us to support families like Marta, who faces the very different, and real challenge of raising her four daughters by herself after her husband died.
“Steve and I had been together for nearly five years. When we first met in 2015, I was going to my best friend’s wedding in Poland and he just said ‘Right, I’m going to go with you’, the weekend before. My Nan used to say that whenever a man is ready to do everything for you, then he’s the right man to be with.
“After a year together we had our first daughter, Annie, and in October 2018 we found out that I was pregnant with triplets. But just a few months later, Steve was diagnosed with cancer.
“Three weeks after the triplets were born Steve had surgery to remove his tumour, and it was sent to the biopsy lab. The results came back and it was confirmed that it was stage three sarcoma. Because he had newborn triplets Steve was being very positive about treatments, but eventually, the hospital said they couldn’t help him anymore.
“On 23rd December 2020 Steve was admitted to Willen Hospice, and the whole support kicked in straight away. Whenever I asked a question, I always got the answer. I could even go sit and cry and no one would ask me, ‘why am I crying?’, instead they would be supporting me saying ‘you will be okay’.
“Steve wanted to die at home and the Hospice organised absolutely everything. It was just a few days of him being at home, but his last wish was granted. As well as this, the Hospice helped me with sharing information, making wills, and providing support for the family. This is when I was introduced to Jackie McLeod, the Willen Hospice Children and Family Social Care worker.
“After Steve died, Jackie phoned me almost the following day saying ‘Right, this is what we’re going to do, this is what you have to do, and this is what I have to do. We’re just going to make sure that everything will work.’ All of the technical information she just served to me on a gold platter, and it was something that I really needed.
“She also helped me with what I was supposed to say to my children. Whenever Annie asked ‘Why’s Daddy not coming home?’ I had Jackie literally holding my shoulder. She told me what to say, how to say it and how to slowly upgrade it as all of them grow up and their understanding of the world changes.
“Jackie even helped me with getting my marital name on my Polish passport, as Steve and I married shortly before he died. Because of COVID and Brexit, I was struggling to get an appointment with the Polish Embassy and Jackie helped me straight away, contacting them on my behalf. And while I am not sure how she managed to do it, I finally got my passport. She’s a superstar.
“I also got into the routine of having ‘me time’, thanks to Jackie. She would constantly tell me ‘You need time for you. Even if there is still a mess in the house, you take care of yourself first so everybody else around you will be okay.’ That was basically the best and the most valuable lesson for me.
“I think Willen Hospice is an amazing charity. It’s not just about the care, it’s the people working here who are pouring their hearts into their job.”
Marta is now volunteering to help run a peer support group at Willen Hospice to help other families affected by a life-limiting illness.