Evie

About 2 years ago, my stepdaughter Rachel was undergoing a series of tests and scans to find out what was causing the lump on the side of her skull. Thankfully we knew the lump was benign but we still needed to get to the bottom of what was causing the lump before she could start treatment.

We had to got to the RVI hospital at Newcastle to see the specialists there who were based on the children’s cancer ward. I can truly say that spending the best part of a day on the ward was probably the most humbling experience of my life. To see the children and their families and try and imagine what they must be going through. To see the staff who were so professional, friendly, positive. I’m not able to do justice to them and I’m going to stop struggling to find the words to describe my admiration.

We were blessed that day to meet Evie and her parents. Evie was a couple of years older than Rachel and had been diagnosed with brain cancer. After half an hour in Evie’s company I knew she was someone special. She had a wicked sense of humour, an infectious smile and laugh and an attitude that cancer wasn’t going to define who she was and it was never going to get her down. Her parents were also inspirational and didn’t allow anyone to show them any pity but did what they could to help my wife and I.

Evie and Rachel stuck up a great friendship. They compared treatments and medications, talked about which member of staff was the hottest and everything else that girls that age talk about. Whenever Rachel was feeling down Evie would lift her spirits and make her laugh again.

Evie was bravely fighting her own battles. A new type and a more traditional type of chemotherapy had failed to arrest the cancer and there was no treatments left on offer in the UK. It was suggested that a treatment that was available in Germany might work but it would cost £75k. Evie’s mission was born to raise the money.

Unfortunately there is no happy ending to report. Despite fighting so bravely Evie lost her battle last week before she was able to get to Germany. She was 20. Cancer is a bastard.

Despite being a lot older than Evie i can still learn from her approach to life and be inspired. Even if we live to be 100 we’re only on this planet for a relatively short period of time so make the most of it no matter what cards we’re dealt.

Dream big – Evie had a dream to meet Justin Bieber, and she did – twice. She helped people, she raised money, she leaves a legacy and a massive lasting impression on everyone she met and she met some important and famous people.

I hear people say, why do good people die and some arseholes get to live. Don’t waste time thinking about arseholes, fill your life with love, with laughter, with happiness, with singing and dancing. Be wicked, be courageous, be a friend.

Be like Evie x

Evie’s Mission

Strength

How strong would you say you are? I’m not talking about physical health, how much you can lift, how far you can run, how many push-ups you can do. I’m taking emotional strength, bravery, resilience.

I’m typing this at the RVI hospital in Newcastle. I’m with my step-daughter who is waiting to go for her umpteenth scan. She has a very rare bone condition called Fibrous Dysplasia. It’s basically a benign growth which attaches itself to bones. This one happens to be on her skull and near her brain so she needs a lot of hospital appointments and monitoring to make sure that Mildred (the name she has given her bump) doesn’t grow and that Mildred doesn’t get any brothers or sisters!

I’ve just asked Rachel if she would class herself as brave. She laughed and gave an immediate no. If bravery is classed as how well you can cope with spiders, or strange noises or being alone in the house or many, many other things then she probably has a point – she’s a wuss!! I then asked her if she would describe herself as strong. Her answer was just as emphatic – a yes,  followed by “I never used to be”. It’s true I have seen her develop an inner strength and resilience that despite living in pretty much constant pain has got her through her GCSE’s and starting A-levels. She has just started driving lessons and is planning the next important stage of her life. She decided a while ago that Mildred wasn’t going to beat her or stop her or slow her down. Sure she has bad days but she is strong, very strong.

I’m surrounded today by strong people. In this hospital people will receive news that will turn their lives upside down, news that means their lives will never be the same again. I’m sure from somewhere they will find the strength to process this news and to start to plan their recovery and rehabilitation. It may not happen straight away but it will come. Their families and loved ones will develop a strength and resilience to support them and be there in an hour of need. On a more positive note some people will receive the news that their struggle is over and that the strength they have develop has helped them back to health. The other very string people in this building are the doctors, nurses, hospital staff who provide comfort, reassurance and hope. Sometimes this just comes from a smile, a funny story, a joke.

In my life, I’ve had to find the strength to deal with my own physical and mental problems. I’ve also had to find the resilience to deal with setbacks, with bad news and then find the resilience and strength to be able to help others. If I can find inner strength, anyone can. I truly believe that we all possess an amazing amount of inner strength and sometimes it’s the strongest who get challenged the most.

If you’re sat there and you don’t think you’re strong, if you don’t think you can cope believe me you can and you will find a way. In many ways I hope you don’t have to find out just how strong and resilient you truly are! x