I wanted to drop you a very brief update on the Team Verrico charity. It seems hard to believe that it is now 5 years ago since my own young family was locked into a struggle with adversity in which there were no winners, each tiny victory weighed against the inexorable march of a rampant disease hell bent on destruction. Anna died on the night of 19 November 2013. Since that date, the small group of trustees with friends and people we have met along the way has raised money to support over 70 families with second opinion to potentially improve their prognosis; we have funded over 750 counselling sessions, paid for 8 research grants into statistically less significant cancers (i.e. fewer people get them) and assisted those undergoing treatment by providing 183 travel support packages and 136 hotel rooms in that period.

I thought you might be interested in some of the stories of things we have done in the last 6 months:

Paul and his wife Katy received second opinion consultations in 2016 and 2018. Very sadly, Katy, mother to Aurelia and Evan, died earlier this year. In the aftermath of Katy’s death we arranged childcare, food deliveries and a cleaner for the family. Paul said:

“Team Verrico’s support following the death of my wife has meant that I haven’t had to rush back to work and allowed my primary focus to be on the health and wellbeing of my two young children. The time that we’ve been able to spend together has bonded us further and allowed us to start to focus on the future. I can’t thank them enough.”

Jo discovered Team Verrico in 2016 following her diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

“In February 2012, during a delayed DIEP breast reconstruction following treatment for a ‘cured’ breast cancer, more cancer was found in the middle of my chest. More surgery, more chemotherapy and more radiotherapy. Treatment ended December 2012 and my life continued – I thought that was it, that I was done with cancer being part of my life. I was then monitored very closely, with CT scans every 3 months, then 6 monthly, and then in March 2016 the scan results of my first yearly CT scan showed that the cancer had returned. It was a massive shock as I had no idea! It was now in the middle of my chest, but sadly was now inoperable and no longer curable. Team Verrico were recommended to me when I was given the inoperable /no longer curable diagnosis. They have been so supportive and have arranged for second opinions in Harley Street and more recently funded some genetic testing for me. Hopefully this will help with targeted treatments in the future. I have also been lucky enough to go and visit one of the research projects that they funded at Brighton University. They are an amazing charity, and they help people like me have more tomorrows.”

Ben wrote to us after his wife Heather’s tragic passing:

“Heather fought hard for every extra day during her three-year battle with terminal bowel cancer and was a constant encouragement and blessing to all around her. Team Verrico were kind enough to support us towards the end of this battle and during the months following. They provided meals, childcare and cleaning during perhaps the most difficult time of our journey.

Their support enabled us to spend more time together as a family with our two wonderful children, Heath (aged 3) and Adia (aged 5). It meant Heather could stay at home for her final few days with me by her side. It also gave me and the children more time to grieve and to adjust to our new life after mama was gone.

The support given made the world of difference. Thank you so much xox”

Being widowed young is unfathomable. But to be widowed twice before the age of 30? Indescribable. And yet that is the truth of Jessica Haslem-Bantoft. She was 25 years old and 11 weeks pregnant with her third child in August 2014 when there came a knock at the door with the news that Jason, her first husband, had been electrocuted at work whilst fixing a commercial cooker.

Rebuilding her life slowly with three very small children, Jess met Tom, a gardener, in July 2016.

Fast forward to last winter. Jess’ children are now 7, 5 and 3 years old.

Tom became ill over the Christmas break, returned to hospital and was diagnosed with Graft versus Host disease – a side effect of Stem Cell Treatment. He was given days to live. Jess and Tom were married that evening, 6 January 2018. 30 hours later, Tom slipped away into the long, dark night and Jess had to pick up the pieces once again, widowed for the second time.

“Over the past few months, it is fair to say that life hasn’t been easy, however, I have had some of the pressure taken off by a wonderful charity’s support. 

Team Verrico provide support to families following cancer diagnosis. They support families in getting second opinions, in making the most of the time they have together and even go as far as supporting families after a loss caused by cancer. Since Tom died in January due to stem cell transplant complications as a result of his treatment for cancer, the support I have received has been invaluable. Team Verrico have paid for me to have a cleaner come once a week for the past 12 weeks, which has allowed me to spend quality time with my kids, instead of running myself into the ground trying to maintain the housework whilst grieving and being Mummy to three boys! They have also paid for me to have food deliveries for 12 weeks, which has meant no last minute dashes to the supermarket for food because I simply haven’t managed to get out to the shops for a few days.”

“Those two small acts have taken so much pressure off, so I can focus on me and the boys a little more, instead of stressing myself over the small things during a time that has been filled with turmoil.”

As we approach our own fifth anniversary we also approach an enormous milestone. Team Verrico is close, very close to hitting the magic £500,000 mark of funds raised. given we have no premises, staff costs or expensive retainers, you can be sure that all of the money raised is going directly to help people like Jess, Heather, Paul, Katy, Jo and Ben. It is also being used on small ring fenced research projects where we explicitly ask partner universities to place into funds that do not include staff costs. It pays to help kids come to terms with the loss of a parent by paying counsellors directly in their local area for face to face consultations.

You can guess where this is going. I would really, really like us to be able to hit the magic half a million mark by the time we hit the fifth anniversary on 19 November 2018. If you can host a coffee morning, ask work to hold a dress down day, do an event or come up with another way to help us, then now is the time. I’m doing my bit – Venice Marathon at the end of October along with some half marathons in between– but please sound the clarion call as we set out to remember Anna on this anniversary date by getting her cause over the line to the half million mark.

Love and light to all

#NeverGiveUp  #Let’sGo