A True Inspiration
Meeting Ann-Marie for the first time her warm sunny smile is the first thing you notice, not that she has stage four lymphatic cancer, which is incurable.
Diagnosed in July 2015 and undergoing two and a half years of chemotherapy treatment, Ann-Marie refuses to give up and continues to live her life as fulfilled as possible. Doing the things she enjoys and giving back as much as she can to those in need is what keeps her going. Ann-Marie has been using the services of the Health and Wellbeing Centre at North London Hospice since 2016. Here she tells us about the impact the services of the Hospice have had on her.
Ann-Marie said: “I decided to refer myself to the North London Hospice back in 2016. I happened to pick up a leaflet about the Hospice and its services in my local North London Hospice shop and decided to give them a call. At the time I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment and I found myself really struggling with the side effects.
I wasn’t functioning well physically or emotionally and I felt I needed some extra support. I was then invited to the Hospice for a clinical assessment and the nurse that saw me suggested that I should try a course of reiki to ease the pain I was feeling and to help me relax.
“Since then I have also had four sessions of psychological support to help me deal with my illness mentally. Being told you have an incurable illness is a mammoth thing to deal with. I felt very alone and unsupported and having North London Hospice has been an immense help, allowing me to process the ordeal I am going through.
“The centre offers a variety of supportive groups. I have taken part in one-to-one sessions with an art therapist. It has really helped me cope and process my feelings and emotions. Most recently, I joined the photography group, which is run by a professional photographer. It’s great fun. There are five patients and some carers in the group and we meet on a monthly basis.
We learn and share tips on taking good photos and sometimes meet up to go to photography exhibitions.”
Ann-Marie keeps going and still manages to work full time running her charity, which she set up in 2010, www.28toomany.org which fights to end FGM globally. She added: “The Hospice has allowed me to keep going and to continue doing all the things that mean the most me. I didn’t want to stop running my charity as I am very passionate about the cause.”
Before her diagnosis Ann-Marie took part in a variety of physical challenges such as the Brit 10K, ToughMudder and was about to embark on the Brighton Marathon. After reading about the 10K Santa Run in the North London Hospice newsletter Ann-Marie decided to give it a go and has so far raised over £700 for the Hospice.
“I really enjoyed taking part in the Santa Run, it was tough but a lot of fun. I walked the first half with two sticks and the rest of it in a wheelchair. Everyone was so supportive cheering me on and giving me high fives. It really kept me going. I felt so proud of myself when I got to the end. It was a big achievement for me, even though I had taken part in tougher challenges.”
Ann-Marie is relentless, and even manages to give up some of her time to volunteer as a lay minister at Marie Curie in Hampstead.
“Both my parents died from cancer and I spent most of my 20’s nursing them. I have a deep understanding of the disease and a great sense of empathy and compassion which led me to want to reach out and help people going through a similar journey, so I decided to volunteer at Marie Curie.”
“I can’t give up, I know my illness isn’t going to go away and I’m not going to get better but that doesn’t mean I have to stop living and doing all the things I enjoy doing. I urge everyone to write a bucket list. I have 81 things listed on mine and I have so far completed 28 of them, I intend to keep going and cross off as many of them as I can.
I’m so thankful to North London Hospice for all their support. Hospice’s aren’t just there to care for people during their final few days they are there to make the unbearable bearable and enable people to live despite having an incurable illness.”