When the opportunity arose I jumped at the chance to be a part of the Sparkle Night Walk, an amazing yearly event supporting the fantastic work and care given to patients at Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield.
Having recently found out that a beautiful, brave and inspirational young woman who I had the pleasure of photographing last year and who subsequently became a friend, passed away after battling ovarian cancer for the last 18 months, tonight’s walk seems very poignant.
This beautiful young woman came into my life for just a short time but she has left a big mark on my heart. I will never forget the time we spent together on her Makeover and Photo Shoot, laughing and joking and capturing happy memories for her that will now be treasured by her family and partner, Nick.
Della was a breath of fresh air and so positive in her endeavours to live life to the full. She was the person who told me about the charity, Look Good Feel Better who my business Amanda McConnell Photography is now supporting this year, raising money for volunteers to continue the fantastic support like that given to Della during her time at Ashgate Hospice.
Before Della passed away she wrote this little piece for me about her life and journey since her diagnosis, that she was happy to share with others …
I got diagnosed in January aged 24 with a tumour the size of a melon as well as learning it had also spread around my tummy and then being told it was the “old lady” kind. They operated in March to try and remove the melon but it failed as it was too stuck down. For the last 6 years I had been told I had IBS but no one has followed protocol and done a blood test to confirm that it really was ibs. The only reason they found it now was because I went to my new drs with flu and she thought I had glandular fever and ordered bloods and an ultrasound. After the operation my oncologist wanted to do a watch and wait period but my body disagreed and I ended up having 3 chest drains, a lung operation and 2 visits to intensive care. At the end of this I was very weak and lopsided with ascities so my oncologist was reluctant to give me chemo but I pushed for it. It turned out chemo was exactly what I needed at that point. I lost all the fluid thru lots of toilet stops that week and I felt back to normal! I was able to climb stairs, leave my wheelchair and walking stick at home and I was able to drive again. I still asked for help to get me out of the house and I attend my local hospice each week for their day service- I am the youngest patient by far but I’m treated as one of the gang. So now I’m 5 chemos down the line and on my first break. They say it’s incurable as it was caught too late but that’s not stopping me living my life. I have received amazing support through clic Sargent and the teenage cancer trust as I am in their age range and they have been invaluable during this journey. I have an amazing boyfriend who got me through and recently became my fiancé and without him I wouldn’t have had the will to continue fighting! But this cancer has far from destroyed my confidence it’s actually improved it and taught me to go for things that I never would have before so I’m studying to be a therapist. Before the cancer my body image was so poor! I hated with a passion looking in the mirror or going clothes shopping as I felt so limited but my body has changed so much over this year. In January I looked pregnant with all the fluid stuck in my tummy and then in March I had my stomach cut in half so that was a new scar and it didn’t heal correctly so that affected the way I looked at my body. Then in June I had a collection of fluid on one side of my belly which made me look lopsided and it was hard to sit straight but with the help of chemo that went! The chemo and hospital food have allowed me to lose nearly six stone and now Im not horrified when I look in the mirror…I actually quite like what I see and now I go shopping without worry and enjoy dressing my new body! With the cancer I wouldn’t have found that confidence to go for things showing me off!
I’m so looking forward to being a part of tonight’s Sparkle Night Walk, it’s going to be amazing being a part of something so special. Della will always be a part of my life and this blog is dedicated to her as the beautiful, brave and inspiration young woman she was.