Josie, our daughter, had her 3rd pituitary brain tumour in 1999. Because she was then totally blind and with short term memory problems I was with her in the ward at Bart’s Hospital as a carer. A rather innocuous black and white leaflet caught my eye; an organisation called Youth Cancer Trust had been established offering holidays for youngsters aged between 14 and 25 (as it was then). This would be wonderful for Josie since she was not able to go to university and was living with us on the small island of Alderney, Channel Islands, in community of only just over 2000 people and with no peer group to whom she related to, let alone any form of counselling offered.
YCT seemed the ideal solution. However, off-island has its travel problems with high cost, no ferries, flights only to Southampton and I couldn’t afford to escort her there and back. What an incredible experience it was when flights went directly to Bournemouth and Josie had her first holiday in 2002. A ride on a Sunseeker Yacht (still have the cap to prove it!) and in later visits, many other activities, dry slope skiing, horse riding, 10-pin bowling (yes, even a blind person can make a strike), but above all talking with other young cancer sufferers.
I felt completely assured to hand over, in loco parentis, to Jim and Brenda – the house managers. I think it was a learning curve for them to care for a blind person though but Josie has been invited for return visits each year and these have far outweighed what any counselling course could have done.
Sadly when Josie reached her 26th birthday YCT holidays, we thought, had come to an end. However the Trust increased the upper age limit to 30. By then Josie had re-met her boyfriend from RNIB College and Andrew was able to both escort from Southampton and also stay with her since YCT had gained sufficient sponsorship to support a friend to attend. That gave me even added assurance when Josie was away in England.
I feel we have done little to help YCT and Alderney is SUCH a wonderful island (3 miles long with a pop of only just over 2000) that many could benefit from the tranquility it affords with its outstanding beaches, walks, fauna and flora and we would offer free accommodation (2 spare double bedrooms, come and go as you please access to any family who can manage the airfare over here – unfortunately about £200 each from Southampton).
Thank you to Ann and Josie for sharing your stories
If you would like to take the Wheeler’s up on their generous offer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org