Gemma Sisson and her fiancé Ricky Moore had been together for nearly 16 years but never found the time to plan a wedding. So, when Gemma was admitted to Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice with terminal cancer at the height of the first lockdown, staff pulled out all the stops to help them tie the knot. Ricky has since vowed to keep fundraising for Wheatfields, to make sure the hospice can be there when it matters for other families in the future.
Gemma loved to exercise and even qualified for the British Body-Building final in 2016. She was initially diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in 2018 after finding a lump on her leg. Ricky said: “We were told she could potentially make a full recovery at that point. So through the spring and summer of 2018 she was having chemotherapy and radiotherapy and then in January 2019 they said there was no sign of any cancer.”
However, a month or so later Gemma started getting pain in her back and after a couple of visits to A&E she decided to see a physiotherapist who recommended she should have an urgent scan. Devastatingly, the scan confirmed the cancer had returned in her neck and spine.
“Gemma was admitted to hospital straight away,” Ricky said. “She had a massive operation in August and had metal rods put in her neck and spine. She had stage four secondary cancer at that point and we knew it was incurable but we still had about three or four good months together and we really tried to make the most of that time.”
Gemma was first admitted to Wheatfields in February for pain management and after two weeks was able to return home. “Wheatfields did an amazing job. They really looked after her and got her pain under control. She was able to stay at home all through March and April. The lockdown had started by then so I didn’t have to work and it meant I could put all my focus on looking after Gemma and spending as much time with her as possible.
“We also had a Sue Ryder Nurse who was really nice. She said there is a bed at Wheatfields ready for you whenever you feel it’s too much at home. At the end of April Gemma had made the decision to stop the chemo and then she went downhill really fast. By the start of May she was losing the use of her limbs. Gem stayed at home as long as possible, but it got to the point where home care wasn’t enough and we had to make the really tough decision for her to go to Wheatfields.”
“Wheatfields organised a priest, set up a special room for us, decorated and got a cake. A lady called Vicky even came in on her day off to do Gem’s hair and makeup. She looked amazing”
When Gemma was at the hospice, the care staff did everything they could to ensure the couple were able to tie the knot and still have their special day together with friends and family, even with the local restrictions.
Ricky, who owns 1-RM gym, said: “We got engaged on Gemma’s 30th birthday in 2011 and had just never got round to organising a wedding, but Wheatfields turned it around in two days. They organised a priest, they set up a special room for us, they decorated, they got a cake. One lady called Vicky even came in on her day off to do Gem’s hair and makeup. She looked amazing. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for us that week.
“We couldn’t have had a better day under the circumstances”
“Gem’s parents came and my friend attended as my best man, and Gem’s brother and his wife watched through the window. That’s all we needed. We couldn’t have had a better day under the circumstances and that’s all down to Wheatfields.”
Gemma died on July 22, 10 weeks after she was admitted to the hospice. She was 39. Ricky and the couple’s family and friends have since raised an incredible £34,000 for the hospice’s urgent appeal.
Continuing Gemma's legacy
Ricky is now determined to continue Gemma’s legacy and has vowed to carry on fundraising for Wheatfields, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No matter how much pain Gemma was in all she cared about was if everybody else was ok. In the last months of her life she spent every minute making sure I was going to be alright when she was gone. She really was the most selfless and loving person imaginable.
“In every aspect they went over and above and they made a horrible time as good as it could be for us”
“I can’t thank Wheatfields enough for the amazing care – it really was another level. There was such humanity, they really genuinely care about each individual as a person and they couldn’t have done any more for us. In every aspect they went over and above and they made a horrible time as good as it could be for us.
“I know Wheatfields really needs that support with fundraising at the moment so in honour of Gem I’m going to do a fundraising event for Wheatfields every single year now.”
“She positively influenced so many people with her messages so I have tried to pick up that baton”
“I did the Walk to Remember for Wheatfields with a mate a few weeks ago. Gemma loved wrestling as a kid so I dressed up as her favourite wrestler. We walked 10k around the local park so people would see us and raised more than £2,400. I also dressed up as a ballet dancer and we did a live Instagram that raised another £6,200 but I think it was the influence that Gemma had that has allowed us to do that.
“She positively influenced so many people with her messages and so many have contacted me since because of that so I have tried to pick up that baton. You just don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”