“All the staff do their jobs to an amazing standard but they also have that extra human touch”

Mark Sturgess has raised over £9,500 for Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in memory of his younger brother, James, who died at the Reading hospice in 2017 at the age of 28. Here, he talks about the care and support they received as a family, even through the toughest times.

James and Mark Sturgess on a day out together
James and Mark Sturgess on a day out together

My brother was always very sporty and active so it was a real shock for all of us when he was diagnosed with cancer in his spine at the age of 25.

He had to have a big operation and needed a lot of rehab to be able to use his legs again, but sadly after three years the cancer returned. It got to the point when there  was nothing more the doctors could do for him and he was referred to Sue Ryder.

Support from day one

James moved in with me and my family, then a Sue Ryder Nurse from the community team came to visit us, explaining what she could do for James and us. It was very difficult for all of us, but from day one she was amazing.

James had a wish list of things he wanted to do, including going abroad to watch some football matches and going on a cruise with all of his friends. The nurse was heavily involved in making it all happen, making sure he had any medication he needed, organising his medical notice to go abroad and arranging for him to have a blood transfusion if his platelets were low.

Complementary therapy

The nurses knew the stress I was under looking after James while holding down a full-time job, so they would also arrange for us to go to the hospice together to get massages with their complementary therapists which was great. Some of the hospice volunteers also made a special comfort blanket for my daughter.

“He was such a young person to be in that situation and they always treated him with such dignity and respect”

James wanted to stay at home for as long as possible, but it got to the point where it was too difficult and going into the hospice would make things a lot easier for him. He was in the hospice for about a week and I was there every second of the day.

The nurses really couldn’t do enough for him and I will always remember one really hot day where they were able to take him outside in the beautiful gardens to enjoy the sunshine, which was massive for him. He was such a young person to be in that situation and they always treated him with such dignity and respect.

A special memory

All the staff do their jobs to an amazing standard, but at the same time they have that extra human touch.

James actually passed away on my daughter’s birthday and that morning the nurses organised for a cake to be brought in so he could sing happy birthday to her with us. That always sticks in my mind as they went that extra mile and helped him to have that special memory on his final day.

After he passed away the support didn’t stop there and the family support team at the hospice provided counselling for me and regularly checked up on me to make sure I was doing OK. They went one step further than they ever had to.

“People forget about hospices until they need them and it’s so important that people know about all the amazing care they provide”

I think most people assume hospices are for older people, but they also care for patients who are younger than me and my friends. People forget about hospices until they need them and it’s so important that people know about all the amazing care they provide.

They allowed my brother to do so much in his final months and that’s why I have tried to raise awareness and funds by running the London Marathon, half marathons and organising football competitions.

James loved football - he used to play for Athletico Reading - and I hope to organise a bigger charity football tournament in the future and make it a regular thing.

Find out more information on Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice, the expert palliative care they provide and ways you can help to support them.

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Mark Sturgess

Brother of patient

Mark Sturgess

Mark's brother, James, was cared for by the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice team after being diagnosed with cancer of the spine. He died at the hospice in 2017 and Mark has since raised over £9,500 for them in memory of James.