A young Derby dad is tackling a series of fundraising challenges for Treetops Hospice in memory of his late wife, who died of breast cancer last year, aged 37.
Emma’s diagnosis in June 2016 came as a massive shock to the young couple who had just started to plan their wedding, as Matt, 37, explained:
“I met Emma thirteen years ago through a mutual friend, and we just clicked. After a couple of years together, our son Fin came along. When he was three years old, we went on holiday to Lanzarote, and I proposed.
“We were planning to get married out there. Emma was going to the gym, trying to tone up to look her best for the day. When she lost a bit of weight, that’s when she found a lump.”
The couple cancelled their wedding plans abroad, but Emma was adamant they would still get married.
“Emma just said ‘sod it, we’re still getting married’. Because in Lanzarote, the wedding was only classed as a ceremony, we’d had to book the registry office here in Derby. So within a couple of weeks, we actually had that as our wedding day.
“We got married in the morning as planned, then had a party in a friend’s beer garden. We did the best that we could in a short space of time really – friends and family helped out. It was lovely and as good as it could possibly have been.
“Emma was a strong sod really. She really tried to be positive. She tried everything – chemo, surgery – and we even had a fundraising day to send her to Mexico for some more intense, alternative treatments.”
When the COVID pandemic began in March last year, Matt had to stop work as a gas engineer, he said:
“It sounds bad, but lockdown couldn’t have come better for us. I could spend every last day with Emma. We just stayed in. Family and friends dropped parcels of food, and I became a bit of a master chef.
“Lockdown started only four months before Emma died, but she really declined in those few months, and it wasn’t nice to see.
“We were offered carers to help, but I wanted to do it myself, and some neighbourly friends helped too and were amazing. The way we saw it was, carers would be going into several different houses every day, so they carried more risk than someone we knew working from home coming to help out.
“But it got to a point where I was down on the settee every night. Emma was waking up in pain, and there were a few nights on the trot where I was only getting four hours of sleep or so. During the day, I was occupied by Fin, who was 8 at the time.”
Matt was recommended to contact Treetops Hospice at Home service, he said:
“Emma wanted to die at home, and if it wasn’t for Treetops, we’d have been in hospital for long periods of time, and it wouldn’t have been good for me or Fin.
“The hospice nurses were all amazing. They’d arrive at about 10pm and leave in the morning. Just having someone there overnight, so I could go and lie down was a Godsend really. It made things that bit easier.
“Normally, I’m quite a proud person, and I don’t like asking for things, but deep down, I don’t know how it would have been without Treetops.”
After Emma’s funeral, Matt approached Treetops for bereavement counselling for Fin, he said:
“He was an eight-year-old boy that had lost his mum. I think all he remembers of his mum is of her being poorly. I don’t think he remembers much of anything else; she’s always been in or out of hospital with something.
“The counsellors were amazing. They used cards to get Fin to say how he felt. It was a brilliant way of him showing what he’d been through.”
Matt and Fin have gone on to complete several fundraising challenges in Emma’s memory and raise money for the hospice. In October 2020, in freezing conditions, Matt and Fin, accompanied by family and friends, climbed Ben Nevis.
“It was a brilliant experience. Fin, who was only eight at the time, led the way near enough all the way and was shouting, ‘come on, hurry up!’ He’s a really brilliant kid.”
And Matt is encouraging others to support the local charity, Matt added:
“What Treetops did for me, I feel like I’m forever in their debt really. They have had a tough year and can’t do their normal fundraising, so they need people to try and fundraise for them.”
Mike Pastor, Treetops events relationships manager, said:
“We’re incredibly grateful to Matt and Fin for sharing their story and their amazing fundraising efforts.
“We’d love to hear from anyone inspired to take on a challenge and raise money for us – so that we can continue to care for even more families – like Emma, Matt and Fin – in the future.
“We have discounted charity places available on the Wolf Run coming up in early July. It’s a 10k wild run, with 25 obstacles including a 100m water slide – essentially an adventure playground for grown-ups! We’d love to hear from anyone keen to run for Treetops.”
Those interested in taking part in the Wolf Run or another challenge for Treetops should contact Mike Pastor on 07970 425134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.