Family offer thanks and tribute to hospice as sister recalls a magical life that ended all too soon for much-loved and vibrant young Thurrock woman

  Posted: 08.08.21 at 14:13 by The Editor

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A THURROCK family, who are still grieving over the death of a much-loved 21-year-old woman earlier this year have highlighted her story by way of a tribute to her bravery and memory and to highlight the work of the local hospice that cared for her through her final months and gave support to them.

In December 2019, when she was just 20, Becca Ridley from Chadwell St Mary, where she lived with mum and dad Vicky and Jim, was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

After months of initial tests, treatment and appointments, Becca went for another scan in June 2020 and learned the cancer had spread to her liver and lungs.

Shockingly, doctors told her it was no longer curable.

Kelsey Ridley, Becca’s sister, shares with Nub News what happened from then on - and recalls the all too brief but action and fun-packed life of Becca.

She says: “Becca could be extremely cheeky at times, but had such an angelic way about her that she used to get away with it. I’d quite often be the one to get in trouble instead!

Becca and Kelsey.

“When she was younger, Becca loved Scouting and she was really into colouring, also more recently when she was older. She had loads of pictures in her bedroom and was always asking for new colouring pens for Christmas or birthdays. She liked putting things down onto paper.

“Becca would have her pen and pad with her when she attended appointments and she would make notes of what the doctors said, writing everything down. Becca wasn’t afraid to ask questions – she wanted to make sure she fully understood everything that she was being told about her illness.

“Often she told the medical professionals looking after her outright not to sugar-coat their words and to tell it like it is. She felt it was good to be upfront and honest.

“After being in a lot of pain in November 2019, Becca was referred to hospital for tests and scans to find out what was wrong. A few weeks later, on 12 December, Becca was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

“In January 2020, Becca began a course of chemotherapy over three months. Becca found the treatment hard-going – initially she had to go to hospital for a chemotherapy session every two weeks with a week of tablets between, which she found very hard to swallow.

Becca and Kelsey with their mum, dad and nan.

“When the initial three months of treatment was complete, Becca had another scan. At an appointment with her oncologist in June 2020, she was told that her cancer had spread to her liver and her lungs and that it was no longer curable.

“When she received this news, Becca decided to once again put pen to paper and she wrote down a bucket list – a list of things she wanted to do or experience before she passed away.

“Becca knew exactly what she wanted. The list she made was really varied – from things like going to Disneyland, visiting New York and going on a cruise, to volunteering at a dog shelter.

“Becca’s treatment continued meanwhile to help stop her cancer from spreading any further, but she had some time off treatment so she could celebrate her 21st birthday on 8 July.

“On 4th December 2020 following another scan, Becca was given the news that secondary cancer in her lungs had worsened and that it was growing at a rapid pace. There were treatment options available but the team looking after Becca wasn’t sure how effective this treatment would be for her.

Kelsey and Becca.

“At that point, Becca decided to start working through the things on her bucket list.

“My dad and I used to work at ‘Cursed’ – a Halloween event at Wat Tyler Country Park – and Becca used to come along to help as an event marshal. She made friends with a few of the other people who worked there and when they heard that Becca was unwell, they set up a crowdfunding page to raise money to help her complete her bucket list.

“We were blown away by the generosity of friends and family – almost £8,000 was raised on the page in total.

“Becca went ice skating, bought an electric scooter with accessories and Becca and I went out for a proper steakhouse meal together. Becca was really into a group of YouTubers called ‘Achievement Hunters’ and one of the nurses from Queens Hospital was able to set up a meet and greet with them for her, which she was over the moon about.

“She was very excited and had so many questions for them that she started to ask them lots all at once. We had to tell her to slow down and just do one at a time! It was just great to see her so happy.

“As Becca was so ill at that time – as well as due to restrictions relating to the pandemic – we knew it wasn’t going to be possible for her to achieve some of the items on her list, for example any of the trips and experiences abroad. Instead of going to Disneyland, we were going to throw Becca a Disney princess themed party but in the end that wasn’t possible either.

“Becca became really unwell in January 2021 around New Year’s Day. During one of Becca’s home visits, the district nurse suggested getting in touch with St. Luke’s Hospice for support.

“We had been in contact with the One Response team at the Hospice previously but we hadn’t considered Becca actually going to the Hospice. We knew where the Hospice building was but we didn’t know much about it.

“Honestly, I thought that the Hospice was somewhere that was only for older people at the end of their life – Becca was only 21.

“We were all unsure, but we had to do something. Although I had experience of being a carer previously, Becca’s health was deteriorating and it was becoming more and more challenging to meet her needs ourselves at home. We wanted to make sure she received the best possible care, so we made the decision to contact the Hospice.

“The night before Becca was due her first stay on the Hospice’s In-Patient Unit (IPU) we didn’t sleep very much. Becca was worried and so were we, although we tried our best not to show it. We just weren’t sure what to expect.

“The team at the Hospice were wonderful”

“When we arrived, we were allowed to go in with Becca to help settle her in. Becca was fine while we were there with her but when we had to leave she was really upset.

“My dad and I Facetimed Becca a little bit later on to see how she was and she had tears streaming down her face. She was really afraid of being on her own.

“We spoke to the IPU team and they allowed me to stay overnight with Becca, which was amazing. Becca was much happier when I was there. Dr. Jonathan, the IPU consultant, saw that Becca didn’t like to be on her own, so he made sure that if we weren’t there, the team checked in on her frequently.

“Becca stayed on the IPU on two different occasions. During her stays she got to know the IPU team and they got to know her.

“It felt like the whole team developed a real bond with Becca. The nurses quickly learned that she was a real character and they loved and idolised her. If there was anything she needed or wanted, they would see to it that she got it right away.

“The team nicknamed her ‘Takeaway Queen’ – if we were visiting and grabbed a takeaway so we could stay longer with Becca, she would always want to join us. I remember she would say, “A sandwich just won’t cut it!” which would make us laugh.

“There were so many little things that the team at the Hospice did that made a real difference when Becca was with them. I took hot chocolate sticks in for Becca that she really enjoyed.

All she had to do was say the word and one of the nurses would rush off and make her a hot chocolate immediately.

They made her feel like a princess

“If Becca wanted to go outside, she’d press her buzzer and within minutes someone would rush in to wheel her bed outside. Once she asked to go outside but her hair was wet, so one of the nurses dried her hair for her so she wouldn’t get cold. Another one of the nurses did her nails and hair for her one time to make her feel like a princess. Becca really loved it there.

“Whenever they saw my dad arrive, the nurses would shoot off and make him a cup of tea the way they knew he liked it. We were all spoken to like human beings – we weren’t patronised, we were given all the information we needed and we were always kept in the loop regarding Becca’s care. They took care of us too.

“We were with Becca at the Hospice when she passed away.

“Even then, at an extremely upsetting time, the nurses who were with us helped to keep us all calm. Lisa, one of the nurses, still talked to Becca even after she passed, explaining what was happening. I was able to help wash Becca too, which was really important to me.

“When we went home, the team stayed in touch by phone, giving us updates and checking in on her so we knew Becca wasn’t on her own.

“I really take my hat off to the teams at the Hospice – they are true superheroes”

“As a tribute to Becca, the family are going to continue working through the experiences on her bucket list that she wasn’t able to complete. This will include me skydiving, even though I’m terrified of heights! I also promised Becca that I would learn to drive and I’m going to carry on with my lessons soon.

“Becca was taken from us far too soon. But the care she received from the Hospice was second to none. They made a really difficult time much easier for our family and took great care of us all.”

“We’re so grateful that Becca’s last few weeks at the Hospice were made so comfortable and calm for her and we can’t thank the team at St Luke’s Hospice enough for their help and support.”

If you would like to show your support for St Luke’s – and pay tribute to the memory of Becca – please do so via this link.

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