When you’re out in Plymouth and surrounding areas, you can’t fail to notice runners pounding the pavements, some of whom are putting in training for the London Marathon. Among those taking on the big challenge next month is St Luke’s Dr Kate Davies, who’s based at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Not only is keen runner Kate dedicated to the work she loves, she’s also passionate about raising the profile of hospice care and its need for continued funding. That’s why she’s finding time in her hectic schedule to train between shifts and family life with her husband and two small children, ready to run the marathon in aid of Hospice UK.

Kate, who joined St Luke’s in 2011, said: “I was thrilled to get a place to raise funds for Hospice UK. They’re the voice of hospices at national level and work hard to ensure end of life care stays on the agenda.

“The hospice movement in the UK is still quite young, so this kind of profile raising is really important to help ensure organisations including St Luke’s get the support, development and training they need now and in the future.”

It was while working in the oncology and haematology team at Derriford Hospital that Kate, originally from Portsmouth, decided she wanted to focus on palliative care. She found it rewarding being part of a team caring for patients with different types of cancer. So, when she was offered the opportunity to join St Luke’s, she knew it was where she wanted to be, looking after people affected by the disease as well as those with other terminal conditions Since joining our charity, Kate’s passion for her work has grown even more and she especially appreciates the extra time she has to spend with patients, something in short supply on the NHS wards.

“Here, I don’t feel rushed, and when new patients arrive – often fearful coming into the unfamiliar environment of a hospice – I have the time needed to talk things through, find out more about them and help put them at ease.”

Talking to Kate, it’s obvious she regards it as a privilege to look after terminally ill people, whether it is symptom control so a patient can return home or being there to give bespoke care in their very last days of life.

She said: “The medical care we give is so important but it’s more than that.

“It’s very special being part of a team for whom nothing is too much trouble, where every day colleagues go the extra mile, such as arranging a last boat trip for a patient who misses being out on the water.

“And we all need each other. For example, it’s often a Healthcare Assistant who’s with a patient at a time when they’re feeling more relaxed, so they’ll pick up on little things that can mean a great deal to that person. They then feed that back to me, which is such a help.”

While there’s no doubt the nature of her job can take its toll emotionally, it is this camaraderie Kate credits with helping her resilience, along with the uplifting feeling of knowing she’s making an important difference.

And it’s this resilience, plus her quiet determination, that will see Kate keep going through all weathers in her marathon training, too.

She said: “I’m so excited about the day! I’m running for such a great cause and not only will friends be there to cheer me on, my husband Tom is doing the marathon with me, so it’s extra special.”

Kate won’t be the only St Luke’s face running on 28 April. Also putting his best foot forward is Head of Marketing and Communications Robert Maltby, running in aid of our charity and Hospice UK.

Good luck to both Kate and Robert. Blisters or not, we couldn’t wish for better ambassadors in the capital and we’re so grateful for your support!

Sponsor Kate online.

When gifted local artist Colin Pethick learned of the opportunity to lend his talent to St Luke’s by painting one of the elephant sculptures for this summer’s Elmer’s Big Parade, it was an opportunity he simply didn’t want to miss – a chance to support our charity and at the same time pay tribute to his wonderful wife Zheng, for whom we cared for before she passed away.

Just recently, Colin has been busy completing his masterpiece at Herd HQ at Western Approach, giving the public the opportunity to see part of his painting process on the rather unusual ‘canvas’ of a three-dimensional elephant sculpture.

Watching him at work and hearing him speak, it is clear Colin’s creation – which he has called ‘The Beauty of Transcience’ – is a real labour of love for Zheng, whom he met while in China. Her influence and that of her homeland shine through, as does his great affection for her, as he speaks movingly of their time together before sadly, Zheng, who had cancer, died.

Having met later in life while Colin – who is also an art tutor – was on an internship in China, the two enjoyed a long distance friendship, corresponding as penpals before Colin returned to Zheng and proposed two years later. They were married the very next day in Chengdu, near Tibet.

Colin says: “When we met, Zheng was working as an interpreter and she was also an artist, and we hit it off. After we married and she came to live with me in the UK, she did an art degree at the University of Plymouth, which she so enjoyed – she was a really good painter and I learned so much from her.

“We had ten wonderful years together before she was diagnosed. They told us she had this very rare form of lung cancer; there was no history of it in her family.

“It was towards the end that St Luke’s became involved, and it was the Crisis team who got her well enough to stay with me at home because it was her wish to die there. The care was just so good all round and I never would have coped without St Luke’s help.”

Alongside Colin through this heart-breaking time was Bereavement Support Worker Andy Searle, providing a listening ear when he needed it most. And it was Andy, knowing Colin’s artistic talent as well as his high opinion of our charity, who brought to his attention the opportunity to submit a design for one of the mammoth mob of elephant sculptures for Elmer’s Big Parade.

Colin said: “I just thought, yes, what a fantastic project! And it’s the least I can do to give something back.

“My Elmer is like a little legacy for Zheng, of all the things she liked – the things that got her going as an artist and the things we celebrated. I managed to work them into the design, which I’ve called ‘The Beauty of Transience’.

“I’ve woven in a lot of Chinese and Japanese visual cultural references and symbols of transcience, of mortality, that they use there. So the theme is life and death, and how you deal with death. It was Andy’s bereavement support that was such a help to me – it made a tremendous difference. He said to me quite early on, “You’ll find that the good memories will come through.

The good things you did together, they will outweigh the bad times.” He then really got me to talk about the bad times, and he was right. I found that tremendously cathartic.”

Having perfected his painting, Colin is now looking forward to seeing his Elmer among the others that will make up our sculpture trail with a difference, encouraging more open conversations about the somewhat ‘taboo’ subjects of death, dying and bereavement so that everyone living with loss can feel better understood and supported.

He said: “It’s exciting! Elmer’s Big Parade is educational and will work on so many levels. It’s lovely to have the opportunity to be involved. I thank St Luke’s, I really do.”

Find out more about Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth.

Among the long-serving 30 staff and 74 volunteers who recently gathered at a special ceremony to recognise their contribution to St Luke’s was 85-year-old Jeannie Norris, a special lady whose dedication to our charity has spanned an incredible 33 years!

Big-hearted Jeannie, who lives in Eggbuckland and has two daughters, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, started volunteering with us after her husband John passed away. With a background in retail gained at Plymouth department store Spooners (now Debenhams), she was well suited to joining our very first – and that time only – charity shop, at Frankfort Gate. She was soon greeting and helping customers there.

Since then, Jeannie has gained a wealth of experience across our others stores too, including St Budeaux and the Drake City Centre store, where she has volunteered since it opened in 2011 and puts in two shifts a week, mainly on the tills.

Over the years, Jeannie has not only seen our high-street presence soar, with a portfolio of 30 shops where 607 of our 907 volunteers give their time, she’s witnessed the evolution of St Luke’s from our beginnings at Syrena House, Plymstock, to a charity reaching right across the community, caring for patients at home, in hospital and at Turnchapel.

Like many fellow volunteers and some of the customers she meets, Jeannie knows first hand the outstanding calibre of the care we give. She said: “My late partner Jim was looked after by the team at Turnchapel so I know what a haven it is, where the team helps people die with dignity. I’ll always be grateful to them.”

This experience that has made Jeannie even more aware of the importance of her role. She said: “I love meeting people in our shop. They often come in with donations having recently lost a loved one, and being that listening ear when they want to chat and share memories is such a privilege.

“It’s about so much more than the transactions – you’re there to represent all St Luke’s stands for today, as it always has: respect, kindness and compassion. I get so much out of it personally and it’s very sociable. I’d definitely recommend it.”

A big thank you to Jeannie for her decades of dedication, and to all our other volunteers and staff recently recognised for their five years-plus service. St Luke’s wouldn’t be here without you!

Find out more about volunteering at St Luke’s.

While the hands-on medical care St Luke’s provides is outstanding, our holistic approach means we’re also there to give patients and their loved ones unwavering practical, emotional and spiritual support, too.

Providing this is our Social Care team, reaching out to people across the community in the midst of very challenging circumstances. Among the team for the past ten years has been Social Care and Bereavement Support Worker Janet Hearl, so as she left to start her retirement earlier this month, it was with immense gratitude for her contribution that we said farewell.

Before Janet left, she took the time to give us an insight into her role over her decade with our charity.

She said: “Before coming here I had many jobs, including Bed Manager at Derriford Hospital, but I always wanted to join St Luke’s.

“I began by working alongside a social worker and my role evolved as I gained experience in lots of different situations, because no two patients or families are the same. There’s so much variety to what we do.

“Naturally, it’s devastating for someone whose time is running short, and very challenging for their family, too. It’s about coming alongside them, being that empathic yet ‘neutral’ person they can be open with and express raw emotion. I’ve been there to listen and provide a reassuring presence that can make things that little bit easier, especially as there are sometimes complex family issues involved.

“It’s practical help, too, because at such times things can easily feel overwhelming. I’ve given advice and support to help patients get their affairs in order, which brings them increased peace of mind. Sometimes families need assistance with sorting out financial issues, and often with funeral arrangements as well.

“It isn’t about ‘solving’ problems,but being there for them at a very difficult time and, when appropriate, signposting them to other organisations who can help.

“It’s very rewarding and I’ve loved being part of a multidisciplinary team. There’s a wealth of experience between us, and I’ve enjoyed working closely with our nurses, OTs and physio – we all support each other. It’s those relationships, as well as memories of patients and families, that will stay in my heart.”

As Janet retires to spend more time with family, travel and continue volunteering with Jeremiah’s Journey, the legacy she leaves is the many families she’s helped and also the knowledge and experience she has imparted to colleagues.

We wish Janet a long and happy retirement.

If you want to make Mother’s Day extra special this year, don’t miss the launch of our annual Open Gardens scheme on 31 March, when beautiful Gnaton Hall in Yealmpton will throw open its gates in aid of St Luke’s so you can enjoy its delightful gardens.

There’s so much to see and explore, including the stunning display of daffodils and peaceful woodland walks. You can enjoy delicious cakes, too. All this, plus the chance to win the framed original of artist Brian Pollard’s enchanting Open Gardens tenth-anniversary brochure cover in our raffle.

View our Open Gardens brochure online!

Today, when so many transactions are done online, there are those who miss the kind of everyday, doorstep greeting of the milkman. So, when your lottery fee is collected at your front door, it’s about more than money changing hands. It’s a familiar smile, a shared joke and the type of friendly banter that lifts the spirits.

So it was with great sadness that his friends at St Luke’s, and those who play our weekly lottery and pay their fee in person rather than online, learned that Lottery Collector Robert Gore – known as Bob – passed away recently.

For the subscribers who met Bob every four weeks as he did his door-to-door collection rounds across Plymouth, Ivybridge and Modbury, he was a familiar, friendly face who always took the time to ask after them, swap a story and check if they needed any practical help, such as a letter posting. And, over the 19 years he worked his patch, he became fondly known as ‘Bob in the shorts’ due to his habit of sporting them, every day from April until the end of October.

A proud ex-Royal Marine driver whose career also included railway work and improving opportunities for adults with learning disabilities, Bob was recruited to St Luke’s in 2000, after his daughter Sarah, who works for our charity, highlighted the vacancy for a Lottery Collector.

Sarah said: “At first, dad took on the role mainly because he knew I thought so highly of St Luke’s, but he soon realised just how much the charity means to so many others, too.

“On his rounds he’d hear from families about the comfort they’d received from St Luke’s at a really tough time, and it wasn’t long before he himself was providing reassurance for those who needed end of life care. He could tell them with confidence that St Luke’s would help them live well until the end.”

And when Bob became terminally ill himself, it was St Luke’s who cared for him, as well as supporting his family, including wife Margaret, Sarah and her brother Alistair, and grandchildren Daniel, Chloe and Phoebe.

Sarah said: “Seeing the team looking after dad I witnessed firsthand their compassion and ability to quickly build up a great rapport. Thanks to them, he was able to pass away peacefully with us at home – even chatting away until shortly before he died and enjoying precious time with little Phoebe.

“Dad was an amazing man, full of fascinating facts and great humour. I will always have such happy memories of our family picnics and the kindness he showed everyone, including his many lottery customers.”

Bob’s unwavering support for St Luke’s even extended to his funeral, which was family flowers only with donations invited for our charity.

Learn more about St Luke’s Lottery.

Seeing a loved one’s face light up thanks to the kindness and amazing attention to detail of a St Luke’s nurse is something you treasure long after that person has passed away.

When Sister Karen Thorrington went above and beyond to create a ‘beach’ in the conservatory at Turnchapel so patient Kerri Thomas could fulfil her wish of feeling the sand between her toes one last time, relative Jess Warren’s heart was warmed. And it’s this treasured memory that recently inspired Jess, who co-runs wax melts company Queen of Tarts, to organise a showcase of small businesses to raise money for St Luke’s.

Jess said: “I will never forget what Karen did to give Kerri the most wonderful time. She got everything just right and Kerri was speechless. Our fundraising event was a way of giving back to St Luke’s and expressing our thanks for such amazing thoughtfulness that made a difference to someone so special to us.”

Not only did the showcase at Derriford raise the profile of St Luke’s as people came out to buy locally made products, it brought in £110 for our specialist care. Further proof of the high esteem in which our charity is held across the community.

Learn more about fundraising for St Luke’s.

Cuz said: “Cathryn was amazing, caring for mum with such compassion and sensitivity at home so we could spend precious time with her there. In fact, mum was able to remain at home with us almost until the end, when she required care at Turnchapel in her final few days.

“It was lovely to get the opportunity to meet Cathryn again all these years later. I’ll always be so grateful to her and the rest of the team for being there in our time of need, helping us at such a difficult time. It was great to be able to express that to her in person.”

It’s the memory of much-loved Dot – and his gratitude to Cathryn and her colleagues – that has inspired Cuz on his mission to raise an incredible £100,000 for our charity through Rockfest, the annual live music extravaganza he founded, which has built up a large, loyal following since it began 11 years ago.

This year’s event, happening over Easter weekend at Crash Manor, Union Street, is once again a must for lovers of live music, including genres ranging from rock to reggae. And, with £90,000 already raised from previous years, thanks to Cuz’s hard work, the bands who kindly perform for free and the local businesses who donate raffle prizes, that Titan of a target is within touching distance.

So, if you want to enjoy the electric atmosphere and help Cuz reach £100,000 for St Luke’s, helping more families who need us, roll up on 20 and/or 21 April and get your tickets on the door.

You can find out more, including the line-up of bands here!

As well as expert hands-on medical care, helping families make the most of every moment together when a loved one is approaching their last days is all part of the compassion for which St Luke’s is renowned.

So, it was only natural we were there for a young Plymouth family recently, when our team was caring for much-loved Matt Geoffrey as he faced the unthinkable – that time together with his wife Sarah and their children, Eloise and Dylan, was running short.

Just 42 when diagnosed with cancer in 2016, trained lawyer Matt was working as a contracts manager, suited and booted on the surface but a fun-loving ‘tattooed rock monster’ at heart.

Sadly, while his prognosis was initially good, by early 2017 the family was facing the heart-breaking reality that the treatment he’d received had not halted the spread of the disease.

In the face of such devastating news, Matt somehow maintained his hallmark positivity though, and he and Sarah were united in their decision to be as open with Eloise and Dylan as it was possible to be given their respective ages of ten and three, and – as much as they could – to maintain normal life as a close-knit family.

Sarah said: “Matt was always a hugely fun-loving person and that didn’t change after his diagnosis. He was determined to carry on working, but we also made sure we continued to do the things we’d always enjoyed. He and Eloise went to karate together, we had a family holiday to Euro Disney and we also went to festivals – music was always a big passion for us.”

Among the festivals they attended Boardmasters in Cornwall was an annual highlight, so last summer – despite Matt’s declining health – he and Sarah felt it important that their family should not miss out. And, with the help of specialist Dr Doug Hooper from St Luke’s, they were indeed able to pack their bags for the event.

These weren’t just any bags though! Alongside the suntan lotion and picnic blanket was the host of medication Matt required. But not only did Dr Doug provide the prescription for all that was needed for him to be as pain-free as possible, the kind-hearted clinician wrote a letter to accompany it, knowing the festival organiser’s policy of carrying out bag searches before admitting people to the site.

Sarah said: “Being at Boardmasters was extra special because Matt and I knew this would be the last really big thing we’d do together with the children. Despite torrential rain, we had a brilliant time and I’m so grateful to St Luke’s that we’ll always have those precious memories. Matt’s stash of ‘Class A’ narcotics would have got sent us home – or worse – if it wasn’t for Dr Doug!”

Sarah also credits our charity with helping Matt realise his wish of being looked after at home, with her and the children carrying on as normally as possible around him, as he approached the end of his life.

From supplying equipment to help him remain as independent as possible to encouraging the family to approach things in the way that ‘felt right’ for them, our team was alongside throughout those final weeks, including being there to support Eloise and Dylan as they faced the loss of their beloved dad.

Sarah said: “Matt was determined he did not want to die in hospital, and it was St Luke’s that helped make a plan so that he could be at home, including supplying a wheelchair and special bed.”

“Their support also meant our kids were able to be kids, which was amazing for us, and Lisa built up such a good rapport with them that I felt complete trust in her. Her visits before Matt passed away and since have lifted some of the pressure and that means so much.

“St Luke’s have been there all the way through, making it possible for us to still be a family, and without them Matt could not have lived to the end in the way he wanted to.

“It’s really hard to sum up how I feel about everything they have done for us, but they have been like our family’s professional comfort blanket. I can’t thank them enough.”

With the tills ringing at one recently launched retail outlet to further support for its vital service, one of the city’s best-loved charities has just cut the ribbon on another!

Earlier this month, St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, which looks after thousands of terminally ill patients and supports their families when time is running short, opened its new pop-up charity shop selling good quality second-hand furniture in the former Toys ‘R’ Us building at Western Approach.

It’s been a flying start for the new venture, with enough items sold within the first hour of trading alone to help three more families at home – not just through expert hands-on medical care for the patient, but emotional and practical support for them and their loved ones, too. Through the duration of its lease on the site, St Luke’s aims raise enough to provide such help for 200 families.

As well as selling sofas, wardrobes and other furniture, the space is home to Herd HQ for Elmer’s Big Parade*, the sculpture trail which goes live across Plymouth this summer and is expected to attract 250,000 visitors exploring the city to see the enchanting elephants each painted by a talented local artist.

This week – Monday 11 March – saw some of the artists start work on their masterpieces inside the building, where over coming weeks local people are encouraged to pop in for a preview of the fun to come!

Monday also saw St Luke’s – which relies on the support of the local community to keep providing its compassionate care – open a new store on The Broadway, Plymstock, where members of its Urgent Care Service** cut the ribbon.

Modern and bright, the new shop opposite the Costa coffee outlet on the Broadway replaces the store formerly at Dean Hill. But while the site is new, the remit remains the same: to sell quality pre-loved clothes, books, toys and bric-a-brac at bargain prices, raising funds to support St Luke’s specialist care.

Mike Picken, Head of Retail at St Luke’s, said: “Our annual retail income is a critical contribution to keep St Luke’s running. That’s why it’s so important that we seize opportunities to not only continue to meet the needs of our existing much-valued customers but attract new ones as well.

“It’s fantastic to see our centrally located pop-up shop get off to such a great start, and we need to maintain maximum visibility further afield too, across all the other areas where we provide our care. Our new store on the busy Plymstock Broadway is located among well-known high-street brands with more big names rumoured to be moving in nearby soon, so we’re ideally placed to attract more customers to support our vital service.”

Gary Durbin, Manager of St Luke’s the new Plymstock charity shop, said: “There has been a real buzz around the launch of our new shop here in the heart of the local community. We’re proud of our attractive store and it’s great to see it busy already with lots of bargain-loving customers keen to support our charity.”

The new shop is open 7 days a week, including Sunday’s 10am to 4pm, welcoming customers and new donations, too.

For more information about Elmer’s Big Parade.