A new book showcasing short stories and poems written by High Peak people who have cancer and other life-limiting illnesess, is now available to buy across the borough.

The special paperback, called ‘Life is a Mish Mash,’ has been put together by members of a writing group at Blythe House Hospicecare, run by local poet and story-teller, Julian Cohen.

The first writers group was founded in 2015 as part of the Chapel-en-le-Frith hospice’s Living Well Service, offering sessions over several weeks for High Peak patients with cancer or any other life-limiting illness.

The latest group, made up of Dawn Haines, Sam Osborne, Sarah Whiteley, Sue Walmsley and Yvonne Reynolds, started in September 2018. Working together over 18 weeks, they decided that they’d like to create a book of their work to raise funds for the hospice.

Julian said: ‘Writing gives people the opportunity to help express their feelings and experiences, especially when going through difficult times. Most people think that they can’t write; but with the right sort of help and support they can create the most amazing and interesting work. People also share and read out their work to each other. There has been lots of discussion, some tears but also much laughter.’

As well as contributing to the writing within the book, Sam Osborne also designed the document ready for printing. She said: ‘This group has been such an amazing support for me by having the opportunity to write down my thoughts and then share them with the group. We now want to share some of our writings, feelings and thoughts with other people, who may, in one way or another, be on similar journeys to ourselves.’

Sarah Whiteley noted: ‘This group faces demons; instead of existing with terminal cancer, it has given me the ability to live positively, it’s given me a new lease of life. I have been able to explore and deal with things that I wouldn’t normally do. It has been an opportunity for me to take back control of the cancer; battle with it and get very angry with it, via the written word.’

Clockwise from bottom left: Sue, Dawn, Sarah, Yvonne, Julian and Sam

Sue Walmsley observed: ‘Cancer for me has been a very lonely experience, but this group has given me friends and people to talk to; it has been a revelation to me.’

Yvonne Reynolds added: ‘This experience has been very therapeutic for me, it has been a great outlet for people who cannot speak out loud.’

Dawn Haines commented: ‘We have been able to get to know each other so much more intimately than we would have otherwise.’

The book is available to buy from reception at Blythe House, or from one of the hospice’s shops in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Buxton, New Mills and Whaley Bridge.

With a minimum donation suggestion of £2, all the money raised will go directly to benefitting local people who have cancer or other life-limiting illness, as well as their families and carers.

How exiting we can celebrate the past, the present and the future… and we plan to! Look out for all the opportunities to tell your story and celebrate with us.

Blythe House Hospice started because of our wonderful Rev Betty Packham who cared for parishioner Stan Blythe in her home until he died. Stan left Betty a £1000 legacy, and she decided to start a service that would support people in the High Peak affected by life-limiting illness.

Somewhere in one small room, some special people had a vision and created Blythe House Hospice. The community responded with donations of time and money, volunteers for service provision and the Board of Trustees. And it is both of those groups who have been the backbone of Blythe House Hospice. Trustees such as John McNamara and Dr Simon Cocksedge have devoted decades to Blythe House Hospice, Pat Holland has raised over £100,000 with the marvellous Hallé events. Our Chairman Tim Mourne works tirelessly, you will see him at the Hospice and at every event, both driven and compassionate.

And a large number of volunteers have been here since the start, or for decades, doing everything and anything to drive us forward and keep services running. We have seen our income generation teams blossom and grow because of that. We know that if the money stops we stop; it is our volunteers and the generous public that makes sure that it doesn’t stop. They bring warmth, laughter, smiles and so much love into all they do. Their pride is palpable it is the pulse of the organisation.

Many professionals have worked across all areas with passion and enthusiasm to bring us where we are, whether you are here now, retired or developing your career somewhere else, whether I have met you or not, I thank you sincerely.

We are all shaped by our experiences and it is the people, spirits and experiences within Blythe House Hospice which have given it that special feeling; the one that wraps around you as you enter. It’s bright, it’s warm and it’s spiritually safe however complicated and difficult life may be for people. Throughout change, that vital essence has been nurtured. To stay the same in health care means, paradoxically that we must endure change. It is that well known fact and the climate of austerity that are always our challenges. We have to be able to continue to provide the services needed by our community, changing where we need to and constantly nurturing is how we achieve that.

A 30 year history has shown that we see three generations of people, because we care for adults and children, we may see grandma and grandson. Families know us and we know them, one of the magic elements of a small community; connectivity. The medical friendship of Dr Sarah Parnacott, Consultant in Palliative Medicine; Pauline Love, End of Life GP; and all our GPs and District Nurses; the team at Ashgate Hospicecare have been a part of the connections that ensures excellent, well communicated care.

The volume and quality of work we have delivered evidences how much these services are needed, we know that most care will be delivered in community. Our mission at Blythe House Hospice is to keep this community self-reliant and work with our partners and colleagues in primary care to avoid hospital admission and keep cancer support and end of life care close to home. The generosity of the public has brought us this far, I’m confident that together we can support the next three generations, my team and I are very proud to be taking us forward.

If you are reading this you have some interest in what we do and likely support us, you may be one of our fabulous volunteers, so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you, sincerely thank you. We couldn’t do this for you without you.

I want to finish where we started with Rev Betty Packham, still close, still giving of her time and spirit – that matters enormously Betty, you are much loved and respected.