Mike’s Sunflower Memories Story

‘I am proud to plant a sunflower in Blythe House Hospicecare’s garden to celebrate the memory of my dear wife, Pat. I also wanted to donate towards the wonderful services that supported me in some of my darkest days following Pat’s death, and that continue to support me. ’

Mike Harrison founded the High Peak Prostate Cancer Support Group in 2010 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer three years earlier. The group meets monthly at Blythe House, chaired jointly by Mike in partnership with members of our dedicated staff team.

As well as being heavily involved in the group for many years now, the Chapel-en-le-Frith resident has also benefitted from other Blythe House services including counselling, the carers support group and complimentary therapies.

Mike was the main carer for his wife Pat for five years before she died in March 2018, and he was able to seek solitude and support at Blythe House.

He explains: ‘When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 I felt very isolated and alone. I didn’t know about the disease or about treatments, and I found it very difficult to get information and advice. I decided that I would like to do something locally to provide information and support to people so they wouldn’t feel as lonely as I did.

‘The High Peak Prostate Cancer Support Group meets monthly and is free to come along to. On average around 20 people attend each sessions, including prostate cancer patients, their wives, girlfriends, partners and carers. Everyone is welcome to come along, for advice, support and friendship.

‘As well as prostate cancer group, I have also benefited hugely from coming along to the hospice’s carers support group. Coming to Blythe House to be able to have the opportunity to relax, unwind, give and receive support from local people in similar situations to myself was so worthwhile and made me feel so much less isolated. I felt better for coming to the group.

‘Following Pat’s death, and after all of the important tasks were complete like registering her death and organising the funeral, I honestly did wake up one morning and wonder what on earth I was going to do with myself, and what my purpose in life was anymore. Grief has been so very painful, I’ve been in some very dark places but Blythe House has been absolutely immense.

‘I’ve been having counselling sessions and they have given me my quality of life back. I have been able to speak the unspoken, and get stuff off my chest. The sessions have really helped me to rediscover what my life is and how to enjoy it again.’

Mike and Pat share four sons, who now live both locally and internationally with their respective families – he’s a proud grandparent to 12 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren!

He said: ‘I have a son who lives in New Zealand and so I thought “I am going to go and see my family! If they’ll have me of course!” So I enjoyed some quality time with him, as well as my granddaughter who lives in Japan on my way home. It was fantastic!

‘My story epitomises what Blythe House can offer to everyone – I am living proof for both patients and carers; Blythe House has been family to me, and has saved my life.’

Make a donation today to celebrate the life of someone you love whilst supporting Blythe House Hospicecare. Your personalised sunflower plaque will be planted in our garden for the month of May.

You can donate by calling the fundraising team on 01298 815 388, or via Just Giving on the link below. You can also pick up a form at Blythe House Reception, or any one of our hospice shops:

  • Buxton – 6 Eagle Parade, SK17 6EQ
  • Chapel-en-le-Frith, 12 High Street, SK23 0HD
  • New Mills – 3 Union Road, SK22 3EL
  • Whaley Bridge – 17-19 Market Street, SK23 7AA

Alternatively, download your own copy of the form at home, print, fill in and return to us via the address given: Sunflower Memories Appeal form PDF


Our Easter knitting is now for sale across the High Peak – in our Buxton, New Mills, Whaley Bridge and Chapel shops, and at Blythe House’s reception – priced at £1.50 per item.

We’ve had hundreds of chicks, bunnies, baskets and other amazing knitted and crocheted items donated, as well as delicious Easter chocolates and eggs by kind-hearted local residents and businesses.

Vicki attends our Living Well Service after being diagnosed with breast cancer last year. The Disley resident has crocheted some Easter items and says: ‘Going through chemotherapy, you just have to get on with it; there’s no other choice, you’re so busy with appointments and treatments. But once all that was over, I felt very abandoned and alone, I also struggled with the emotional side of my illness. At first I was very nervous about coming to Blythe House, but I didn’t need to be. Everyone has really looked after me, it has been amazing!

‘I wanted to do my bit to support Blythe House; every little thing anyone can do to help really does make a big difference which is why I helped to crochet some Easter bunnies. I’m proud to have taken part in the Jingle Bell Jog in December 2018 alongside fellow patients and a family friend. I’ve never done anything like it before and we walked most of the way, but we ran the last little bit! It was really amazing.’

Find out where our shops are.

Residents across the High Peak, Hope Valley and beyond are being warmly invited to get involved in a video project to commemorate 30 years of Blythe House Hospicecare.

Rev. Betty Packham

We’re celebrating three decades of hospice care for patients in the High Peak, Hope Valley, and areas of Cheshire and Staffordshire. Reverend Betty Packham founded Blythe House after she took care of Buxton teacher Stan Blythe in the final months of his life, in the comfort of her home. Stan left Betty £1,000 in his will, and Blythe House began as a result of that legacy.

Stan Blythe

Local videographer, David King is volunteering his time to put together a special video to showcase the history and services of Blythe House.

Now, we are on the lookout for local patients, family members, carers and volunteers to share their Blythe House story on camera, to help create the recorded memento.

Janet Dunphy, Blythe House Hospicecare CEO, says: ‘We would love to hear from people across the local area and beyond who’ve been touched by Blythe House care and support over the last 30 years. We know that the hospice has been able to look after thousands of people, and hundreds more have dedicated years of their lives to volunteer for Blythe House. If you have a special anecdotal tale to tell, please get in touch. If you’d prefer not to be filmed, but would be happy for your voice to be heard, we can do audio recordings.

‘We’re also looking for people to share special messages by recording on their own smart phones and emailing directly to us. Please help to celebrate 30 years of care by wishing “happy birthday,” or saying a special thanks for hospice services.’

To find out more about getting involved in the video filming, or to submit your Happy Birthday or Thank You self-recorded videos, please email: communications@blythehouse.co.uk or call Rebecca Cassidy on 07494 594653.

Rachel with her mum and siblings

A primary school teacher from Buxton is set to take on her biggest challenge yet as she faces the Greater Manchester Marathon in memory of her mum who died aged 47.

Rachel Taylor was just 19 years old when her mum, Madeleine Sinclair died in March 1994, five years after her pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

During those precious years, Madeleine could not find enough local support for people with cancer and so she set up her own charity, Cancer Self Help (CaSH).

Rachel, now 44, explains: ‘Mum was such a go-getter and wanted to make things happen. She got involved in the initial stages of Blythe House’s creation, alongside founder Reverend Betty Packham. My dad recalls that the original meeting place was in an old people’s home or similar in Chapel-en-le-Frith. A committee was formed there and my mum told members what support she, as a cancer sufferer, needed.’

Rachel has been married to Steve for almost two decades and followed in her mum’s footsteps by becoming a primary school teacher. The mum of two has supported Blythe House by taking part in running events and raising sponsorship for many years – including 10kms and half marathons. The Greater Manchester Marathon on Sunday 7th April, will be her longest race ever.

She says: ‘This marathon is by far my biggest challenge. A couple of friends and I didn’t get into the London Marathon this year so, after a conversation over a few pints we decided to sign up for the Manchester race. Only then did I realise how far 26 miles is! With the company of my running friends, I have been increasing my weekly mileage and pace. To date, my longest runs have been 20 miles along the Monsal Trail and 22 miles from Whaley Bridge to Manchester Piccadilly along the canals.

‘I have run on and off for many years now but the friendships I have made and the ongoing support we have for each other with the group I run with has been amazing. Sometimes we run around town, sometimes the trails, sometimes off road, up hills and down, and sometimes very muddy dales. The reward of a cake or a pint at the end is always tempting but the banter we have is great.’

If you are taking part in the Greater Manchester Marathon or any other race and would like to run for Blythe House, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us so that we can help support your fundraising efforts: events@blythehouse.co.uk.

Our thanks go to Buxton Community School students who have raised an amazing £769.50 for Blythe House Hospicecare services as part of their annual Personal, Social and Health Education Day.

Year 7 students took part in a sponsored aerobathon in January, undertaking a whole hour of dancing and exercising to raise vital funds.

The money raised could provide five Hospice at Home nighttime ‘sits’ to a High Peak patient who is at the end of their life, so that they can stay in their own home. Find out more about our Hospice at Home services.

Photo (L-R): Brandon Gould (Y7 Student), Becka White (Blythe House’s Fundraising and Communications Assistant) and Jessica France (Y7 Student)

March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, organised by Prostate Cancer UK to raise awareness of the most common cancer in men.

Did you know that in the UK, about 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives?

Only men have a prostate gland. The prostate is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra – the tube men urinate (wee) and ejaculate through.

Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way. Prostate cancer often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. But some men have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread. This needs treatment to stop it spreading outside the prostate.

Mike Harrison set up the High Peak Prostate Cancer Support Group at Blythe House in 2010, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer three years earlier.

The Chapel-en-le-Frith resident says: ‘I was 65 when I went to my local doctor who seemed to know the signs of prostate cancer and I had a blood test. Soon after, I was referred to Stepping Hill Hospital where I was diagnosed.

‘I felt very isolated and alone. I didn’t know about the disease or about treatments, and I found it very difficult to get information and advice. I underwent an operation in June 2007 to remove my prostate, and my wife and I went on a two-month cruise in early 2008 to enjoy some time together. It was around the same time that I decided that I would like to do something locally to provide information and support to people so they wouldn’t feel as lonely as I did.

‘I went along to a support group at The Christie in Manchester and sought advice from friends and the High Peak CVS. Then, in early 2010, I was attending an information event for the over 50s at the Octagon in Buxton when I met Ann [Burgoyne] from Blythe House Hospicecare and from that chat, the group was formed!

‘We have a great turnout every month, with around 20 people attending on average; a mixture of patients, their wives, girlfriends, partners and carers. We arrange for speakers to attend including from the medical profession to talk about the latest research into prostate cancer, medical trials, treatments and drugs, as well as topics like exercise and diet.

‘The group really does take the sting and fear out of cancer diagnosis. There will always be someone there with a different experience who can provide advice and friendship. When new people come along to attend, I can see the relief in their faces as we sit in our circle of friends to discuss and laugh together. They realise that this isn’t a death sentence, this is a question of living with prostate cancer, rather than dying from.

‘By attending the group, people have been able to discover and enjoy other services at Blythe House including mindfulness therapy and counselling. As well as friendship and fun, there’s also a serious side to the group and we’re proud to have supported medical research into prostate cancer, and worked with regional and national groups and charities to lobby for better services and regular, routine screening for men over 50.’

Group members worked alongside the regional Prostate Cancer Support North West group to successfully lobby for action when it was announced that prostate cancer services might be moved from Stepping Hill Hospital several years ago. They also liaise closely with the national charity for prostate cancer patients, Tackle, which in turn works with Prostate Cancer UK.

Mike continues: ‘It is a man’s right to ask for a screening test every two years when they’re over 50; and over 45 for ethnic minority groups. Prostate cancer for many men is symptomless and so some people may not find out about it until it’s too late. You are 2.5 times more likely to get it if your father or brother had it or if your mother has had breast cancer.

‘These worrying facts show that men really need to be opening up and talking about their health. The trouble with us is that we have a stiff upper lip and think, “Oh I’ll get over that!” But we need to get men talking and to raise awareness; we are the worst advocates for our own health.

‘The High Peak Cancer Support Group is open to everyone who is affected by prostate cancer. We are here to educate, advise, support, be your friend and ensure you live well for longer with prostate cancer, and you are more than welcome to attend!’

The group takes place on the fourth Tuesday of every month, from 5-7pm at Blythe House Hospicecare. Upcoming meetings:

  • Tuesday 26th March
  • Tuesday 23rd April

Learn more about the High Peak Cancer Support Group on its dedicated website.

Find lots of information and helpful advice:

A book written by a Blythe House Hospicecare patient is now available to read online.

Paul Harris, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in July 2015, has penned the book alongside close friend, Matt Hewitt.

The pair met in the playground of their children’s school in Disley many years ago and got to know each other through a joint enjoyment of the same type of literature, playing chess and drinking red wine.

Back in 2013, Paul and Matt decided to put pen to paper, and started work on the dark fantasy collection of short stories and poems ‘Dreams of Morpheus.’

Halfway through the writing stage, Paul received the ‘mind numbing’ news that he had rare neurological condition, motor neurone disease and was referred to Blythe House Hospicecare, where he’s been receiving care and support since November 2015.

Former long distance runner, Paul, explains: ‘I had taken part in a marathon in Staffordshire in March that year, and noticed that I was struggling to get my water bottles out of their pouches, my arms didn’t seem to be working. There were other worries that were getting more noticeable and so I went to my doctor in May who referred me to a neurologist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. I had just started a new job when I received the mind-numbing news that I had motor neurone disease and I had to leave through ill-health.

Matt and Paul in 2014, a year before Paul’s diagnosis

‘I started coming along to the Living Well Service at Blythe House every Tuesday and really enjoy my time here. I have complimentary therapies including massages, reflexology, reiki and aromatherapy, which are such great services and really make me feel much better.  I enjoy getting to see people and having lunch together. The afternoon mindfulness sessions are very useful in helping me to come to terms with the mental health aspects of the disease, and I enjoy hearing from other patients too as we share our stories.

‘The Hospice at Home healthcare assistants also visit me at my home three times per day to provide care and assistance. I feel that physiotherapy sessions with Tina Betts and massage therapy with Cathy Grange have definitely helped in slowing down the progression of the disease.’

The idea for Dreams of Morpheus stemmed from Paul’s thought-provoking background. He has always had an interest in dark fantasy, especially Norse mythology, Greek myths and legends, after gaining a Masters in Theology from the University of Manchester.

Paul says: ‘Matt and I had diverse ideas for the book but we worked together closely enhancing each other’s work. Writing has been a nice diversion and a great hobby for me; it has taken me away from having to think about my condition all of the time. It is my first published book so I am really very excited. So far, feedback has been very good too.’

The book is aimed at people who perhaps have some spare time to read shorter tales, for example in coffee shops or attending appointments, and might be of interest to readers who wish to take a break from full-length novels.

In the acknowledgements section of the book, Paul comments: ‘Since my diagnosis at the age of 41, I have been overwhelmed by the many acts of kindness and support that people have freely given to me and my family.

‘Thank you to everyone connected with Blythe House, I genuinely have so much gratitude for your help and support over the years. This has undoubtedly made a huge difference to my quality of life and that of my family.’

Paul with his wife and daughters

Now Paul’s daughters, Madelyn, 14, and Elloise, 11, are hoping to raise vital funds for Blythe House as a way to say thank you for their Dad’s care. They have received a fundraising pack for the hospice’s 30th anniversary, to give them some inspiration for their own fundraising initiatives. A few years ago, Madelyn undertook a sponsored silence in aid of the MND Association, to raise awareness of how motor neurone disease affects the vocal chords and the ability to speak.

Paul’s book is available to download via Smashwords and Amazon – you can also find out more by visiting the Facebook page.

For more information about supporting Blythe House or to request a 30th anniversary fundraising pack, please email: fundraising@blythehouse.co.uk.

How did you get involved with Blythe House Hospice?

I originally came to Blythe House as volunteer receptionist, I also provided admin support to the counselling team. A position became available in The Volunteer Support Team and I was successful on application. In December 2015 I was asked if I would like to support the new Hospice at Home service for 10 hours per week! This soon became my sole role and I now work 30 hours per week.

What does your role involve?

My main task is coordinator for Hospice at Home which involves arranging care for patients in their own home with our team of lovely healthcare assistants. The care can range from a couple of hours to an overnight stay, throughout the High Peak. We currently have 26 patients actively receiving care and 25 healthcare assistants. I usually make arrangements for over 400 visits a month.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

Every day is a challenge that keeps me on my toes; we are a very busy office and fast paced. All the hospice staff, volunteers and patients are just so lovely and I know this is often said, but we are like one big family.

What have you learnt as a result of volunteering and working at Blythe House?

Although I volunteered here, I wasn’t looking for a paid position, so I suppose being open to something different is a good lesson. I’m so glad I took that decision as I wouldn’t be doing what I do now if I hadn’t, and actually, I think this is the role I was always meant to do.

What would you say to inspire others to find out more about Blythe House and the services it offers?

Come and visit us! The biggest misconception when I speak to people about the hospice is that it’s a sad place… Just 15 minutes in the hospice will show you that it is such a positive happy place!

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.