BEST friends skydived in memory of their parents who died just months apart last year.
Thirteen brave fundraisers skydived from 12,000ft to swell the coffers of Havens Hospices.
Among them were best friends Sophie May-Gander, from Westcliff, and Katie Isaac, from Southchurch, both 20.
In 2013, Sophie’s mum Pauline and Katie’s dad Steven both died of cancer, just months apart.
In gratitude of the care and support theywere given by the charity at the end of their parents’ lives, the girls took to the skies to help raise more than £1,400 for the hospices.
Mum was an inspiration to us Alarm bells rang when Mum found a lump in her breast in 2006, but she didn’t tell any of us it was cancer until it was diagnosed,” Sophie said.
“She had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a double mastectomy. They removed her lymph nodes too.
“She lost all of her hair and said she didn’t really feel like a woman any more, but her hair grew back longer than she ever and she was clear of the cancer for a while.”
While she was well, Pauline May- Gander trekked along the Great Wall of China and climbed Ben Nevis, which was an inspiration to Sophie and her family. In 2010, the cancer returned and had spread to her stomach and bones.
Sophie added: “Everything happened so quickly after that and eventually the cancer spread to her brain.
“We wanted Mum with us more than anything, but we couldn’t watch her suffer any longer. We could see she was dying and we needed help.”
Pauline ended up under the care of Fair Havens Hospice in Westcliff, where she stayed for just over two weeks before she died, at the age of 53, on May 10, 2013.
Sophie said: “From the minute we arrived it was just instant care and my Dad knew it was the place for her.
“In her last few days, her breathing was slowing down, but we all sat there and spoke about our memories, telling stories. The amount of dignity and respect they gave Mum will always stay with us.
“She died in the most comfortable way possible, in the most peaceful atmosphere, surrounded by the kindest people. You can’t ask for more than that. Everything else is a blur, but we will never, ever forget the time we spent at Fair Havens.”
Speaking about the skydive, Sophie said: “I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone.
“I am most definitely scared of heights, but you have to face your fears and conquer them. The views were incredible and the free-fall feeling was indescribable. I couldn’t wait for Katie to get down so we could talk about our experience together.
“My Mum would think it’s absolutely reckless, but I reckon she’d be so proud. She did some pretty impressive things for charity, so I’m following in her footsteps too with some crazy ways to raise money.”
- To help fundraise, search for Katie Isaac and Sophie May-Gander at www.justgiving.com
Together – Katie Isaac with her dad Steven
Dad was able to die in peace at home
STEVEN Isaac was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at Christmas time in 2008 and, following treatment, he was well for some time until it returned in December 2012.
Daughter Katie said: “We knew people with pancreatic cancer had a five-year survival rate, but that was just a number onawebsite–Dad was still right in front of me. We never thought he would only have so long.”
In September 2013, Steven was taken to A&E by ambulance and it was there Katie and her sister Charlotte learned their dad was dying. She said: “A doctor asked Dad, ‘I’m sorry to have to say this, but have you considered where you want to die?’.
“I looked at Charlotte, she looked at me and we both looked at Dad. It was the saddest thing, we were in tears.”
Due to the outstanding care and support Fair Havens gave to Sophie and her family, Katie and Charlotte were adamant it was where they wanted their Dad to be. However, Steven wanted to be at home. Katie added: “We were 19 and 21 years old, I had a daughter to look after, we both had jobs and we were taking a dying man home.
“And we were on our own. But we were adamant, we were taking him home. We couldn’t break his heart and leave him in hospital.”
The charity arranged for a nurse from Fair Havens Hospice at Home to go to their house.
Katie said: “It was just incredible how much they changed things. They told us we needed to sleep, and we finally did. I woke up feeling refreshed, at peace. They thought of everything.
She let us talk and it felt like a weight had been lifted.
“That week was without doubt, the worst of our entire lives, but we had someone from Fair Havens Hospice at Home with us every night.
“They didn’t even need to do anything. Just knowing they were there was enough.”
On the morning of September 25, 2013, Steven died in his bed at home. Katie said: “The nurse said we could spend as much time with him as we liked, it didn’t have to be rushed. I hadn’t been able to touch him for weeks, it would have hurt him too much, I went into his room and stayed for a while. I fell asleep, cuddling him, I squeezed him so much.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without the nurses from Fair Havens.
“I think about Dad every day.
A man who lived for 53 years and now he’s gone. It’s just us two again. The world and life just carries on, but we will help Fair Havens in anyway we can to keep his memory alive.”
Katie has raised more than £400 so far in sponsorship.
Speaking of the skydive, she said: “The whole experience was amazing. Knowing my best friend was there with me feeling the same nerves helped.
“When my Dad died, I promised I’d do anything I could to help support the work that Havens Hospices does for families like mine. It’s heart-breaking doing something in memory of your own parent but the thought of being able to support other people in the same situation is so reassuring.”