Our West Midlands hospice helps make Christmas special for Penny and her family

Penny and her daughter Elsie during the Christmas tea party
Penny and her daughter Elsie during the Christmas tea party

Right across the UK, we’re doing whatever we can to make Christmas special for people living with a terminal illness and their loved ones.

It's a busy time at the Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands. The Christmas tree was lit up in early December while a brass band and carols rang out.

Penny and her three children, Fred (9), Elsie (7) and Dorothy (5), came to a Christmas tea party at the hospice last week. A pianist played rollicking carols, Father Christmas was in attendance and there were plenty of cakes. The tea party for over a hundred people was held for in-patients, day therapy patients, family members receiving support as well as anyone from the community who wanted to come and visit the hospice.

Penny, 37, has a rare and little known type of secondary cancer. She comes to the hospice for advice and therapies like massage and aromatherapy, and her son Fred receives counselling.

“It's great coming to the hospice to celebrate Christmas because Marie Curie is close to my heart,“ says Penny.

Santa meets  Fred, Elsie and Dorothy
Santa meets Fred, Elsie and Dorothy

“It feels so comfortable and welcoming – the building, gardens and the people.  It can feel very isolating having a rare cancer at such a young age with small children. I go to London for treatment but the hospice is my only real support near my home in Solihull. The people here understand and are supportive.'

At the tea party, Penny caught up with a volunteer who helps her fill out forms so she can get the financial assistance she and her family are entitled to.

“I had to drop my hours at work because of the cancer and I was struggling as a single mum, but the advice helped us so much. The relaxing therapies really help too. I've been to other social events the hospice has organised and I enjoy them a lot. Often I explain to my friends that a hospice is about so much more than they think.

“The Christmas tea party was lovely.  The children were over the moon with their new toys from Father Christmas – and it's made me feel very Christmassy. I've always loved Christmas but I try to make the most of each one now – it's so precious – because I never know if it might be the last one with my children.”

See a selection of images from the Christmas tea party