When friends would visit his wife Jeanette, “I’m just going upstairs” was the phrase Jim Tozer had a habit of using after he’d said hello and before he’d slip away to write, record or simply listen to his beloved music. It was typically low-key of the talented yet modest man his family remember with such deep affection.

It was following the return of oesophageal cancer and his choice not to undergo further treatment that Jim came under the care of St Luke’s, with nurse Sonja Pritchard visiting him at home in the last weeks of his life. Home was where he wanted to receive treatment so he could be with Jeanette and daughter Suzy as well as enjoying regular visits from his son and grandchildren.

Sadly, Jim died last October, aged 68, but as Jeanette and Suzy explained on a recent visit to Turnchapel, where they were joined by Sonja and Alison Beavers, the Bereavement Support Volunteer who has been alongside them, it comforts them to know Jim passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by love.

Jeanette said: “Being a nurse meant I was able to care for Jim at home, but when his condition deteriorated and he required specialist help, Sonja was amazing. She was a reassuring presence for us all.”

Listening to Jeanette speak about her husband of 31 years, and hearing from Suzy too, it is clear to see their love for Jim and the depth of loss they feel as they navigate life without him.

While she knew losing Jim would be challenging, Jeanette anticipated that her nursing career would help her cope and that she would be able to return to work shortly after his funeral, which – understandably – has not been the case. She said: “Jim was terminally ill so I knew what was coming, but losing him has been devastating. I miss him so very much.”

Fortunately, thanks to our community’s support for our charity, we are able to offer more than hands-on medical care. We provide emotional, practical and spiritual help that can make an important difference to bereaved people.

So, ever since Jeanette reached out, Alison has been there as a friendly listening ear, giving her the space to share her feelings at the pace that’s right for her.

The two have developed an easy rapport with Alison visiting Jeanette regularly and listening when Suzy needs to talk, too.

Alison said: “Our service is for anyone whose loved one was cared for by St Luke’s whether the death is recent or happened several years ago. People aren’t themselves when they’re bereaved and emotions can sometimes be confusing and distressing. Getting these feelings out into the open is important in helping them come to terms with their loss and move forward. They have the reassurance of knowing everything they tell us will remain confidential, even if we are there to support other members of the family, too.

“It’s been a privilege getting to know Jeanette and Suzy and hearing their memories of Jim. I feel almost as if I knew him.”

These memories include DIY enthusiast Jim using his skills to give Suzy’s bedroom an impressive makeover to welcome the comedian home after she’d been working away, and giving granddaughter Amy a keyboard to nurture her musical talents. Perhaps most moving of all is the memory of Jim’s sheer determination, despite his diminishing health, to make a ‘secret mission’ into town to buy his wife a diamond ring as a sign of his love and gratitude for her devotion to him.

Jeanette said: “Talking with Alison never feels hurried and it helps me remember all the happy times. We’ve listened to Jim’s music, too, which was such a huge part of his life. There are lots of tears but laughter, too, especially remembering his humour. Even when he was really ill, Jim was still joking with the nurses.”

Suzy, too, finds comfort in her precious memories of the man came who into the lives of her and her brother as ‘Uncle Jim’ but very quickly became a loving father. She said: “It was dad who bought me my first joke book, so it’s his fault my career is in comedy. And when I went abroad to work he put his own lyrics to an Elton John track for me – it was so personal and funny that I still sing it in my head.

“I felt so sad when dad was ill, but things would have been so much harder then – and now – without St Luke’s. You can’t put a price on what they provide but it’s why we’re fundraising to give something back. We’ve been so touched at people’s generosity and dad would have been, too.”

Suzy’s Just Giving page has raised £2,300 to date, for which we are very grateful. Thank you to the whole family and everyone else who has shown their support.

Ahead of the South West’s biggest men-only annual charity event on Saturday 28 March, a local man has shared the moving reasons behind his motivation for taking part for the sixth consecutive year.

As is his annual tradition, 50-year-old Martyn Hamley, a carpenter and joiner at Princess Yachts, will be joining workmates Paul Blake, Neil Bailey and Paul Parrish to participate in Men’s Day Out in aid of St Luke’s. The day of banter and rugby includes a 12km sponsored walk that starts at Plymouth Albion RFC and finishes there with a pasty, pint and not-to-be-missed match, after taking in iconic locations in Plymouth, including the Hoe and the Barbican.

As they enjoy the camaraderie of the event and stride the streets raising much-needed funds, Martyn and his colleagues will be remembering their good friend and fellow Princess Yachts employee John Helmore, an exceptional craftsman and talented athlete, who excelled in competitive cycling.

Sadly, John died of cancer in 2015 – aged just 44 – having been looked after by us at our specialist unit in Turnchapel, where the expertise and compassion of our team help people live well to the end of their lives. Taking part in Men’s Day Out, which is sponsored by IU Energy, is the foursome’s way of paying tribute to John and thanking St Luke’s for the dedication with which we cared for him.

John is also remembered by Princess Yachts, where the annual John Helmore Prize for Excellence is awarded to an outstanding member of the team.

Martyn said: “John is greatly missed. My friendship with him went way back to 1986, when we were fresh faced from school and starting our apprenticeships. He stood out from day one because he always gave a hundred per cent to whatever he did, from his work to the sports he loved.

“John was the last person you’d imagine receiving a diagnosis of cancer because he was known for his healthy lifestyle. It just goes to show that none of us know when it might be us in that situation and needing the expert care of St Luke’s. That’s why Men’s Day Out is so important – it’s an opportunity to have a great day with your mates while fundraising for such a fantastic local cause. Everyone is made welcome and there’s a really great atmosphere.”

As in previous years of doing the charity walk, Martyn and his colleagues will take a short detour to sit on John’s memorial bench in Beaumont Park, remember their friend and see how much the silver mountain ash planted in tribute to him has grown since the previous year.

Since 2015, Martyn has raised over £2,500 for St Luke’s to help our service continue making a difference.

John’s sister, Jacqui Dinmore, said: “John was a special man and is missed very much. It is very touching that his friends remember him with such fondness. Taking part in Men’s Day Out year on year is a lovely way for them to remember John while helping ensure St Luke’s support can be there for other families, too.”

Registration for Men’s Day Out is £32, which includes a t-shirt, pasty, pint and entry to the rugby match. Sign up here.

For a small island, it has a big history – as well as an exciting future – so the exclusive opportunity to set foot on Drake’s Island as part of the first organised public tour of the iconic landmark for 30 years is set to spark stiff competition!

We are proud to have been chosen as the beneficiary of funds generated by ticket sales for the event, following a recent visit from Drake’s Island owner, Plymouth-based businessman Morgan Phillips, to our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Taking place on Sunday 15 March and Wednesday 13 May, just over 100 places are available for the tour of the iconic landmark on each day. Each ticket sold will go towards helping us reach more people who desperately need the specialist service we provide for them and their loved ones at the most vulnerable of times.

Director of Guardian Industrial UK, Morgan Phillips, who bought Drake’s Island last year and plans to restore it for the people of Plymouth and tourists, said: “St Luke’s touches the lives of so many in our city and its surrounding areas, including the families of some of my staff, so I was already aware of the very high quality of the care it provides.

“But when I was invited to the hospice building, where they look after patients with the most complex conditions, I saw for myself the unwavering dedication of the team and their kindness and sensitivity, which really make a difference at such a difficult time.”

Such is the interest that surrounds both the history and the future of Drake’s Island that we are anticipating a high demand for the limited spaces available on the tour.

During it’s fascinating history, the Island – which was born out of the sea 400 million years ago – has been a place of pilgrimage, a refuge, a fort, a prison and an observatory, while local people of a certain age are most likely to remember it as an adventure centre in the 1960s and 70s.

With the site being out of bounds to the general public since 1989, it is a place many long to visit so they can discover its secrets and learn about its past. Those lucky enough to snap up one of the places to visit the historic location will get the opportunity to do just that as they get the lowdown from the Island’s Warden, avid historian Bob King, who will lead the tour.

Bob said: “The best part of my job is researching the history of the Island and sharing it with as many people as possible. Although the fortifications and how they have been used and defended Plymouth over the centuries is fascinating, what brings the history alive are the personal stories of the people on the Island.

“I am really excited to have the chance to take people in Drake’s footsteps and help them discover the Island and its past.”

Among the tales about the Island are those of the garrison being involved in brandy smuggling, Queen Victoria sketching the landmark while her boat was at anchor in Plymouth Sound, and the Devonport High schoolboys who ‘invaded’ in 1957 and claimed the Island for Plymouth. They were arrested by the guard, given breakfast and then taken back to Plymouth for a lesson of double maths!

We are organising the Open Island event as an offshoot of our popular Open Gardens scheme, which sees big-hearted owners of beautiful gardens across Devon and Cornwall open their gates and welcome visitors in aid of our charity throughout spring and summer.

Wayne Marshall, Community Fundraiser and Open Gardens Co-ordinator at St Luke’s, said: “Drake’s Island is an important part of Plymouth’s heritage that has been out of reach to the public for a long time. It’s heart-warming that the strong reputation of our charity has resulted in St Luke’s being selected to offer people this fantastic opportunity to step onto such an historic jewel on the cusp of its exciting regeneration.”

Tickets for the guided tour are £35 (+booking fee) per person, which includes boat transfer. They’re available from 26 February 2020 at 9am at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/opengardens. Full terms and conditions are available on the website.

Leaping 15,000 feet from a plane is an exhilarating way to raise funds for our patient care, but what motivates someone to embrace a challenge many would find too daunting?

For nursery worker Rosie Pryce, 23, it is the memory of her much-loved grandad David, who was looked after at Turnchapel before sadly, he died last November, aged 86. Thanks to the outstanding quality of the care David received after he was transferred from hospital to our specialist unit, Rosie is taking on a skydive as her way of thanking our charity for making his last days of life so peaceful and comfortable.

She said: “Grandad was very frail and his condition was deteriorating so he chose not to have anyone visit him at the unit except my grandma Sylvia and their three children, including my dad Kevin. While it was very hard knowing he was so poorly, it was such a comfort hearing from them that he was being looked after by nurses they described as ‘angels’ whose care they said was ‘perfect’.

“I was so reassured to know grandad was in the best possible place for him, with the privacy of a room where grandma could stay by his side day and night. They were childhood sweethearts and married 64 years so spending this precious time together in such an uplifting environment really made a difference to them both at a difficult time.

“The St Luke’s team made sure grandad was pain free, and the nurses were so kind. They turned his bed so he could enjoy the wonderful views out across the water because they heard how he was mad about all things coastal and once owned a boat.

“I have happy memories of days spent with him by the sea, and his love of outdoor swimming was legendary, so it means a lot to know that he could take in a view that was so meaningful to him.”

“When I heard about the opportunity to do a skydive to raise money to give something back to St Luke’s, it really appealed to me. I’m quite a thrill-seeker anyway and felt like I wanted to do something remarkable for grandad because he was such a kind and special person who always had time for me.

“He was a practical joker and that fun-loving side has rubbed off on all our family. Although it’s a big leap, I think the skydive will be great fun so it’s a fitting way to remember grandad and do good for other local families who need the help of St Luke’s.”

Thank you, Rosie – we really appreciate you taking the plunge for our charity!

With people living longer and developing more complex conditions, having GPs who understand end of life care, and do not shy away from difficult but necessary conversations with patients about death and dying, is more important than ever.

Given this, you may be surprised to hear that it is not mandatory for GPs to gain experience within hospice care as part of their training. Rather, it is an option they can select as one of the three rotations they are required to complete on their way to becoming qualified.

Recently, we spoke to Dr Malik Dinata, a trainee GP who has chosen to spend four months on rotation with St Luke’s, to see our service through his eyes and find out how his experience with us will help to prepare him for his career in general practice.

Based within our multidisciplinary clinical team at Turnchapel, Dr Malik has been particularly struck that the time he spends with patients on the ward is unhurried. This means he is able to focus on more than their physical symptoms, getting to know them and their history and finding out about their hopes, expectations and concerns – something that would not be possible within the very pressured environment of acute care.

Dr Malik said: “It is very precious to be able to work with St Luke’s. I get to sit with my patient and practice medicine as it is supposed to be.”

Dealing with death, dying and someone’s last days of life can be one of the most stressful parts of a doctor’s role, and Dr Malik credits the support he receives from his supervisor,

St Luke’s Lead Consultant Dr Jeff Stephenson, and other colleagues, for ensuring he feels ‘safe and comforted’ in a setting many would find very challenging.

He said: “We always touch base before I see a patient so that we can discuss the approach that’s most appropriate for them, and then afterwards colleagues check in with me to ask how it went and how the patient responded.”

On average, a GP surgery has 2,000 patients, with around 20 of them – one per cent – living with terminal illness. To help them be as comfortable and as at ease as possible as they approach the end of their lives, they need the specialist care and support of hospices like St Luke’s, where the help they receive is holistic and tailored specifically to them.

Trainee GPs like Dr Malik, who spend time gaining valuable experience in a hospice setting, are not only more equipped to diagnose accurately and prescribe accordingly, they are more confident having the sensitive yet necessary open conversations about death and dying that help their patient fulfil their wishes about their last months, weeks and days of life.

Dr Jeff said: “Being on rotation with us is a wonderful opportunity for future GPs to gain intensive exposure to looking after people who are terminally ill.

“Importantly, while they’re with us, trainees also learn when to admit a patient to hospital and when it’s more appropriate for them to receive care at home, which is key to avoiding unnecessary admissions.”

Listening to Dr Malik, it is clear that our organisation has made a positive and lasting impression on him that he will carry forward into practice.

He said: “St Luke’s is such a unique environment where people, including the patients themselves, learn to become more accepting of their mortality.

“It’s so important for GPs to know how things should be done. At St Luke’s I’ve seen the ‘gold standard’ and it will benefit my future practice – it will be my point of reference and remind me what I need to do for my patients.

“You don’t gain this type of valuable experience from reading about it in textbooks or hearing about it in lectures. You get it from practice at St Luke’s.”