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Martin York, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer at the age of 55, has spoken out to urge men to be vigilant in checking for symptoms of the disease and not let embarrassment keep them from getting the simple check-ups that could save their lives. He wants to leave a legacy to the men of the city to help protect their health.

With prostate cancer affecting 1 in 8 men, Martin is passionate about spreading the message that, while the disease tends to occur in those aged over 65, younger men are also at risk and that getting diagnosed early can improve the prognosis for those who have the condition.

Martin said, “I was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2017, and the disease had been doing its worst inside my body for three to four years so I went straight onto chemotherapy. It was very debilitating and I spent most of the next five months in bed.”

A keen Plymouth Argyle FC supporter, Martin was keen to give something back to the club and at their invitation spoke to the players in the dressing room to share his story and help raise awareness of prostate cancer and its symptoms.

He said: “Men don’t like talking about anything below their belts, which is ridiculous. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for others. If you’re in any doubt at all, see your GP for a simple check-up.”

Martin, who has been married to Penny for 24 years, came into the care of St Luke’s expert team when he needed help to control his pain and was admitted to the our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Just as passionate about debunking unhelpful myths around hospice care as he is about urging men to prioritise their health, he said: “I went in not knowing what it would be like, but I was very pleasantly surprised how friendly, light and airy the unit was. It was like a five-star hotel.”

St Luke’s specialist care and support for Martin did not stop when he made the decision to be discharged home. Thanks to the charity’s multidisciplinary At Home team, which looks after half of all the patients St Luke’s sees across Plymouth, South West Devon and East Cornwall, everything was in place to make his transition from the unit as smooth as possible.

Penny said: “A lot of people think that when you go into the hospice building, you’re never coming out again. This couldn’t have been further from the truth for Martin, and it was his choice to come home. The day he returned was remarkable, with all the kit already in place, thanks to St Luke’s occupational therapist Shaen. He made sure Martin had everything that was needed, from easy chairs and hoists to a special bed.

“Martin is a very special man, I will always be grateful to St Luke’s for this gift they’ve given us – Martin at home where he belongs so we can have this precious time together knowing that if we need it, help is just a phone call away. The kindness and sensitivity of the team is making such a difference to us at a really difficult time.

“I am incredibly proud of Martin and want to echo his words to other men: If you have even the slightest concern that something is wrong ‘downstairs’, go straight to see your GP. It could save your life.”

Did you know that nationally, 64% of charity trustees are men and that the average age of a trustee is 61? (Source)

We’re pleased to say our board is more diverse, but we’re striving to ensure it is truly representative of the community St Luke’s serves. That’s why – with it being national Trustees’ Week (4 – 8 November) – we not only want to thank the dedicated men and women who kindly give their skills and time free of charge to govern and guide our charity, but also highlight the opportunity for you to join them.

With the recent launch of our five-year strategy setting out our ambitious goals for the next half-decade, it’s a particularly exciting time to get involved as part of our Board of Trustees.

Trustee, Charles Hackett, said: “Being a trustee at St Luke’s supports my personal development but more importantly allows me to use my skills to help, in some way, the community in which I live.”

Being a trustee with St Luke’s can be rewarding for many reasons, including a sense of making a difference with a well-respected charity that touches the lives of local families to gaining new experiences and forging new relationships. (For an insight into our recent work, take a look at our latest impact report.)

Fiona Field, who sits on the Organisational Risk and Audit Committee and chairs the Health & Safety Committee, said: “I give about one day per month on average, this is divided between being a member of the board, chairing the health and safety committee, visiting teams across St Luke’s and taking part in some of the fundraising activities. I have regularly attended the Open Gardens in the summertime, sold programmes on Plymouth Hoe at the Firework Championships and walked the Elmer Trail. I am also the named trustee for both the Launceston and Tavistock retail shops so visit them both periodically, usually buying something on every visit as well!

“I find the work interesting and rewarding and I am always proud to talk to others about the brilliant work that everyone at St Luke’s does for such a worthy cause. I am keen that the services St Luke’s offers continue to be of the highest quality possible for our patients and their families locally.”

We’re seeking people with the knowledge, skills and motivation to help ensure that as St Luke’s evolves, we continue to make wise decisions that mean we can meet the challenges ahead, including reaching underrepresented groups who sometimes struggle to be heard.

As well as contributing to board meetings, you’ll have the opportunity to use your skills with a sub-committee that makes best use of your specific area of expertise. There’ll also be opportunities to further your experience through hearing from guest speakers and attending national conferences.

If you have a background in community development, including education, or in HR, we’re particularly keen to hear from you.

For more information, please contact Sarah Gore at sgore@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

First impressions matter and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, there’s a team member who not only makes sure everyone who walks through our door receives a friendly welcome when they visit a loved one in the evening, or stay overnight, but can empathise with our hardworking clinical team, too.

When Andy Campbell first joined St Luke’s 32 years ago it was as a Healthcare Assistant, a role he later combined with his job as Support Officer with our charity until two years ago when he decided to focus on the latter, securing the building after the ‘day’ staff have gone home and doing much more besides.

Not only does Andy cover reception duties at Turnchapel during his regular 6.30 – 10.30pm shift, taking calls and greeting visitors, he ensures that both individuals and entire families spending time with their loved ones are comfortable, recognising that it’s often the ‘small’ things that can make a big difference to them at such a sad time.

Andy said: “I know our patients are looked after impeccably, so I see my role as keeping an eye out for those visiting them, who are often struggling even if they seem pretty calm on the surface.

“Whether they’re at Turnchapel for an hour or staying consecutive nights, there’s always something we can do to make them feel as relaxed as possible. Sometimes, just a friendly chat and a bit of banter is all it takes to show them they matter, while at others it’s about being practical and ordering their favourite takeaway so they can eat what they like while they’re here.”

So, from laying the tables ready for a family to enjoy a meal together to making up z-beds so they can stay close to their loved one through the night, Andy’s shifts revolve around the needs of our visitors so that they leave feeling better than when they arrived. Of all the families he has met in his many years with St Luke’s, it’s a particular mother and daughter who stand out in his memory.

Andy explains: “When a young woman who’d been receiving care was approaching the end of her life, she kept saying how much she desperately wanted to get a particular tattoo. Despite lots of phone calls, no local tattooists came forward to help so I contacted a friend of mine who’s properly qualified. He responded quickly and expertly created the exact tattoo she wanted, waiving his usual fee.

“Seeing how much it meant to this lady, who passed away just three days later, is something I’ve never forgotten. I know getting her wish helped her pass away peacefully and it gave her mum a lot of comfort, too.

“Being thoughtful and kind doesn’t cost us anything, but it can be priceless to the families we help. That’s why I always want to work for St Luke’s.”

Collaborating with our partners, other healthcare professionals, and our staff and volunteers has enabled us to set out a strategy to help us meet the significant challenges facing us as a charity. We are proud of the progress we have made over the last five years and that really is down to our hard-working, dedicated staff and volunteers and the continued backing of the community. There has been unwavering support for our organisation and we hope that the next five years will see the same level of incredible engagement.

To read our strategy for 2019-24, please click here.