A Dorset resident, whose family stayed at a charity ‘Home from Home’ for free over twenty years ago, whilst she was undergoing gruelling cancer treatment, is backing an appeal to transform a former bed and breakfast into a new haven for families of children and young people with cancer.
Rachel Bobeckyj, who lives in Bridport, was just 10 years of age when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in October 1994. Following the shock diagnosis, Rachel underwent 14 rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy treatment and surgery. In February 1995, she became the first person in the world to have a bag of saline put in her stomach to move her bladder, bowel and ovaries out of the way of the radiotherapy rays.
Rachel said: “I’d been in increasing pain since April that year, so when I was told I had Ewing’s Sarcoma, initially I was relieved that they’d located the source of the pain and so they could fix it but the doctors told us that it wouldn’t be simple to treat. At the time I was confused, it was initially dismissed as growing pains for several months, and now it looked very serious.”
Rachel sadly relapsed in 1997, but thankfully she finished her gruelling treatment and was given the all-clear in 1998.
During this difficult time, Rachel ’s family stayed in a ‘Home from Home’ called CLIC Haven, provided by CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, near to Southampton Hospital where families can stay for free to be near their child – providing a vital lifeline for families.
Rachel said: “I think my sister’s mental health would have suffered if she hadn’t had the option to stay with me. And mine definitely would have suffered if Dad wasn’t able to stay. CLIC Haven helps hold families together whilst a child goes through the most horrendous ordeal that can not just go on for months, but for years in some cases.”
CLIC Sargent has now launched a fundraising appeal to transform a former Southampton bed and breakfast into a new haven for young cancer patients and their families. The new home, called Jean’s House, aiming to be opened this autumn, will have seven en-suite family bedrooms (sleeping up to four people), two open plan kitchen/diners, two lounges and a teenagers’ space, helping families spend more time together and avoid often debilitating travel and accommodation costs.
Jean’s House will replace CLIC Haven which opened in the grounds of Southampton Hospital in 1991 and has supported thousands of families. More than 300 families have stayed at the house over the last couple of years, many for several months. In 2017/18 there were 113 family stays for an average length of three weeks.
Planning permission for the transformation was granted by Southampton City Council last October and the charity has launched a fundraising appeal to cover the £1.6million cost for buying and fully adapting the building.
Over £1.2million pounds has already been raised thanks to generous support from donors including: Children with Cancer UK, Signet and Sir Jules Thorne Charitable Trust and now CLIC Sargent is seeking to raise the remaining £400,000 to fully renovate and furnish the house.
Rachel is keen to give something back by lending her support to the campaign to help other families.
Rachel said “I really hope that everyone in Bridport backs this appeal because CLIC Haven was a lifeline to families like ours at the worst of times. It made a huge difference to us. If I can share my story to inspire others to donate to help families like ours in the future then it is all worth it. I am planning on celebrating finishing cancer treatment 20 years ago and have big fundraising plans for the charity that helped me and my family all those years ago.”
Liz Blunt, Fundraising and Engagement Manager for Dorset said: “With the public’s support, we will transform the property into a welcoming haven for families like Rachel’s going through a really tough time.
Jean’s House has been specially-designed to be bigger and better than before, offering more space and comfort for families. We are asking for the public’s help to house even more families in desperate need, saving them hundreds of pounds and bringing crucial home comforts in a time of great turmoil”
If you would like to help fundraise for this appeal, please contact Liz Blunt on 07944 696 858 or email at Liz.Blunt@clicsargent.org.uk. For more information, go to: