A fund-raising event for The Shooting Star Hospice is being held at Teddington’s Park Hotel on Friday, 6th October at 8.00pm in memory of teenager Josh Maskew.
There will be an auction and a raffle and admission price is just £20 (students £10) All proceeds will go to The Shooting Star Chase Hospice. To read more about the amazing work of the hospice, its staff and its volunteers, please go to https://www.shootingstarchase.org.uk/our-care/what-we-do/
To read a very personal story about the remarkable support the Hospice gave one family please take a moment to read the following account by Josh’s mother Caroline Maskew, who will be hosting the evening.
If you cannot attend the event or offer an item for the auction or raffle, please consider a donation https://www.shootingstarchase.org.uk/donate/
By Caroline Maskew:
I made a speech attached on behalf of The Shooting Star Chase Hospice about my son Josh Maskew. It was an event held on Friday 15th September at The Royal Berkshire Shooting School. I spoke in front of over 700 people. It was a great honour to tell people mine and Josh’s story, of how amazing The Shooting Star Chase Hospice is and how they help so many terminally ill children and their families, in the most difficult situations with exceptional care and support.
It is a great privilege and honour to be given the opportunity to talk about my son Josh, Shooting Star Chase and Karen Sugarman, who has become a special friend to me and my family.
Josh was a very sporty, fit, shy and unassuming young man with a capacity to make lots of friends and was like a ‘wise old man’!
On April 10th 1995 after a difficult birth and many hours later, I awoke to hear Josh crying next to me.
I remember looking over at his crib and this amazing feeling washing over me, that this bundle of joy was my responsibility for the rest of my life.
Overwhelmed by how gorgeous he was and excited to think what his personality would be like and what he would do with his life.
At the beginning of October 2012, at the age of 16, Josh was limping and saying his back hurt. There was no reason for this as he had not had an accident whilst playing football or tennis which, were his two loves in life. I took him to the doctor, but unfortunately, our doctor was away on holiday so we saw another in the practice. She didn’t even examine Josh, just said it was ‘growing pains’ and if we really wanted she could organise a blood test, but it wasn’t in her opinion necessary.
We opted of course for the blood test and it came back fine and we had made a return visit to see her and there again she said, ‘well I told you so’. Josh very rarely complained about anything. As far as we were concerned, he was a fit and healthy young man.
One morning a few days later, whilst Josh was staying with his dad, Josh called me and he was distraught. He said “I’ve found a lump in my groin and I know I’ve got cancer.” I said don’t be silly Josh. I said we need to go immediately to our doctor, who had returned from his holiday. Josh said “No mum I’ve got a college assignment and I can’t afford to miss any time off.”
He insisted we went to the doctor later that day and I reluctantly took him to college. As we approached the college gates Josh slumped forward and I stopped the car. He said: “sorry mum I need to go to the doctor now.” We saw our own doctor.
The look I had from him when he pulled the curtain back afterwards was of great concern.
This was the start of our journey. After numerous MRI scans and tests, a few days later, Josh’s dad and myself were given the horrendous news that Josh had a very rare form of cancer – Clear Cell Sarcoma. A cancer so rare that it does not show up in the routine blood tests.
Josh had weeks or months to live. Our lives changed forever.
Josh needed an operation immediately, as his spine was crumbling from the cancer, followed by chemo and radiotherapy, but they would try everything they could and further medical assistance in the States could be an option. Josh took everything with amazing resilience and calmly said he was going to fight this and was determined to prove everyone wrong.
We were in and out of hospitals. Josh’s back operation was excruciating and we nearly lost him due to so many complications and further tumours growing around his stomach area.
We were not allowed to take Josh to the States, as he was too ill to travel. We were getting nowhere with our fight. We were at breaking point. That’s when I called my good friend Neil Harris who knowing the work of Shooting Star Chase, knew we needed the vital support of the hospice.
After speaking to Neil, the hospice and Karen, everything changed. Josh and I were taken by ambulance to the hospice. As soon as we arrived as I have said, everything changed. We were given a lovely room. The atmosphere, support and warmth really resonated from every piece of the building and staff. The wonderful hospice GP – Dr Kieran O’Fynn was there that night and
immediately made Josh feel relaxed and gave the confidence to put his trust in him and the hospice.
It was completely amazing and so comforting to myself and Josh.
From then on life for Josh became much better, if I can say that. Purely, with the love and support of the hospice, from the staff and the feel of the place. Josh made many friends with other children being cared for and loved the special chocolate milkshake Hazel the cook would make for him.
The days and weeks we were in the hospice were very special and the family accommodation gave the chance to catch up on some much needed sleep, in the knowledge that your child was being looked after and happy. The surroundings at the hospice are beautiful, with such incredible attention to detail and care beyond words.
One day when I was curled up in a chair watching Josh sleep, the door opened and Karen came in to see us. From that day after hearing so much about Karen, but not actually meeting her in person, we formed the most amazing friendship, not just with me but with Josh too. Karen was so attentive and when Josh woke, Karen listened intently to him, recalling his passion – Chelsea Football Team.
Karen rang me to say she had arranged a surprise visit from John Terry and Ashley Cole to see Josh. Josh was so excited when I told him and couldn’t believe they wanted to meet him!!
The following week we were given the horrendous news Josh had deteriorated and would pass away by the end of the week.
Josh went into a coma, rallying around a couple of times, but passed away near the end of the week surrounded by his dad, his sister Ellie and myself. That very morning, John Terry and Ashley Cole were on their way to the hospice to meet Josh with Karen sharing the devastating news with them that Josh had passed away.
Life will never ever be the same.
Josh taught me and many people so much with his courage and fight against this horrendous disease. He had incredible dignity and never ever did he once complain. He leaves behind an amazing legacy and it is with testament to him that his friends and family will always keep his memory alive.
Every time it’s his birthday or the day he died, friends and family visit his grave or memorial site, to pay tribute to a truly inspirational young man, who brought so much to everyone he met and continues to do so in his very short life.
Josh and I spent every day together in his very short illness and I will never know anyone as well as I know my son. He taught me how to carry on with my life and not to give up. Josh was and will always be my inspiration. Beautiful, handsome, caring – who is around me, always.
We have since returned to the hospice to hang a beautiful star engraved with Josh’s name on the tree in the Memory Garden.
I would like to end by just saying, please think about what I have said about my journey with Josh and tell people about the work of Shooting Star Chase.
Every year my partner and I hold a fundraising day in memory of Josh to help raise vital funds for the hospice, to help other families who have found themselves in exactly the same position as us.
However small, please help to continue the amazing work and care Shooting Star Chase gives to so many children and their families.