Helen Jordan, with items made for her children

Dozens of people across Derby and Derbyshire are preparing to take part in a relay carrying the end of life wishes of one woman across the county.

Helen Jordan, 50, has been planning for the future since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer four years ago. She has shared with her friends and family exactly what she wants for her funeral and how she would like to be cared for at the end of her life– and now she is sharing it with the city to mark Dying Matters Awareness Week.

Helen will join the #Derbyshares relay as it begins from Treetops Hospice Care in Risley, on Monday 8 May. The relay will call at the Royal Derby Hospital, the University of Derby and Quad, in Derby’s Market Place, before finishing at London Road Community Hospital on Friday 12 May.

I feel a sense of relief knowing things are in place

Helen, who lives in Long Eaton, said:

“My dad died suddenly in 2012 from a heart attack, and because it was so sudden, we had no idea what he wanted. I’d never really thought about it before I became ill, but my nurse at Treetops encouraged me to plan for the future. I feel a sense of relief knowing things are in place. I hope it will take a bit of weight off my children at the time, so they don’t have to worry about it.”

EnvelopesAs well as making plans for herself, Helen has also made preparations to ensure she will be part of her children’s lives in the future. She has written letters for the four of them to open on milestone birthdays, written books about her own life, and knitted blankets which could be given her future grandchildren.

Nobody knows what’s going to happen

She said:

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen, so I would say if you’ve got particular things you want, you should make a plan, because once you’ve died, it’s too late. I’d encourage anyone to do it – even if it’s just a little bit. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it makes you feel relieved when it’s done.”

The relay has been organised by members of the Derbyshire Alliance for End of Life Care, which aims to promote good end of life care for people living in the county. Members of the alliance include charities supporting people with terminal illnesses, NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Treetops Hospice Care and Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. as well as bereavement services and support groups including Derby Dandelions which is run by G Wathall & Son funeral directors in Derby and Ashbourne.

Helen Jordan's story

So important to share that information

Dr Ruth England, Palliative Medicine Consultant at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“It is difficult to think about dying, especially in the middle of a busy life. But if you know what you want, how you would like to be cared for or what you would like to happen after you die it is so important to share that information. Derbyshire’s relay shows that when we know our wishes we will share them with the right people so that they can be prepared, no matter what happens”.

Each of the stops along the relay will be hosting a pitstop café, where members of the public can head for a hot drink, some cake, and the chance to find out what they can do to plan ahead for the end of their life, or support somebody else.

A marketplace event will take place at Quad on Thursday 11 May, where family-run funeral directors G Wathall & Son, NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG and Marie Curie will host stalls offering information and advice. A free showing of The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson will be screened at the cinema at 1pm.

Events log

  • Monday, 8 May, 10am – the relay launches at Treetops Hospice Care. A launch event will take place here where people can find out more about planning for the end of life.
  • Tuesday, 9 May, 10am – the relay arrives at the Royal Derby Hospital. Pitstop Café running in the Information Hub from 10-12, offering refreshments and information about planning for end of life.
  • Wednesday, 10 May, 10am – the relay arrives at the University of Derby, having travelled from the Royal Derby Hospital. There will be a pitstop café running in The Atrium from 10am.
  • Thursday, 11 May, 9.45am – the relay will be escorted from Derby Cathedral to Quad by a piper. A marketplace event will run at Quad from 10am until 2pm, where funeral directors G. Wathall and Son will be joined by organisations including Southern Derbyshire Care Commissioning Group, Marie Curie, Derby Dandelions, Age UK Derby & Derbyshire, The Laura Centre, Timms Solicitors, Whiffle Pig and Dove River Media. A free screening of The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, will take place at 1pm. Limited places are available on a first come, first served basis.
  • Friday, 12 May, 10am – the relay will end its run at London Road Community Hospital with a final pitstop café.

Further events are taking place at other venues around Derby and South Derbyshire, including care homes.