Charlotte Pearson learns how a charity is fulfilling a woman’s last wish.
Sitting in her hospital bed, Victoria Van Der Westhuizen made a promise that once she was better she was going to do something to help others with cancer.
However, aged just 29 and two months after being diagnosed with retroperitoneal cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease, Victoria passed away.
Charity Victoria’s Promise was set up in 2013 by her brother Alex Eastman, mother Fiona Eastman and husband CJ.
“When Victoria was taken into hospital we all moved in with her,” explains Alex.
“We not only got to see the struggles that Victoria faced but also other young women with cancer on the ward both at NHS and private hospitals.
“After Victoria passed away the family and CJ decided that we would carry out her promise and help women with cancer.”
One area they were keen to address was access to counselling.
“We found out that once diagnosed some women have to wait about two months to see a counsellor and this was just too long,” reveals Alex.
“We offer a faster service and have counsellors who work with us.
“They can help guide the women through their treatment and are there to provide someone outside their family to talk to.”
Based in Hook, the charity supports women aged 18 to 40 by providing services including oncology massages with qualified therapists, wig funding and chemotherapy beauticians.
“When you are undergoing cancer treatment you have to be careful what you put on your skin,” says Alex.
“Also during treatment you can lose your eyelashes and eyebrows so the make-up artists can give tutorials on what to do.
“The women don’t only get their make-up done but also get products to go away with.
“Sometimes these women just want to feel more like themselves and not feel like a cancer patient all the time.”
Other services include a child care service while they are having treatment and the charity can also provide a cleaner.
“We want to help support these women,” says Alex.
“It is about taking the stresses out of the things they don’t need to worry about when they are undergoing treatment.
“We want these women to know they are not alone.”
Victoria’s Promise also holds social evenings as Alex explains finding out you have cancer and undergoing treatment can be quite isolating.
“Some find the people they see are a lot older so they feel they don’t have anyone to talk to,” he adds.
“We hold different social events throughout the year where they can chat and share their experiences with people of the same age, it is really popular.”
Sophie Trew, who had a lymphoma diagnosis at the age of 23, is personal care manager at the charity and Alex explains that she acts as a one-to-one liaison with the women.
“She helps to organise their appointments and also attends the social events,” he says. “She makes sure there are no gaps in the process.”
Working with North Hampshire Hospital, based in Basingstoke, women that are diagnosed here or attend for treatment are given the details of Victoria’s Promise so they have the details they need straight away.
The charity is funded through donations and in the past people have contributed by running marathons, doing triathlons, sponsored silences and every June it holds a Victoria Sponge Bake.
“Victoria was a really keen baker so every June we ask people to bake a cake and then donate some money to the charity,” smiles Alex.
Alongside providing support, the charity is also keen to educate people as a preventative measure to help with their health in the future.
While Victoria may not have been able to fulfil her promise, through her loved ones she is improving the wellbeing of young women suffering with cancer throughout Hampshire.
For information about the charity and to donate, visit victoriaspromise.com
Where your money goes
£40 – pays for an oncology counselling session, helping women deal with treatment and diagnosis.
£50 – pays for a specialist oncology massage, with specialist oils and techniques.
£75 – pays for a chemotherapy skincare and make-up treatment, tutorial and starter kit.
£500 – pays for a high quality, breathable wig.
On Saturday, October 22, Victoria’s Promise is holding its annual charity ball. It will be held at Audleys Wood hotel in Basingstoke from 6pm until 1am.
Tickets are £75 and include canapes, a three-course meal and the entertainment, which includes an auction. To purchase tickets visit the website.
September 22, 2016 Culture and Events