Where Fellow Travellers With Blood Cancer Unite
Navigating life with a cancer diagnosis can feel like a rollercoaster.
If you’re visiting our site after being diagnosed with a blood cancer, or as a carer/family member, then you’ll know first-hand the shock and numbness of receiving test results, the emotional highs of the journey, and the mental turmoil of juggling family and work life, all whilst keeping up with financial commitments.
The Willow Tree Foundation is a Blood Cancer charitable organisation that was established to support our members with psychological, emotional, practical and financial support, whilst connecting you to integrative professionals who give you choice over your treatment, and providing a supportive community full of resources and first-hand experiences.
We want to provide what I didn’t know I needed when I was diagnosed. To be brutally honest, the day is still a bit of a blur. All I know is that somewhere during the sentence, ‘You have Stage 4b Mantle Cell Lymphoma and, without treatment you would have a few months to live’, the lights in my world, went out. I was plunged into total darkness. Cancer had barged its way into my home and taken its seat at the head of the table.
It was December 7th 2021, the day that my ‘I don’t get cancer’ attitude was changed. I had a rare and aggressive lymphoma which only a very select and special few hundred souls each year in the UK are diagnosed with. There were some immediate hurdles; telling our 16-year-old daughter, figuring out how the hell we would pay our mortgage and bills, the pain of letting people down I had commitments with and having to cancel trips to the theatre! My family, my clients and theatre, each serve as my pride and joy in life and were going to be compromised.
My oncologist offered me a chemo drug, not available on the NHS, to improve my chance of molecular remission by 15% but, it would cost £40k, which we just didn’t have. However, from setting up a GoFundMe Campaign, and we exceeded the total amount in just 6 days and the money kept on coming! Which is when The Willow Tree Foundation was born.
Our journey to this point made us realise how blessed we were. We were wrapped in kindness, compassion and love from others. It felt important that we could somehow support those who were less fortunate.
Cancer is brutal. It attempts to strip you of everything you have. It renders you to your most vulnerable. Kelly, Mia and I were doing our best, amongst our community; our people surrounded us and held us firm. Imagine being isolated, alone and vulnerable, as you head into a cancer journey. I can’t begin to process what this would be like. The Willow Tree Foundation would act as a global and local community. It would become the backbone for those who felt unsupported and alone. We wanted to offer financial assistance, our lived insights and our love. The vision was to grow our community into somewhere that we would stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart, with each of them.
By September 2022 I was in remission, fresh out of a Stem Cell Transplant and starting to come back into relationship with my body and my mind. Having already gifted £20,000 to those who needed support, having people running marathons for us, schools supporting us as their chosen charity, an auction under our belts and more ideas than we knew what to do with, we could start laying plans for our community.
We established a dedicated Willow Tree Foundation Fund within Kingston Charitable Foundation a registered Charity in September 2022, enabling us to access corporate sponsorship and offer very personal support to those in the borough of Kingston via workshops, a choir and the potential for improved quality of life with our Healing Sanctuary (to open in 2023). We will also be offering financial grants for those living in the borough. At the same time, continuing to grow our global community and support them via our Facebook group and online guides.
These last months have been harrowing. My whole family has grappled with both the ugliness and the beauty of cancer. Whilst cancer sat at our table, we committed to work with it, rather than against it. This meant we needed to face towards the cancer so that we could find meaning and learning from its visit. Amongst the tremendous darkness, there have been numerous glimmers of light. My personal hope is, that we can be torchbearers for those who simply cannot see a way through. We pledge to stand with cancer, stand with you and stand with love.