“If there is a heaven on earth, it is Rainbows.”

Last year, 18-year-old Lewis Sewell, a “courageous and resilient young man” passed away from a rare form of cancer. 

Lewis, a student at Bilborough College and actor of Castle Donington, died at our hospice on August 15. Now his family are fundraising in his memory by walking between East Midlands’ theatres; 18 miles per day representing a mile for each year of Lewis’ life. 

“If there is a heaven on earth, it is Rainbows,” said Gillian, Lewis’ mum. 

Walk for Lewis: 18 miles for 18 years, will take place between Monday 24 and Friday 28 May. Gillian, her husband, Ian, and son, Matt – along with close family friends, Fr Joe Wheat and Dennis McCarthy – want people to virtually join them to honour their son, brother and friend. The walk will raise funds for us and the Lewis Sewell Memorial Trust – which will help young people in the arts industry.

“Your fundraising through this event and every step you take in memory of Lewis will help to support young people within the arts industry like Lewis’, while enabling Rainbows to continue to be here to offer bereavement support to families like ours.” said Gillian.

In February 2020, Lewis was diagnosed with a Malignant Metastatic Rhabdoid Tumour, a type of cancer which is usually found in young children. 

“Because Lewis was 17, the cancer was difficult to diagnose,” said Gillian. “He had various treatments and chemotherapy and we almost lost him a couple of times. But he was a fighter. An incredible young man. He was courageous and resilient. 

“Just five months after his diagnosis, we were told that what he had was terminal and nothing more could be done. It is then we were told about Rainbows. He passed away less than four weeks later. 

“None of us wanted to go to Rainbows. That word; hospice. It signified end of life and Lewis was adamant he wanted to pass at home. However, we hadn’t met Rainbows at that time. 

“At Rainbows we could do so much. We swam in the hydrotherapy pool and we could all stay overnight together and be a family, unlike in hospital. That is what Rainbows did for us. They stopped us being carers and allowed us to be a family.”

In his final few weeks, Lewis managed to tick things off his bucket list like going for a weekend away with his friends, getting his A-level results, meeting the Prime Minister at Downing Street, having afternoon tea with the Australian Ambassador at Australia House, singing a duet with Cleve September from Hamilton, flying in a helicopter, flying in a private jet as well as appearing as the headline of “The Stage” and “Broadway World” and receiving a poem from author Michael Morpurgo.

“The day Lewis got his outstanding A-level results, he got up, got dressed, did a TV interview and celebrated with his family and friends. But as the day came to a close, he was in so much pain and the agony was starting to show,” said Gillian. “We knew at that point he was declining. We phoned Rainbows and they opened their doors and took us in and oh my, the care and support we got was incredible. We felt safe and supported.

“Lewis’ pain got worse and he was given medication. He was lying in his bed, relaxing and peaceful. If we had been at home, it would have been a disaster. 

“In the end, it was very rapid. Myself, Ian, Matt and Matt’s girlfriend, Izzy, were with him as well as our priest, Fr Joe, and a Rainbows nurse. We were able, as were his extended family, to tell him we loved him so much and we didn’t want him in any pain and that we wanted him to be in a better place. He just lay back on his bed having watched himself on the news, and receiving a message from Lord Andrew Llyod Webber, and went to sleep. 

“Lewis died the same day 23 years after his brother, Mark, who was stillborn. He chose to go on the same day as his brother. He told his dad if he could, that would be what he would do as he only wanted us to have to grieve on one day.

“Rainbows allowed us to have a beautiful death. Nothing was too much trouble and nothing felt like a process. The thoughtfulness was amazing. We had our own private space and the family were all able to come and we all just thanked God for Rainbows. The whole family felt they could grieve and be in the moment. Even when we were leaving, we were told to just come back if we needed to and to know that we could go back, gave us the strength to go home.”

To get involved with Walk for Lewis: 18 miles for 18 years, visit rainbows.co.uk/lewissewell