“She was a superstar and Hollywood couldn’t have written that ending.”
These are the words of mum June Williams whose 19-year-old daughter, Jodie, died of cancer last year. In the final few weeks of her life, Jodie was cared for by our staff and our hospice was the place where she died.
“Jodie loved drama, acting, the theatre and live music,” said June. “She was involved in a theatre school since she was a little girl and it is my view that she would have hit Hollywood. She wanted to be famous. She never wanted to be forgotten. And she never will be.”
With a world full of dreams ahead of her, Jodie was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer when she was just 17. What started out as aches and pains she was unable to shake off, turned in to weeks of vigorous testing that led to the devastating diagnosis for Jodie, her parents June and Damian and sisters Lauren and Robyn.
“When we were first told, I just cried,” said June. “Jodie was handling it so much better. It was quite frightening but Jodie held her own so well. She just got on with it. She said she would have rather it been her than her two sisters.”
Over the next 10 months, Jodie endured 14 rounds of intense chemotherapy. She had to undergo numerous blood transfusions and suffered septicaemia.
“Apart from some setbacks, Jodie did so well,” said June. “She still tried to go out and live her life, even though she was so poorly. So desperately poorly. Sometimes her pain was so bad, it hurt her to put on a sock or have a blanket on her. She used to ask me to stroke her back or head gently as this was a comfort to her.”
After her treatment was over, Jodie had a scan and the family waited for the news they had longed to hear, that the cancer had shrunk. Devastatingly, the scan showed no significant change. “I was just numb,” said June. “She had gone through all of that for 10 months and we had been holding on to so much hope.”
Radiotherapy was the next step for Jodie but the treatment made her very ill. She was determined to be home for Christmas. “She was so poorly and so tired, but she managed to do those two days,” said June. “We had a great Christmas and she also managed to see some friends on New Year’s Eve. That was just Jodie. One minute she was in hospital and the next she was like a shining star.”
But Jodie’s headaches got worse and tumours were found on her skull. “That was the turning point for me,” June said. “She had had all this treatment and it was still invading her like an army. Jodie hated being called brave so I called her a gladiator.”
Then the treatment stopped working. The cancer was too aggressive. This was when they discovered our hospice.
“Jodie absolutely loved Rainbows,” said June. “If we had known about it sooner, we would have been there. Rainbows was a place away from hospital. A place away from cancer. It felt like home. Rainbows allowed us to not think about anything else.
“At Rainbows, she was more active. Her pain was managed better. When she got in the pool, the sense of relief in her body was beautiful. It was the first time I have been able to swim with my three daughters in about a decade.”
A week before her 20th birthday, a party was held for Jodie in Nottingham. It was her final celebration. “Just after midnight we got back to Rainbows and she got in to bed and fell to sleep one last time. Just like that,” said June. “I climbed in next to her and held her all night. I couldn’t help but think how perfect it was. She was a superstar and Hollywood couldn’t have written that ending.
“Rainbows is just the most wonderful place and the staff are incredible. They couldn’t change what we were going through but it could put a soothing balm around it. I also think Jodie chose Rainbows for us. She knew we could all be together and she knew we would be looked after. When she had passed, I was still able to spend time with her every day. It allowed me to prep myself as fully as I could and I can’t thank Rainbows enough for that.”
June says Jodie will “forever be part of Rainbows” as her name is on a glass leaf on a special tree in the Garden of Remembrance.