Family Devastated by Cancer Say ‘Treasure What You Have’
Aristotle said: It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.
The Hey family from the Highland town of Nairn have had to deal with more than their fair share of dark moments at the hands of cancer.
But, light has been born from tragedy, as love, togetherness, and a sense of community have combined to leave a lasting legacy following such devastating loss.
Late last year, 39-year-old mum Susan Hey, was diagnosed with an incurable cancer only months after losing her eight-year-old son, Hamish, to the disease.
Susan had survived breast cancer two years ago, but it has returned and she is now wrestling with her diagnosis.
She said: “My treatment is going fine as far as I know at the moment. I am receiving weekly chemotherapy; currently, I have had 18 treatments. My treatment will continue indefinitely as my diagnosis is incurable.
“It has been unbelievably hard on us as a family, but we draw strength from our love for each other.”
In June 2011, her son Hamish, then aged two, was diagnosed with metastatic alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive soft tissue cancer.
Hamish fought bravely against the disease, undergoing 14 months of gruelling treatment, intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as receiving a pioneering surgery called rotationplasty – resulting in him having to be fitted with a prosthetic limb.
After years of regular treatment and medication, in 2016, at the age of seven, he was found to have an unrelated aggressive, inoperable tumour within his brain stem and died in February 2017.
Following the death last year of Hamish, the family along with the support of the Nairn community rallied together to form a charity in his honour.
#TeamHamish was created with the goal of creating a special family space in their Highland hometown and has gone from strength to strength.
Over £50,000 has been raised in just under a year and Hamish’s 11-year-old sister Lily has recently received an invitation to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding next month as recognition for her fundraising contribution.
And in a few weeks, a local cycling club REVCT will be pedalling 1000 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats for #TeamHamish.
The team even have the endorsement and support of 11-time World Champion and six-time Olympic Champion Sir Chris Hoy – who was recently spotted sporting a Team Hamish wristband.
David Nicoll, 47, is the lead cyclist on the team and he and 8 others will take on the arduous challenge, which involves over 50,000ft of climbing over the distance (around twice the height of Mount Everest).
He said: “I had seen so much about #TeamHamish. I felt I just had to help them build the lasting legacy befitting the memory of their brave hero Hamish. The way they have handled everything that life has thrown at them is inspirational to all.”
The cyclists are the latest in a long line of people from the town of Nairn to unite behind the family as various clubs, events and other fundraising activities have taken place in his honour – with all money raised by the charity going to projects that benefit families in the area.
“I had seen so much about #TeamHamish. I felt I just had to help them build the lasting legacy befitting the memory of their brave hero Hamish. The way they have handled everything that life has thrown at them is inspirational to all.”-David Nicoll
Art teacher, Susan, says she is overwhelmed by the response to her son’s charity, she said: “Community support has been phenomenal, we are humbled by it.
“It has been on-going since 2011 when Hamish was first diagnosed. Nairn people hold Hamish in their hearts, we are so proud.
“#TeamHamish is everywhere and being talked about by everyone. Hamish lives on in the town.
“I can’t find the adequate words to express our gratitude to the REVCT rainbow cycle boys.
“What they’re doing is absolutely fantastic and such a gruelling undertaking.
“They are going way above and beyond in every way. It means more than we can say. We are so so humbled and amazed by them.”
Susan says daughter Lily can’t wait to be among 1200 members of the public invited into the grounds of Windsor Castle for the royal wedding on May 19th.
“Lily is the most incredible girl, she has coped and continues to cope with maturity way beyond her 11 years.
“She has ‘lived’ with cancer for almost her whole childhood. Lily is a beautiful, bubbly girl that makes us smile everyday.
“Lily misses Hamish desperately and plays a key role in #TeamHamish to ensure his memory lives on and she can share her love for him.
“The invitation to the Royal Wedding is a most deserved treat, she is so excited and was in utter disbelief.
“Lily is very modest and does not believe she is worthy of such accolade. Of course, she is more than deserving of it. Lily is in awe of Harry and Megan.
“And like any 11 year old girl, she’s excited to get her outfit than to study the outfits of the guests and of course the wedding dress!”
Out of hardship, loss, and many dark times – a new light has been born in the memory of their brave son Hamish.
For Susan, though many battles still lie ahead, she can draw strength from #TeamHamish and the community of Nairn as well as the support of her loving family.
She said: “We are exceptionally close to my immediate family, without their consistent love and support this impossible journey would have been unthinkable.
“We believe we must remain positive, living in the moment rather than thinking too far ahead. On a good day, this works, we do have bad days too though where the situation is overwhelming.”
Susan will accompany Lily along with her husband Sam and Lily’s grandmother to the royal wedding as guests and she provides enlightening guidance to anyone who may also be enduring a difficult spell of health.
She said: “Advice would be, love each other, hold onto the precious moments, the little things, live for the moment, treasure what you have, be grateful for what you have and stay positive.”
And the future for #TeamHamish is certainly bright as big projects are already in motion.
Susan added: “We are currently drawing up plans which will be made public in the next couple of weeks.
“The area will hopefully pull people into the town, putting Nairn back on the map. It is our way of saying thank you to all for the incredible support. Also creating a lasting legacy for Hamish, ensuring he lives on in the hearts of the town for many years to come.”
“The future for #TeamHamish is so exciting. We are about to unveil our plans, we hope the public will love our ideas as much as we do, we can’t wait to see it become reality. We also hope the momentum for fundraising will continue and before long our dream will be in place.”
You can donate to the charity cycle here.