Merissa, Rainbow Trust Family Support Worker started supporting the McVety family in 2019 after Maddison was diagnosed with cancer at age 13. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer) in her leg and following surgery to remove it in 2019, had chemotherapy treatment. Merissa provided the family with support for some of the other younger siblings, which included trips out and entertaining at home with crafts and games.
Merissa stopped supporting the family in 2020 as Maddison recovered well and the family felt that they could manage again. In 2021 Maddison had a relapse and the community nurse contacted Rainbow Trust to support the family whilst they navigated the next stages of her treatment which included further chemotherapy. On this occasion Merissa dedicated much of her support to one sibling in particular, and due to how busy it was at home, accompanied them to school to provide support sessions. This included pre-bereavement support when it was known that she would not recover. Support continued after Maddison died, with sessions focussing on helping to keep her memory alive and Merissa helped to ensure bereavement support plans were put in place at school for both the younger and older siblings.
Maddison died on 26th April 2022 after a battle with cancer at the of age 16.
Maddison was a wonderful, bright, funny young girl who was good at everything she did, especially football, she was one of the top players in her team. She was also a big Manchester city fan. She was very academic and attended Urmston Grammar School from year 8 to year 11 and achieved 5 A* and 2 A in her GCSE’s. It was during year 11 that she became too ill to attend school.
Maddison’s dad, Kevin McVety says; “She was so brave and showed strength and resilience beyond her years. When she broke her ankle on a slip and slide at school she made no fuss at all, saying she had been through much worse with her first round of cancer treatment, even though she needed an operation to have pins put in. She even planned her own funeral, sending out her own funeral invites. She wanted everyone to be there and for it be a wonderful celebration of her life, which it was, full of laughter and tears. We played a video of her singing along to a Stormzy song that she’d recorded the day after we found out she had relapsed, her cancer had returned in both lungs.”
Coping with bereavement
Dad Kevin McVety continues; “After Maddison died we lost contact with so many people. They didn’t know what to do and what to say to us. During a visit to relatives the Christmas after she died, Maddisson’s grandfather said ‘Don’t be sad she wouldn’t want that’. But we need to be sad, we need to talk about her, share our feelings which is very hard and we need to do that in our own time.
When we went to the shops we would see people we know and they would avoid us, scurrying up another aisle of the shops to avoid us, to avoid talking to us, I don’t think they knew what to say or what to do. In some ways it’s a relief to not have to speak to them, but then you have to build yourself up to go out and face the world, so it does knock your confidence.
When she was dying in hospital all the nurses said to us don’t worry when the time comes you wont be alone, but we were. The trauma of losing her will never leave us, I can still hear my wife scream when she died. For us Rainbow Trust, and Merissa our Rainbow Trust Family Support Worker, provided the support we needed at a time when we felt alone and abandoned.
The whole family felt the warmth of Rainbow Trust’s care – I cannot emphasize enough how amazing it was to have someone come to the house and ask how they could practically help you. Merissa took the other younger children for a walk or to the park, she helped them to talk about their feelings – she even went into school to provide one to one support sessions. And she took time to chat with my wife, which was such a huge support for her. Rainbow Trust are still helping us today and we are so grateful their support will continue for as long as we need it.”
He says “You are never prepared for your child’s death and it’s too much to deal with alone. We need to spread the message that educating people about bereavement is important. There is never the right thing to say but we need to say something. Kevin’s advice is talk about your feelings, don’t let it build up, get out of the house as much as you can, don’t be afraid to ask for help and look after your family.“
Kevin still gets his Facebook memories pop up and they make him sad and happy but he could talk about her all day long.