Caroline’s Story

“Every time Mum was given a prognosis by doctors she fought so hard that she doubled their estimates! But by 2023 she was starting to deteriorate and that’s when the Rennie Grove Peace nurses stepped in."

Caroline’s Story

Caroline’s story

When Caroline Everitt was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 at the age of just 49, it came as a huge shock to her family. Months of treatment including chemotherapy and radiotherapy successfully treated her cancer until there was no evidence of disease remaining.  

Relieved to be free of the disease, Caroline went back to her job with the Bishop of Buckingham, as well as volunteering to help with various community activities such as Lighthouse Great Missenden and being an active member of her local church. All was well until 2019 when Caroline experienced a numbness in her jaw. After visiting her dentist she was referred to hospital for an MRI which revealed that the cancer had metastasised and was present in her liver, lung, spine, brain, head and jaw. 

This came as a devastating blow to the whole family as Caroline had seemed so well, other than the numbness in her jaw.

Her son, Chris, picks up the story:  

“My dad and I are both involved in Scouting and were due to travel to America for the World Scout Jamboree shortly after her diagnosis. Dad stayed here to support Mum through further tests and investigations but Mum was absolutely adamant that I should still go on the trip.  

“While I was away, tests revealed the extent of the cancer and she was given a prognosis of two years, which was devastating for us all.” 

Further treatment followed, to try and reduce the tumours and keep Caroline well for as long as possible. 

“Mum was determined to not let treatments slow anything down or stop anything happening. She continued to work the same hours as before and remained just as much a part of the community as she had ever been. She would go out for walks to stay active – a minimum of two miles per day, much to the amazement of her oncologist! She showed a positive outlook on everything that was happening, being confident that the professionals and our community would help her in her fight.”  

Regular tests helped the family understand how Caroline’s tumours were responding to treatment and by 2020 many of the tumours had cleared up, so they remained in just her lung and liver. This was celebrated by the family, Caroline’s friends and anyone that knew her. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic some of Caroline’s treatments were postponed or delayed and the family stayed at home together, to protect Caroline’s compromised immune system.  

Caring for Caroline

In 2022 tests revealed that the tumour had returned in Caroline’s brain and at this point the family was told that her prognosis would be shorter. Chemotherapy was postponed until more radiotherapy on the head had taken place. 

Chris says: 

“Every time Mum was given a prognosis by doctors she fought so hard that she doubled their estimates! But by 2023 she was starting to deteriorate and that’s when the Rennie Grove Peace nurses stepped in.  

“The nurses were so supportive and really worked to find ways for Mum to stay as independent as possible. When Mum’s legs were getting weaker, the nurses supported Dad and me to encourage her movement and taught us how to move her around the house safely.  

“The Rennie Grove Peace nurses visited regularly and they could advise us when we were ready for the next step. Like suggesting when we might like to think about a stair lift or a hospital bed.  

“Over the course of the year the nurses became regular visitors. We’d always have a cuppa waiting for them when they arrived and they always came in with a smile. They would be happy to share a laugh and a joke but they were also really attuned to how the whole family was doing. They could spot if something actually wasn’t a joke or we were struggling in some way and they were there to support us all – Dad (Martin), me and my brother, Dan – just as much as Mum.” 

As Caroline began to deteriorate, she was referred to the Rapid Personalised Care Service, which sees Rennie Grove Peace healthcare assistants visit up to four times per day to support with personal care such as washing and dressing.  

Chris says: 

“Having those visits made such a difference. The healthcare assistants were so kind and caring. They would make sure Mum was washed and dressed and just ensure she was comfortable. They also supported us in everything we needed to do for her and they just lightened the load for us all. 

“Everybody who visited from Rennie Grove Peace was compassionate and honest with us. At one point the nurses told us that, based on her deterioration, they thought she would probably die within a week.  

“Sadly, Mum died three days later, on 6 October 2023. She died just four days before my 30th birthday and I know she had been trying so hard to hold on for that. But she had fought so hard the whole way. From that initial prognosis of two years in 2019 she went on to live another four years.” 

During the time Rennie Grove Peace staff were visiting the house, Chris learned how little of the charity’s funding comes from the government and how reliant the organisation is on fundraising. He decided to start fundraising to ensure other families can access the same care his family benefitted from.  

“Before you need a charity like Rennie Grove Peace you don’t really understand much about what is involved. I’ve now seen firsthand just how hard the staff work and what a difference they make. The nurses and healthcare assistants who supported Mum do an incredible job. To turn up to work each day with a smile, knowing that their patients are never going to get ‘better’ must require a huge amount of mental resilience.  

“Knowing how hard the whole team works and what a difference their support makes to families made me want to give back to the charity.  

“My best mate, Jamie, my partner, Amy, and I climbed Ben Nevis together last Easter. That was the first mountain I had climbed in 10 years! We met some people that day who were doing the National Three Peaks Challenge and that gave us an idea! We said ‘one day we could do that’. 

“That conversation coincided with the care from Rennie Grove Peace really ramping up so it all tied in nicely and I decided that would be the challenge I’d do to raise money for Rennie Grove Peace. 

“We’re taking on the National Three Peaks Challenge in July 2024 and there will be three of us – me, my best mate Jamie and our friend, Seb. We’ll set off on a Friday and drive up to Ben Nevis which will be our first peak. I think we’ll start that one around midday on the Saturday and the aim is to complete all three peaks within 24 hours. Which means we’ll be climbing at least one of the others – Scafell Pike and Snowdon – through the night.  

“My dad, Martin, will drive us between the three peaks so we can rest a bit between them.  

“We’re all training in our own way. I have a very active job and also do a lot of cardio training. Jamie is into rock climbing and Seb takes part in triathlons so he’s always training! 

“Now that I’ve got the fundraising bug I’m thinking of doing something each year. I’d ultimately like to build up to climbing Mont Blanc as a fundraiser!”