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Hospice helps Mark watch his son in rugby match

21 June 2024

One of the ways in which Birmingham Hospice makes every moment matter is by helping our patients to do what is most important to them.

Mark Burgoyne used to enjoy watching his son James play rugby, but his condition meant it was something he could no longer do on his own.

James plays as a prop for Bournville RFC in National League 2 West, having joined from fellow Birmingham side Moseley in 2018. Before his illness, the whole family used to regularly watch James’s games together, following the team wherever they played.

Mark said: “We’d watch James home and away, all over the country – when he played at Redruth in Cornwall, we made a weekend of it, and it was just a really nice way of enjoying my retirement.”

After Mark was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, as well as bone cancer, his condition deteriorated rapidly this year, meaning he was no longer able to get to matches, and as the last game of the season, at home against Hinckley, approached, he knew it could be the last opportunity he would get to see James play.

Mark’s nurse got the ball rolling with our Occupational Therapy team, who arranged everything to make sure he was able to get to the match. And he could not have wished for a more exciting game, as Bournville triumphed 28-27, with the win secured through the penultimate kick of the game. James also led the team out in recognition of his commitment to the side, having recently chalked up his 100th appearance.

Mark added: “I’ve been told I have months, rather than years, so I know this could be the last chance I had to see him play. The hospice team got everything in place, sorting out wheelchairs and ramps, getting me out of the house and making sure everything was right. It was just brilliant the way they looked after me – it was a wonderful day.”

And that wasn’t all for Mark, as he is also a football fan who has supported Aston Villa for many years, so our Personal Health Budget team got in touch with the club to arrange for him to attend a match. With footballing loyalties in his household being split – with the men supporting Villa and the women Liverpool – the final home game of the season against the Reds proved to be a good choice, ending in a 3-3 thriller.

Mark said: “Going to the rugby was great and I really wanted to do something for my wife Petrina as well, as I know how important Liverpool is to her, having watched them home and away since 1971 and seen them win the European Cup four times!

“We’ve often gone to games as a family, but sitting in the different ends, so being able to watch together in the one room really made it special. Everything went very smoothly, and was really well-organised by the hospice and the club. A draw meant that there was something for all of us, and we all went home happy.”

Mark also paid tribute to the work of the hospice team for all the support they have given him since he was referred here.

He said: “In December, I was still driving, walking, going to the pub; doing all the things I wanted to do, and by January I couldn’t do any of that. My consultant says it’s a very nasty, aggressive form of cancer and it’s been a very rapid deterioration.

“I’ve always been very positive about it and I’m not afraid of death, perhaps because it was something I had experience of at quite a young age. I’ve always taken the view that death is something that’s going to happen to us all, and I’m not afraid to talk about it.

“The hospice team are in control of my pain relief and drugs, and have also arranged for all the equipment I need to get around the house. The support for me and Petrina has been really good, asking if we’ve got things in place like Power of Attorney and ReSPECT forms, and offering counselling if we want it.

“I’ve got nothing but praise for them and the way they’ve gone about things – they are wonderful people. They speak to you with a lot of respect and dignity but they don’t hide anything from you when discussing your condition – they’re straight, but in a kind way.”