Imogen died at Helen & Douglas House on 23rd January 2017, aged just 2 years old, after bravely battling a brain tumour and never failing to smile as she endured chemotherapy, only for the cancer to return.
Kathryn Imogen’s Mummy said ‘She was a daddy’s girl, easy going and always smiling. Immy was bright and I did signing with her. Imogen had learnt to walk at a year and was a whirlwind of fun who filled the house with playfulness and laughter. She loved Peppa Pig making endless cups of pretend tea, and putting on her red ‘doos’ (shoes) to chase our dog Monty around the garden.’
‘She was an utter joy. But in August 2016, Immy started being sick and wobbly on her feet. After she had a CT scan, as Immy played with a nurse, the doctor told us Immy had a brain tumour. I heard a voice screaming ‘ No! No! No! You’ve got it wrong’ and realised it was me. I asked the doctor if she was going to die. He said he didn’t know, but his eyes said yes. I was her mum – used to making her feel better, but I felt utterly powerless.’
Immy had surgery in September 2016. She was so brave and a true little hero. She then started an intensive chemotherapy which made her dreadfully ill and lose her hair. Before Christmas, Immy had a scan and the couple were overjoyed there was no sign of the tumour.
Kathryn said ‘It was what we’d been praying for. She still needed the chemo as planned, but she was doing well.’
On Christmas Eve, they were allowed home for two weeks. But Immy wasn’t well over Christmas – she kept getting sick and was losing weight. A few weeks later, she had an MRI scan and they were given the devastating news Immy’s brain cancer was back. The original tumour hadn’t come back, but she had cancer dotted all over her brain and part of her spinal cord.
Their loss is particularly cruel as – after six years of IVF – Imogen’s twin sister, Angel, passed away at 31 weeks in November 2014.
When they were told Immy had days to live they came to Helen & Douglas House.
Imogen’s Mum Kathryn said ‘We came to Helen & Douglas House because although we dreaded losing Immy we wanted her suffering to be over. We spent Immy’s last days in a hospice so we could be her mummy and daddy, not carers. She became increasingly weaker.’
‘We got to do some lovely things with Immy that we could not have done in hospital, nothing was too much trouble. Immy got to have one last bath with her Daddy, and to paint a picture with Mummy and create some handprints. These are such precious memories for us that help us through the bad days.’
‘A few days before Immy died, she could no longer see and I wanted her to feel the sun on her face. So I took her into the hospice garden and sat on a bench, whispering to her how much I loved her.’
‘I never iron anything, but I wanted to iron Immy’s little blue dress with ducks on and a nurse kindly did it for me and I gently put it on Immy with her red shoes so she was wearing them when she was cremated. I held Immy in my arms and whispered, ‘it’s time to go, baby girl. Then she died in my arms at Helen & Douglas House. It was so peaceful and Immy left this world as she’d come into it – with our love.’
‘We put up fairy lights and surrounded her with Bunny and her teddies; comforting each other she was free of pain now. We spent precious hours and days with her at Helen & Douglas House saying our goodbyes. No parent should have to see two tiny white coffins in their lifetime.’
‘Helen & Douglas House have been so supportive to us since Immy passed away. I have regular counselling to help me survive and get through the tough days. We also get to join a parents bereavement group which helps us to realise we are not alone, and we can talk to others who are feeling the same as us and just understand how we feel. Lester attends a regular dads’ group which is a great way for him to talk to other dads who often find it hard to talk to counsellors. Without this support I am not sure we would have got through the first year on our own, there is nowhere else that offers this support and we would be totally lost without it.’
‘The memorial service Helen & Douglas House perform each year helps us to acknowledge our girls and remember them, being with people who understand the journey is very comforting as much as it is distressing to realise just how many children’s lives have been lost.’
Help us continue making the difference when it matters the most
Did you know… £40 could pay for a bereavement support session at Helen & Douglas House for a mum or dad to help them come to terms with the death of their child.