Of speeches, and more speeches

by Sue Sims

Until Mark died and left me with his beautiful book to publish and promote, I had not imagined  becoming a public speaker. However speaking engagements have been rolling in as well as TV and press interviews.  I have found I love doing them. It’s another way for me to keep telling Mark’s story and to raise awareness of the horrible disease that is malignant melanoma. Other family members have been getting involved too. Dave made a speech at a data conference organised by Public Heath England. Also some friends have organised their own events to raise awareness and keep Mark’s story alive. We are very thankful to them.

Here are some highlights from these past few months.

Our book launches in Bath and Bristol.

 

 

Local press coverage. The story was also in The Daily Express, The London Evening Standard and other newspapers around the country.

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TV coverage. I was interviewed by presenters Jonty and Ellie. ITV have been amazing supporters.

 

Magazine coverage below. Dave telling the moving story of losing his identical twin in Multiple Matters (TAMBA), and me telling Mark’s story to That’s Life magazine.

 

Public speaking at CRUK conference in East London and at Battersea Race for Life.

 

I also spoke at Bristol Race for Life.

Here’s Dave at the data conference in Manchester. Above Dave there is a shot of Mark giving a speech at Leicester University when he was first diagnosed with Stage 4 malignant melanoma.

 

Dave at conference

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Of books, lots and lots of books

The books have arrived and they are truly beautiful. You did a wonderful thing Mark, writing this.

 

Mark's book arrival

 

You can order your copy in the Poetry Space online shop/

Profits will go to Mark’s Just Giving Fund for CRUK

open book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me it has been an amazing project, editing Mark’s 80,000 words and adding a chapter of my own in line with Mark’s wishes. All the family have helped in some way, by proof reading and advising. Now it is here, another lasting legacy for a beautiful guy.

 

Sue Sims

 

 

 

Update on Mark’s book

With the help of the family, I have now made a lot of progress on Mark’s book and it is currently at the final proof reading stage.  This is the cover:

Mark book cover front

I have created  a dedicated Facebook page for the book and have started to reserve books for people who would like to pre-order.I already have orders for 60 books. So thanks if that is you.

You can pre-order by visiting the page and sending a message.

The book will be published in paperback by Poetry Space Ltd and we plan to launch in February or March next year. It is 312 pages long and will retail at £9.95.

Profits from sale of the book will be donated to Mark’s fund for CRUK 

“Mark’s knowledge of medicine, personal passion and eloquence put him in a unique position which compelled people to listen. Incredibly, he gave his precious, remaining time (freely) to benefit future generations.”

Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK

“It was Mark’s honesty and integrity that struck me. Brave is a word that seems to be used all the time these days, but Mark was truly brave, Even when he was incredibly poorly, he still wanted to share his experiences to warn others of the terrible dangers of skin cancer.”

Kylie Pentelow, reporter for ITV news. 

 

Sue Sims

Of raising funds for CRUK

Raising funds for Cancer Research UK was extremely important to Mark. When he was at his lowest ebb it gave meaning to his life to know that he was giving hope to people in the future. It is still vitally important to us to continue to keep the money coming in and we are so grateful to all of you  for doing your own fundraising and adding to the pot, and also for every single donation you give.

As many of you will know, I am currently editing Mark’s book and also writing a collection of poems based on my experience of bearing witness to Mark’s journey through cancer. I am making progress  and both of these titles will help to raise both funds and awareness.

In the meantime I am selling copies of my 2015 collection of poems, A number of things you should know in aid of Cancer Research UK. The book normally retails at £7.95 from the publisher and from Amazon books, however if you would like a copy directly from me please make a donation  for this amount or more on  Mark’s Just Giving Page and then Facebook message/text or e-mail me susan@poetryspace.co.uk with your details so I can put a copy in the post to you. As the title suggests I cover a variety of themes in this book, some personal, some fictional, some just on random subjects and I’m pleased that I’m getting people into poetry who have not read it since school.

A number of things you should know front cover

Here’s an example of a personal one:

Dear Dad,

Our day’s been good,

you got to see your grandson and his girl. We all shared lunch and  talked and laughed.

Then I took you to the park

and pointed out ducks diving,

ducks emerging, shaking feathers, drying in the sun.

You loved it all and it was good to see you smile.

When I said I was going

you thought I was leaving you.

You get the idea sometimes

that I’m your wife. I do the things a wife does, empty your bag, wipe your bum.

Your logic’s good. I’m your daughter, I say. I’ve got a husband and you cry. I leave you with music to soothe your heart

knowing the carer is coming soon, to take you to your bed.

Susan Jane Sims

Dad died on October 24th, 2015, aged 94. He did incredibly well but in the last couple of years became quite frail physically and mentally due to age and to Alzheimer’s, another cruel disease.

On another subject, thanks for all the lovely messages I have had today from people knowing that today might be hard as it is Mother’s Day. This is much appreciated. I did hear from Mark’s three brothers, a lovely bunch of tulips arrived from Matt, and also an extra Mother’s Day card from Rob and Rachel in New York. That was so sweet of you guys. Perhaps we could invent an Auntie’s Day.

With best wishes, Sue (Mark’s mum)

Of memorial walks

On Saturday June 10th you are welcome to join us for a memorial walk for Mark.This has been  organised by Chris in conjunction with Cancer Research UK.

Please meet us at Bath Abbey at 11.15. There will  be a registration table at the side of the abbey.

The walk will leave Bath Abbey at 12 and we shall walk to Swineford via Kelston Round Hill. This is approximately 6 miles. The route will follow the Cotswold Way and should take three hours tree for moderate walkers.

We are planning to have refreshments at Round Hill after about 4 miles and then gather afterwards in The Swan Pub in Swineford.

This is the exact route Chris and Mark took on a very special day back in November  2015. By then Mark’s Dabrafenib had stopped working and he received a phone call while they were out saying that he could start Pembroluzimab, a new and innovative immunotherapy drug.So there was cause for celebration.

Please do join us if you can. We want to remember Mark whilst doing an activity he really enjoyed.

A friend is kindly organising a minibus to take people back to Bath after the event and there is a good bus route on the main road in Swineford going towards either Bath or Bristol.

We are hoping to raise money for Mark’s appeal for CRUK which is now at a staggering £181,700.

A note on Public Liabilty

Please note Cancer Research have public liability insurance for this event however their responsibility for us all will end when we reach Swineford. If using the minibus there is insurance cover. It is your responsibility to get yourself safely home by foot, bus or other means. 

 

Of ‘a Memorial for Dr Mark Sims in Leicester’

 

Leicester University meant a lot to Mark. It was the place he trained to be a doctor, made many good friends and the place he revisited in March 2015 and met the love of his life Georgie . So it was fitting that the lovely people at the Alumni association made it possible for us to host a wonderful memorial event for Mark at the university on Saturday 25th February.
The day itself was so special. Friends from many parts of Mark’s life, school, explorer scouts,university, work, hospitals, rugby team, CRUK and social social media gathered with us his family to tell stories, pay tribute and simply remember the lovely, kind, funny, and inspirational person Mark was.
We laughed hard through much of it and cried too.
If you want to see a video of the ceremony pleas ask.

 

 

On Being Without Mark

Before February 2015, Mark  was just getting on with his life, he rang now and again, came to stay sometimes and I went to see him but that was it. I never wanted to be the sort of mother who needed to know what he or any of his brothers were up to moment by moment. I was happy to have confident sons who simply got on with their lives, had adventures, rang or visited now and again . I knew I was always welcome for the occasional visit to see any of them and having four sons, it never really meant that any got more attention than they wanted. I had my life, writing poetry, doing some counselling, running a small publishing venture and Chris and I were enjoying being a couple again after bringing up the boys. If anything all four have probably spent more time with Chris in their adult years as he likes to organise  walks and football matches. My sons were, and are an important part of my life but not the only thing I had in it. In fact Mark used to joke sometimes that I was often difficult to reach on the phone.

But all that changed with the advent of secondary cancer for Mark. We became very close, closer than I ever thought I would be with a son. On bad days we’d often curl up on the sofa with a video and I attended almost every hospital appointment, often with other family members, sometimes  just me and Mark. Between appointments there were games;  Ticket to Ride or Camel Cup when there were lots of us, Bananagrams or Scrabble  with just the two of us. Long hospital days in London came to mean visits to museums, the cinema, and once a lovely guided tour round Chelsea Physic garden with a keen volunteer. It got us out of the hospital environment between appointments and passed the time in a lovely way. Some nights when I could not sleep I would check my phone and find Mark was also not sleeping and wherever we were, we’d connect and play Word Feud. Even in those last days in The Royal Marsden, Word Feud continued until he could no longer see and the last game we played expired on January 9th, ten days before he died.

The last mortal remains of Mark William Sims were delivered to us from the undertaker in London, arriving in a green plastic screw top container as I knew they would . I was prepared with a shiny red steel urn and on the kitchen table poured the almost white ash from one container to another, at one point, letting it run through  my fingers like slightly gritty sand. Is this all I have left now?  I carried the shiny receptacle upstairs to Mark’s room, placed it carefully  on his shelf amongst his souvenirs. Later we will follow his wishes and scatter the ashes at sea. Yet for now it’s right to have the red urn on his shelf in the room he slept in all through his teens, the room he always came home to whenever he stayed. We won’t make it a shrine for ever, but for now it feels right.

It is twenty five days now since our beautiful son died. Our lives have been filled with the love of  family, friends, neighbours. I get a lot of joy from holding babies. We had a small intimate family gathering for Mark in London and we  have looked at hundreds of photographs, watched videos, listened to his voice on radio recordings. We have marvelled at how incredible he was and feel comforted to a certain extent to know how much he was cherished. But it can never be enough. It is so hard to not speak with him most days, so hard to come to terms with never again seeing that gorgeous smile in the flesh.

This week we are preparing  for Mark’s memorial event at Leicester University and looking forward to seeing many of you there. It starts at 2.30 in the Peter Williams lecture theatre but arrive a little earlier for a tea or coffee first.

Sue