A tragic loss has lead a young widower to speak out in support of a Chichester hospice.
This year, Matt Rixon lost his wife Andrea to breast cancer.
Andrea was only 39 when she died a month before the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary. with husband Matt, her mum and her siblings by her side.
Matt said this will be his first Christmas without his wife and Hannah and Jamie, their young children, miss Andrea every day.
The couple met when he was aged 17 and she was 22.
“Sadly, she was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, when our son Jamie was just four months old.”
One year after reconstruction to her breast, Andrea was told the cancer had spread to her liver and only chemotherapy would be possible. After the chemotherapy ended in January, the cancer was back.
The family found it very difficult to hear this news and Andrea fought to keep life as normal as possible.
Matt said: “We were devastated. After a short stay in hospital she came home, but we were quickly referred to the care of St Wilfrid’s, our local hospice in Chichester.”
Despite the anguish of what they were going through, after Andrea’s death Matt said he really felt the need to let people know how important the care of the hospice was to him in the last days of Andrea’s life.
“I didn’t feel like this because my story is unique, it’s not. So many patients, their family and friends, benefit from St Wilfrid’s, but I never thought we would need their help and certainly not so early in life.
“Despite the sadness, I want to thank the hospice and all its supporters, because without it our family would not have been able to receive the care and support we have valued so much.”
In the last days Andrea spent on the St Wilfrid’s Hospice ward, the family were able to form fond memories, including Hannah having her first holy communion.
Andrea was too unwell to go to the hospice chapel, so the service was held in her room to ensure she did not miss out.
Visiting times were not restricted and the children were free to play in the garden or watch television.
Family and friends came to visit and Matt said Andrea was ‘so pleased’ to see close friends meet for the first time, something she had always wanted.
“Of course it was distressing, but I felt we got to say our goodbyes in the best way possible.”
Matt Rixon, the widower of young mum Andrea Rixon, who died earlier this year at St Wilfrid’s hospice, is encouraging others to support the charity, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
Matt said: “I honestly don’t know how we would have coped if St Wilfrid’s nurses hadn’t been there to help us all during Andrea’s last days. I continue to receive their valuable bereavement counselling.”
Before Andrea died, she expressed a wish to be laid to rest next to her father, who also received St Wilfrid’s care some years earlier. Since her death, Matt’s uncle has also died under the hospice’s care.
Matt is now backing St Wilfrid’s 2017 Christmas appeal, which aims to raise some of the £20,000 a day needed to run the hospice.
It only receives 15 per cent of its funds from the National Health Service (NHS) – the rest has to be raised locally in the community.
Matt said: “St Wilfrid’s is a charity and I’d like to ask you to please consider a donation today, of whatever you can afford, to help enable other people to receive such priceless care this Christmas and beyond.
“I want the hospice’s services to be available to as many local people, like my family, as possible. Together, we can ensure that their care can continue now and into the future.”
St Wilfrid’s head of fundraising and communications Jerry Doyle said: “We are incredibly grateful to Matt for speaking out like this and being so passionate about supporting our Christmas appeal.
“It is the family’s first Christmas without Andrea.”
As many people will be thinking of loved ones in the run-up to Christmas, Jerry said the hospice is holding two ‘remembrance events’.
One is at Chichester Cathedral on December 3 and the other in Hotham Park, Bognor Regis, on December 17.
The latter is a ‘first’ for the hospice and is intended to bring together people with ‘no religious connection’. Both start at 4pm and ‘everyone is welcome’.
Jerry said: “They will both give people a chance who have been bereaved, any time this year or in any year, to come together in a moving event with music and readings.”
To make a donation to the hospice’s Christmas appeal, visit
www.stwh.co.uk/christmas, call 01243 755827 or post a donation to the hospice.