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Cancer patient’s book proceeds donated to St John’s Hospice

PUBLISHED: 10:04 11 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:20 13 November 2020

James Holyfield with his MBE. Picture: St John's Hospice

James Holyfield with his MBE. Picture: St John's Hospice

St John's Hospice

Donations to St John’s Hospice’s emergency Covid-19 fundraising appeal have been given an early boost with a heart-warming gift from a former patient.

St John's Hospice's emergency Covid fundraising appeal. Picture: St John's HospiceSt John's Hospice's emergency Covid fundraising appeal. Picture: St John's Hospice

The first proceeds from a book written by James Holyfield MBE, a former English teacher who passed away a year ago this month, have already totalled £1,550, and have been handed to staff by his relatives.

Dancing with Dolores was written by James when he was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called chordoma and is about his experience living with a terminal illness. It was published in the summer before he died.

“When people are given a cancer diagnosis, it seems like the end of the world and everything goes dark, but James showed it could be a positive experience,” said his niece, Siobhan Simpson. “The book has been read by people not only living with a terminal illness, but those coping with difficult times in their lives.”

The title of the book stems from James’s sense of humour, arising from a character that he created for his tumour.

The family of James Holyfield MBE hand across a cheque from the first sales of his book Dancing with Dolores. Pictured (l-r) are Siobhan and Scott Simpson and their uncle, John Kenny with Caroline Fox, the hospices chief executive officer. Picture: St John's HospiceThe family of James Holyfield MBE hand across a cheque from the first sales of his book Dancing with Dolores. Pictured (l-r) are Siobhan and Scott Simpson and their uncle, John Kenny with Caroline Fox, the hospices chief executive officer. Picture: St John's Hospice

In the last few months of his life, James spent a lot of time at the St John’s Hospice, where he felt comfortable and had a rapport with the staff, said his partner of 40 years, John Kenny.

“Before he died, he wanted to help the hospice and so asked for the profits of the book to go towards its fundraising efforts - if James could help anyone, he would always do it,” said John.

READ MORE: Meet the ambulance drivers and back the hospice’s fundraising campaign

The hospice faces a predicted £1.3m deficit by the end of this year as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic saw donations and revenue drop by half. The shortfall has come at a time when the hospice has had to invest more to adapt to Covid restrictions while continuing to offer free palliative care to its 4,000 terminally ill patients per year.

“This is a heart-warming gesture and a huge thank you goes to those who have made a donation so far, and especially to James and his family for this wonderful legacy,” said Caroline Fox, the hospice’s chief executive officer. “But we desperately need more donations so we can continue to deliver essential palliative care to the patients and their loved ones within the communities we serve.”

Donations can be made at www.stjohnshospice.org.uk or by calling 020 7806 4040 and asking for the fundraising team.


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