At the age of 26, Charles McGrath from Salisbury was given the shocking news that he had acute leukaemia.
After his diagnosis on September 16, 2022, he had intensive chemotherapy and says projects for cancer patients funded by the Stars Appeal, Salisbury District Hospital’s Charity, made all the difference to him during his time in hospital.
The charity’s cancer support projects include free drinks for chemotherapy and oncology outpatients, aromatherapy, free headwear for patients who lose their hair, dedicated swimming sessions in the Hospital pool as well as wellbeing programmes. It also funds enhancements to the Pembroke Unit’s furnishings and décor along with additional medical equipment.
Charles said: “Having the volunteers come around with free drinks and a friendly face made my time in hospital much more comfortable. For blood cancer patients like myself, you often have to spend long periods of time in hospital. I wouldn’t have known what to do if I hadn’t had the Stars Appeal’s free Wi-Fi! It was not just about having access to the internet; it was also being able to call my family and friends and stay in touch with the outside world.”
Charles, who is a councillor on Salisbury City Council and Wiltshire Council, is currently waiting for results to find out the next steps for his treatment.
Recalling the day he received his diagnosis for acute myeloid leukaemia, he says he felt "numb" and added: “It was a pretty shocking time overall. I’m appreciative that I was able to start treatment as quickly as I did, which was all down to the haematology team and the staff on the Pembroke Ward at Salisbury District Hospital.”
Experiencing the support of Stars Appeal-funded projects first-hand inspired Charles to do a sponsored head shave. It was also a way to thank Pembroke Unit staff for their “constant support” throughout his treatment. Earlier this month, he returned to the unit to present a donation of £1,780 to staff for the charity’s Pembroke Unit Fund.
His fundraising efforts for the Stars Appeal will continue when he takes part in Walk for Wards on Sunday, July 9, which will be the sixth time he’s done it.
He said: “The Stars Appeal fund so many things from new medical equipment to free drinks and food given to patients receiving their cancer treatment. It’s a great opportunity to give back to such a vital cause.”
Stars Appeal Ambassador, Dr Tracey Parker, Consultant Haematologist at Salisbury District Hospital, added: "The Stars Appeal helps to fund fantastic programmes like physical rehabilitation and complimentary therapies for our blood cancer patients. This helps them to feel good and have better outcomes from their chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants. Thanks to everyone like Charles who supports the Stars Appeal and makes this possible!"
Nearly 500 people have signed up for Walk for Wards at Wilton House. Sign up here to get involved.