Head and shoulders portrait of CJ Wheeler

CJ’s story

CJ was just 22 when he received a devastating diagnosis. His Mum, Juliet, takes up the story and told us what Dorothy House means to her, and why.

‘Five friends and I walked the 2017 Dorothy House Moonlight Walk in memory of my darling son, Carl John, or CJ as we called him. The whole event was an emotional experience but the atmosphere was truly amazing – as it always is.  Team CJ, as we call ourselves, were all dressed in his favourite colours, purple and green, and we all wore the special purple and green wrist bands I had printed in CJ’s memory.

I didn’t know about Dorothy House until CJ was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer, aged 22, in April 2013. He lived just 25 more days.

One minute he was a healthy young man who ate well, had lots of friends, played a lot of rugby and lived life to the full, and the next minute he was terminally ill. At first, the doctors thought he might have a year to live so we rearranged the house with the hope he would be able to come home, then we were told that he’d have just a month, but it was even less than that.

CJ was a very popular young man and his friends still remember the anniversary of his death and take flowers to his grave. I remember after CJ died, his friends often used to go to the grave and sit there singing and playing guitars to be close to him.

The brightest memories of that awful and devastating time were when CJ was moved from hospital to Dorothy House. As soon as we arrived a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff at the hospice and they cared for everyone in the family, as well as for CJ.  I remember a nurse bringing me coffee and biscuits in CJ’s room late one night and it put a big smile on CJ’s face because he was so happy the nurses were thinking of me as well as him.  And the kitchen staff were responsive to CJ’s every wish and immediately brought him some cucumber to munch on when his mouth was dry.

We were grateful to have privacy as a family and to be able to spend as much time as we wished with CJ. He could do the things he enjoyed like having a nice deep bath and listening to his music. He stayed positive until the end, joking about me putting Abba on the stereo.  We call him ‘our braveheart’ as we can’t believe how he managed to keep his spirits up after such a shocking diagnosis.

I had counselling at Dorothy House for a while and my daughter Holly, now aged 22, was also offered counselling at the Peasedown Outreach Centre but she decided it wasn’t something she wanted to pursue.

We can never say thank you enough for the wonderful support we all received at Dorothy House. After being given the tragic news that no parent should have to hear, we received five- star treatment in CJ’s final week at the hospice and the level of care there was second to none. We set up a Dorothy House Tulip Fund in CJ’s name four years ago and have raised £34,000 with fantastic help from family and friends.

At CJ’s funeral, 500 people including his family, friends, teachers and Argos colleagues came to celebrate his life and made generous donations to the hospice.  In April 2015, my husband Roger and I, my daughter Holly and my best friend Jane climbed Mount Snowdon together to raise money for Dorothy House. I’ve now completed four Bath Moonlight Walks and in June I took part in the Bubble Rush at Castle Combe with 42 friends and family.  I’m planning to do a sky dive in 2020, when CJ would have turned 30.

You don’t realise how amazing this charity is until you need them, so we’ll continue to support Dorothy House, however we can.’