Mum shares memories of 'beautiful' son Tom who was one of first people to use Sheffield's Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice

They jumped to it, as a group of women dressed as six carrots and a rabbit trekked across Sheffield to raise vital funds for Sheffield Hospitals Charity.

By Rochelle Barrand
Tuesday, 13 August, 2019, 10:48
Tom Scotford with his mum Gillian. Tom was one of the first people to use Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice in Sheffield. He died at the hospice in 2017 at the age of 21.

The women, calling themselves the “Tena Ladies”, were raising funds for one of their closest friends, Nick Challenger, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, an uncommon form of cancer affecting vessels and glands throughout the body.

Prior to diagnosis Nick was suffering with symptoms including hot night sweats, tiredness, itching and anaemia. After his diagnosis Nick underwent eight months of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

Nick said: “It totally knocked the wind out of my sails but at the same time I was relieved I had finally got a diagnosis. The consultants and nurses explained everything with such care and compassion and totally put myself and my family at ease, despite what was happening.

“Through it all I had such great support from all my friends and family, and the Tena Ladies even supplied me with a hamper to help me through treatment, with a scattering of carrot products (carrots are our mascot, don’t ask).

“We had weekends away and nights out to help me with the treatment, and the girls were always there to support me and my husband John.”

Rachel Habergham was just one of the Tena Ladies on the hike and she described how they all felt when Nick was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.

She said: “We were all devastated when we heard Nick’s news. He had been ill for a while, but I don’t think any of us honestly believed it was cancer. This shock quickly turned into finding ways we could support Nick and John, a personalised chemo basket was one of our first deliveries.

“We have all known Nick for many years, we have many different links with him, but the consistent thing that joins us together is that at some point all of our children have been in the Wales Community Theatre Players Panto that Nick used to direct, produce and play the Dame in.

“Spending so much time together at rehearsals and during show weeks really strengthened our friendship. We all used to go on annual weeks away to Castleton with the Panto Group. This is where the Tena Ladies were born, it started as a name for our quiz team and several years later it’s still with us.

“As a group we have so many amazing memories of our time together, but a weekend in North Yorkshire as a type of stag/hen weekend to celebrate Nick and Johns wedding was very special. It was the same weekend as the royal wedding so we had a royal tea party ball dressed in red, white and blue.

“Nick was doing well with his treatment at this stage and it was a weekend full of love, laughter and fun.

“For us all to be at Nick and John’s wedding was another amazing high, Nick even made an emotional speech thanking the NHS, little did we know at this stage he would need to face even more treatment.

“So as you can imagine, there are no words to describe how we felt when he got the all clear that the cancer was gone, it’s safe to say there were lots of tears.

“We always wanted to do something to say our personal thank you for the care Nick got and show Nick how much he means to us. None of us are runners so we thought a walk that includes important places in Nick’s life and journey with cancer was a good way to show this.

“We started at the hairdressers where Nick worked, calling at Nick’s house and his parents, and then took on the long slog to Hallamshire where Nick ended up spending so much of his time.”

Nick wanted to add: “There are no words to express how I felt when I heard them say ‘Your scan is clear, go and enjoy your life’. With spending so much time on the O2 ward, 12 months of going up to four times a week, you become very close to the nursing team and in a strange way I miss going to see them.

“But 6 months after my transplant I finally feel fit and ready to go back to work. It’s amazing what the Tena Ladies are doing and I am very grateful towards all my friends and family who have raised so much money for Sheffield Hospitals Charity.

“My nephew Chris Challenger did a Sky Dive, another friend of mine is running three 26 mile marathons along with a 40 mile marathon and they all say the same thing, that it will be nothing compared to what I’ve been through.

“The Tena Ladies are a crazy bunch and there’s always carrots involved so seeing them walk through the streets of Sheffield dressed as carrots is no surprise to me.”

The ladies completed the 15 mile walk in 7 hours and have raised a total of £1200 so far for Sheffield Hospitals Charity.