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Cathy's story: Cancer won't stop her enjoying clapping for carers

The Thursday night 'Clap for Carers' has become an important part of many people's week in Peterborough and across the UK, bringing communities and families together to mark the importance of the NHS and care system.
Cathy 7
Peterborough woman Cathy Marsh has been getting inventive during Clap for Carers Photo: The Marsh family

And for one member of a Peterborough family who is at home while she receives palliative care for cancer, it has become a part of the week to truly enjoy.

Catherine Marsh was born in India in 1954, and has been married to Peter since 1987. She is mother to Stephen, Zoë, Rebekah, Timothy and grandmother to Bethan, Isabelle, Phoebe and ‘Bump’, due June 2020. 

Cathy worked as a teacher at a number of schools, including St Georges, Marshfields, and Leighton Primary, and since retiring six years ago has continued to be involved at Leighton with the Breakfast club and Gardening club.

Here, in her family's words, is Cathy's story.


Cathy 6Cathy has been cared for by her family and the local community. Photo; The Marsh family

Cathy was diagnosed with cancer in summer 2019 and was treated under Addenbrookes, receiving Immunotherapy. She had been responding well, with tumours in lymph nodes pretty much gone and kidney tumour shrinking enough to start thinking about removal.

As Cathy had minimal side effects we had even booked a week away at Centre Parcs with family. 

The week before the holiday Cathy started feeling slightly disorientated and became very unsteady on her feet. On the morning of March 11, she fell on the stairs, which lead to an ambulance being called. Cathy rapidly deteriorated and was admitted to hospital. A CT scan showed swelling and multiple lesions on her brain. Prognosis was unlikely to last a few weeks.

Over the next few days Cathy showed great strength and improved beyond expectations, she was released for palliative home care on March 27. During her time in hospital she was supported round the clock by her family and two friends Liz and Alina, as she was unable to drink or feed herself. 

Since returning to the family home, her family have been supported by MultiCare Community services. Multicare provides two care staff, four times a day. Cathy has built a wonderful relationship with the Multicare staff, in particular Venus and Oliver, whom she chats to as if they’ve been lifelong friends.

Cathy’s brother Andrew has moved into the family home to support with her care and a family friend, Jasmine, set up a meal train to allow family to focus on caring for her. Lots of friends have been involved cooking meals and doing shopping, and through the Coronaheroes Facebook page we were put in touch with Madina Grill and anonymous donors, who have helped source disposable gloves and other supplies. 

As Cathy has taught locally, on Thursday, April 30, former colleagues, students and neighbours gathered in the car park to clap for Mrs Marsh’s carers, slightly ahead of the national clap. Grandchildren and students have done lots of cards and artwork.


Cathy 3Cathy Marsh, who celebrates Clap for Carers each week. Photo: The Marsh family

 When Cathy retired from Leighton school, colleagues Jeremy and Molly, re-wrote the words to Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’, which the then-Year six students sang ‘Coz I’m Cathy’ To help cheer her up, former and current staff recorded an isolation video.

Cathy has also had VE day afternoon tea and cakes, a Toy Story-themed day. We have also set up the garden so that her grandchildren can visit and chat with Granny through the window.  We’ve also do mini pamper sessions, including facemasks and nail polishing. Cathy is also a fan of the TV show Homes under the Hammer!

Cathy really enjoys taking part in the weekly ‘Clap for keyworkers’ and as a family we appreciate all they do. From the care received in hospital, daily care staff, delivery drivers bringing equipment and supplies, local shop workers, refuse collectors (we have a whole load of extra rubbish) and friends who have taken excess rubbish away.  


Cathy 2Cathy on VE Day and Easter. Photo: The Marsh family

Since coming home, although mentally alert, her mobility has deteriorated and she is unable to clap. Therefore we have used some creative methods to allow Cathy to join in. So far she has, clapped, used coconut shells, called out names of people who have helped that week, waved glow sticks, flashing lights, tambourines, balloons, changed lights to blue for NHS, Cathy wanted fireworks, but we felt cake sparklers were safer! And her favourite so far, was when Zoë dressed as Minion and surrounded Cathy with some of her Minions figures, cuddly toys and a fart gun!

Staying positive during the lockdown whilst dealing with cancer can be a struggle, but as she has always done, Cathy tries to focus on what she can do to help others.

She has coloured in rainbows and signs to put up in the windows, facetimed family and friends. She loves sharing her pictures and videos and having peoples comments read back to her. One of her rainbow colourings has received over 700 likes on Facebook! Cathy was able to send Easter eggs and activities to her Grandchildren and courtesy of Pete’s cousin Joanna in Dubai, Cathy had her first ever Thorntons Easter Egg and chocolate bunny!

She has also been able to give direction on what to do in the garden. She has taken many years and great joy in creating a beautiful garden, so it’s important to us to keep this going. Under her instruction we have grown sunflower, morning glory, gardina, sweet pea, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and so much more. 


Cathy 5Cathy at home with staff and family. Photo: The Marsh family

We are blessed to have a large lounge, which has been transformed into her bedroom. Equipment supplied by NRS, such as a hoist, adjustable bed, adjustable table and more have meant that she can be as comfortable as possible. She is also able to look out into the garden and enjoy the birds and flowers. 

We have had a few sticky moments, such as a leaking radiator causing a mini flood, supplies almost running out, but there have been some fun times too. We take part in a weekly Zoom scavenger hunt with family, got dressed up to watch the Phantom of the Opera, (we should have gone to see it live in January for Zoë’s birthday, but treatments meant this was cancelled) Cathy still likes to complete crosswords with Andy too. 

This week she is also looking forward to a virtual fancy dress party for Bethan’s 5th birthday and celebrating with Pete their 33rd wedding anniversary. 

We have also been creating a Jar of Happiness, filled with little cards with messages from family and friends. We then read these to mum, to remind her how loved and cherished she is. 


Cathy 1Cathy celebrating with the Minions. Photo: The Marsh family