James’ Special Day story

In 2017 Willow created 1,300 Special Days for seriously ill young adults across the UK.  James tells us what his Special Day meant to him…

The news that I had metastatic melanoma came completely out of the blue. My wife was seven months pregnant with our second daughter, I was self employed and had been working extra hours to secure ourselves financially before we became a family of four. Hearing the news that I have cancer meant that all of our security vanished.

We had a turbulent time dealing with a newborn baby, a toddler, the constant hospital appointments, my surgery and sporadic periods of work. Our family relationships were put under such severe stress by the impact of my diagnosis, I struggled to care for our daughters; our eldest found things particularly very difficult.

When I realised that I may be eligible for a Special Day I felt that this was the opportunity we needed to have some dedicated family time. We hoped that this would be the start of us being able to rebuild our relationships and a chance for me to show our toddler that I was still a ‘fun’ Daddy.

After a year of needing time to myself and relying on help from family and friends, my Special Day was just me, my wife and two young children enjoying time together as a unit. Important memories were made for the future.


I was coming towards the end of my gruelling radiotherapy treatment and things were really difficult when I received a call from Charlotte, our Special Day Maker. Charlotte called to say that Willow would love to send me and my family to Center Parcs, somewhere we had always wanted to go. We were simply elated at the news. From this moment on my Special Day started to have a positive impact on us all. It became a focal point of my recovery, something to always look to and get excited about.

As my health and mood improved my Special Day represented a huge milestone in my recovery. In the midst of such stress and uncertainty Willow made everything so easy in arranging our Special Day. Our time at Center Parcs lived up to and, in many ways exceeded our expectations of what it would do for us all as a family.

It will always be a very special few days for us all. The pictures, videos and memories will remain dear to us all as a family. Willow enabled us to relax and heal as a family. It was really wonderful to know a charity exists that appreciate the impact a serious illness can have on families like ours. Willow allowed us to all have fun for the first time and we have built on this ever since.

For me, looking back at my Special Day, our time away has taken on an even greater significance. It was the first time since my surgery that I had seen myself as the dad and husband that I expected to be. The pictures of me and my daughters have gone a long way to restoring my confidence and self image.I am now getting back into work and able to do a lot more with the girls. We are definitely a lot more optimistic for the future and the trip has been a huge part in making that happen.

We have tremendous gratitude and affection for Willow that we are hoping to take part in the 10th Anniversary Willow 10k in October, fitness permitting!