Denise, Michael, Theo and family. Their story.

Theo won a bravery award
Theo won a bravery award

We’ve had 68 visitors to our cottage in Bath since we opened the doors in 2015 to carers of loved ones with life limiting conditions. Denise and her family were some of our early guests. Theo is their wonderful son who has had 36 operations in his short, 10 year life. Here we chat to his Mum, Denise.

How did we first meet?

The staff at Bluebell Wood Hospice in Sheffield have been wonderful telling carers like us about After Umbrage and they referred us to you back in 2015.

You have been a godsend to us. It was the first time we had ever left Theo. Sadly, since then, his health has deteriorated, his stomach has failed as has his bowl and he is now oxygen dependent. But he’s happy and smiling. He has always said he only ever wanted to be 10. The only number he can say and he has lived to 10 years old!

Densie and Theo - 'Me and my boy'
Densie and Theo – ‘Me and my boy’

How did it feel visiting Kingham cottage near Bath?

We have only ever left Theo to go to Kingham Cottage. It reminds me of my childhood in Matlock. Everyone there, the people at The King William at the top of the lane, the guy next door who is so friendly and the cottage itself is so relaxed and lovely.

When we visited, we did everything and we’ve been three times now. We’ve been to all the historic sites: The Crescent, Bath, picnics nearby. Even the two days of rain were enjoyable staying in the beautiful, cosy cottage playing games with the fire on. It’s such a lovely environment and we watched the rain coming in over the hills.

Every day at home is so manic. When we have time at Kingham to sit down and appreciate life, it’s wonderful. I can almost smell the aroma of the wine served at the pub now.

The cottage couldn’t be lovelier. You wish for nothing as it’s already provided, even down to the washing up liquid, cooking utensils and milk.

Our last visit is when we were at rock bottom. We were going through a really rough time and nearly didn’t go. We nearly lost Theo again. The knowledge that we would be recharging our batteries in two weeks, then one week … it kept us going.

Whilst we were there my other sons Luis who is 16 years old and MJ who is 30 came down for the day. MJ is married and he as his wife brought their grandson too.

Everything was so magical. It gave us a big sigh of relief just to be there and we made the most of it. We felt totally recharged and ready for the next battle. I think when anything happens to Theo we will want to go back so that the cottage can work its magic on us.

Sense of humour
Calling for Christian Grey – Denise demonstrating her wonderful sense of humour

What is life like at home?

We fight for everything on a daily basis. Even medicines. Michael and I had really good jobs. But that’s all gone. We’ve not had a holiday in years. Bluebell Wood Hospice is wonderful. I can’t quite explain it but it’s very special when someone does something like this for us. A break from our daily struggles is amazing. Visiting Kingham Cottage has been the one thing that helps us through this. Theo’s 36 operations have taken their toll on us all. He is still a lovely, smiley, naughty boy at times yet enough is enough.

Difficult reality
Theo not happy


Tell us about the parents network you are part of.

Our parents network brings carers together from the local hospitals, GPs and Bluebell Wood Hospice. We share stories, information and support one another through difficult times. I’m giving a talk next month to a group to tell them all about After Umbrage. I’ll suggest they sign up to your newsletter too. I love being an ambassador for After Umbrage and Bluebell Wood Hospice have been great promoting the free breaks. I didn’t realise as many as nine families whose children are at Bluebell Wood Hospice had visited the cottage though. I’m always happy to help to tell more people about your charity so more carers like us can benefit from a magical break to rest and recharge.