When car and motorbike enthusiast Ryan Shield was diagnosed with cancer in his early twenties, he wanted to give something back and set about raising money for charity. However, following a short battle with the disease he died at Eden Valley Hospice and his family vowed to keep his fundraising legacy alive. This is Ryan’s story:
Initially Ryan was admitted to the hospice on December 14, 2021 for symptom management however, it became clear that the end of his life was approaching quickly.
Ryan’s illness came about suddenly, initially complaining of pain in the back of his neck in the summer of 2021.
“He had got to the point where he wasn’t sleeping very well,” said mum Ruth. “And he said, it feels like there’s something moving about in my head.”
Ryan, who was from Carlisle and worked as an electrical and mechanical engineer at McVities, went to A&E where scans and tests revealed he had a tumour, although doctors weren’t sure if it was cancerous.
He had the tumour removed and subsequent tests revealed he did, in fact, have a rare type of melanoma, also known as skin cancer, which it was believed had developed from a mole he had removed when he was 10 years old.
Treatment followed and Ryan got the all clear from doctors so he set about doing some fundraising, deciding to take part in the Movember challenge, an annual November fundraiser where people are encouraged to grow moustaches. However, that very same month pains started to reappear in his back and scans revealed cancer had returned and spread into his brain, lung, liver and spine.
Although initially being able to carry on relatively normally, he deteriorated quickly. He lost mobility and sight in one of his eyes but despite this carried on with his fundraising efforts.
He was admitted to the hospice and Ruth admits she was apprehensive at first, but quickly realised he was in the right place. Ryan died two days later on December 16 surrounded by his family.
Ruth said: “Every nurse that that came in and looked after Ryan and us were just so kind, understanding and patient. There were a few times where Ryan would cough and we panicked so we’d call somebody and they were right there.
“One of the team also did some memory work with us as well, which was brilliant. We’ve got Ryan’s handprint, his fingerprints, some of his hair and other stuff. They also looked after all of those little things like making sure that we were eating.
“The care, you couldn’t fault it. It was amazing and everyone was so supportive.
“Even after he died, we weren’t rushed at all. We were allowed to stay with him for as long as we wanted.
Ruth and the rest of his family were determined to keep alive the fundraising Ryan had started prior to his death.
To celebrate Ryan’s memory and raise vital funds his family came up with the idea of ‘RyFest’ – a festival-themed fundraiser first held in May 2022 on what would’ve been his 25th birthday. Ryan loved festivals and the village hall where it was held was kitted out in the theme of Leeds Festival.
“It was so well attended, it just showed what a character he was and that he had an impact on so many people which was lovely,” Ruth added.
The first ‘RyFest’ raised £1,000 for the hospice as well as funds for other charities Ryan wanted to support. Another similar event was held earlier this year and raised a further £1,000 for the hospice.
“The hospice is obviously very important to us because they made him comfortable and we were all able to be with him,” Ruth continued.
“There was me, my husband Stephen, my eldest daughter Natalie and her partner, and my youngest daughter Emily with her partner, and we were all allowed to stay with him. Everybody had the chance to come and see him to say goodbye.
“It’s not just the fact that Ryan was cared for, but we were cared for as well, the whole family. Even now I’m still being cared for as I’ve started the grief counselling offered by the hospice, without that I would be struggling.”
Ruth said the family are determined to continue supporting the hospice in any way they can going forward.