Tony Jules from Sundon Park in Luton has terminal prostate cancer and only has weeks to live – but that’s not stopping him.
As an intelligent man who holds you in compelling conversation, Tony has spent his life giving to communities – even in his final few weeks his selflessness continues.
Rather than dwelling on the 'if only' and life’s regrets that he will now never do or see, Tony has turned his room at Keech Hospice Care in Luton into a fundraising hub. He spends his days networking and raising money from his bed to buy an angel. How many people do you know who would do that?
“I know I haven’t got long to live or long to do it, but it’s my final mission,” Tony said. “I want to raise £40,000 to ‘pay for an angel’ – the cost of a nurse for one year who will care for others after I’ve gone,” he said.
Armed with his laptop, diary, mobile phone and planning book, Tony spends the days he has left networking, pulling in favours, and even hands his visitors a brown envelope to pop in a wicker basket next to his bed which has the words ‘Donations for Keech’ written on it.
“My wife, Denise brings in envelopes of money everyday to me that she has found in our letterbox at home. People from all across the world are supporting my mission. On opening up one of the most recent ones, I found it to be from the High Commissioner of Grenada,” said Tony.
On a daily basis the fundraising ventures continue to flood out of Tony. In the past week he has recorded and produced his own album from the office of his bed which he’s looking to release and many other ideas are hurriedly being put in the pipeline from the office of his bed. On his birthday – his final birthday which he celebrated at Keech – instead of presents he asked all guests who came for donations to help him on his mission.
“It’s one of those things you never think will happen to you – cancer,” said Tony. “After being told by doctors in October 2011 the cancer had also spread to my bones and lymph nodes, I knew little could be done. Never did I think I would be battered by this disease and it had never crossed my mind to get my prostate checked.
“My family - my wife, sons and mum were in shock, horror and total surprise when I told them. After all of this time how can cures be found for AIDS, and of late Ebola, but not cancer? I’m really passionate about this. It makes me wonder what kind of disease we’re dealing with here.
“When the cancer took it really took. One Saturday last November, I was out shopping in Milton Keynes and waking up the next morning I couldn’t walk and was in excruciating pain. Despite radiotherapy and drug treatments, I suffered from a collapsed spinal cord and now have no control of my lower half. When family or a care home could no longer look after me due to my 24 hour needs, I came to Keech.
“From the top up I look fine but I can no longer walk, and from the bottom down, it’s a totally different story. I’m not afraid of dying, I’ve accepted it. I never dwelled on the fact my cancer was terminal.
“Being of Afro Caribbean decent, my culture is three times more likely to suffer from prostate cancer. What’s happened to me has been a lifesaving wake up call for other family members and friends who have now been to have their prostate checked and have been diagnosed early on with having it. I’m just glad they got it in time for them. I would say to any man who fears what is an intrusive procedure – it is nothing to be ashamed of. If I could, I would go back now and have that check, if I knew what I knew now, I would have done it.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t want to come to Keech Hospice, I always thought of hospices as being a holding pen before you pop your clogs and you’re taken off to the great beyond. Having been here now – I was wrong. Whatever time I have left, from my bed, I have set myself up to pay for an angel. Everyday I say to the nurses ‘God has sent you here as my little angels.’ It may sound funny, but I have never come across a group of such dedicated people in my life as what I have experienced here. The nurses laugh, they don’t see themselves as angels, but nothing is too much for them. From the cleaner who comes in every morning, the warmth just continues throughout the day. People laugh when I say, I am so lucky to be here. The positive spirit at Keech is amazing – you can’t see it, but you can feel it.
“People say to me ‘with the little time you have left Tony, why do this, surely you could spend your days doing other things?’ My view of hospices, and especially Keech, has been transformed over night. That’s why I’m doing this. When I’ve gone others will need their own angels,” said Tony.
At 63 years old, Tony has spent his whole working life giving to the community.
“I’ve worked as the First Secretary for the Grenada High Commissioner, redeveloped troubled estates in London and was the Programme Director behind the £48.8 million regeneration of the trouble Marsh Farm Estate in Luton,” said Tony. “I always thought Future’s House in Luton, which now provides a huge community hub for the people of the town, would be my legacy, but since coming to Keech, I want one more legacy in place before I die.
“Every day in-between my care needs I’m plotting new ideas, calling up contacts and getting events off the ground. Whatever I can do from my bed in these final weeks of my life – I will. It may sound like a cliche, but in this case, as I keep on saying my time is precious; every penny really does count.” said Tony.
Tony sadly died in February but he lived to see his target to buy an angel reached. https://www.justgiving.com/TonysAngel/