Ryan's Story

Shared by Ryan’s partner, Nicki.

My name is Nicki and my partner, Ryan, was just 36 years old when he received end-of-life care at Sobell House. Our son, Riley, wants other people to hear his Daddy’s story.

Ryan was a kind and caring man. He was a good friend, a great partner and a brilliant Dad to our young son, Riley. Ryan was the type of person who would do anything for anyone, and if someone needed his help they knew that they could always rely on him to be there for them. A postman by trade, Ryan was popular, sociable, and charismatic with a special talent for getting out of trouble by simply saying ‘I love you’.

In July 2022, our whole world changed when Ryan was diagnosed with aggressive bowel cancer. The cancer spread, and was causing him a lot of pain and discomfort. Ryan was becoming increasingly poorly, spending more time in hospital undergoing tests and receiving treatment. He was so well looked after, but visitors and visiting hours were restricted. Ryan found this difficult, especially being away from Riley. Riley also struggled not seeing his Daddy as much as usual. As Ryan’s condition worsened, the decision was made to move him to Sobell House.

For Ryan, and for us as a family, everything changed when he went to Sobell House. Here, he had a room to himself, and we had the space to be a family. Even our dog, Benji, could come along and visit with us!

Everyone at Sobell House was amazing. They were there for him whenever he needed help and support, but they would also give him time to rest and relax. He wasn’t just a patient at the hospice – he was still a father, a friend, a son, a brother and a partner.

Friends and family could come and go as they wanted, we were offered hot meals and a comfortable space to spend precious time as a family. Often, I would wake up early in the morning and get a hot chocolate or tea from the family room for us all. I think that knowing that his family was being looked after made Ryan feel okay too.

Pictured: Ryan, Riley, and Benji at the hospice
Pictured: Ryan and Riley
Pictured: Riley at Rainbow of Ribbons

Most importantly, Ryan and Riley had opportunities to do things together, creating special memories for Riley to remember his Daddy by. Riley found a cupboard with arts and crafts and they would spend hours playing drawing games and colouring together. Ryan attended two art therapy sessions during his stay at the hospice and Riley was invited to join in with him. Riley now treasures the picture they painted in Ryan’s Memory Box at home.

We always wanted to be honest with Riley and tried our best to help him to understand the situation that we were facing. After a few weeks, Ryan decided it would be best for Riley to stop visiting him at the hospice, as it was becoming too tough for them both. Nothing will ever prepare you for telling your child that their Dad isn’t going to get better and that it’s time to say goodbye.

Just three days later, on 7 February 2023, Ryan very sadly died. He was our rock and we miss him every day.

Ryan made us promise to continue to support Sobell House as he felt it made such a difference to the way in which he lived the last few weeks of his life.

Although Ryan is no longer with us, we want to keep his memory alive and find ways that we can remember him together. We heard about Rainbow of Ribbons and Riley decided he wanted us to dedicate a ribbon to his Dad. We also had the chance to visit the Rainbow of Ribbons tree over the summer. Riley sat on the bench in the park and I left him to reflect and give him space to remember his Daddy in his own way. There were hundreds of other ribbons, and we couldn’t believe that there were so many other families who had gone through a similar experience to us.

I realised how many other people must be feeling the same as me, and that I’m not alone. I can’t put into words how much Sobell House meant to Ryan and to us as a family. Please, dedicate a ribbon in memory of your loved ones today and help us to fulfil Ryan’s wish of supporting Sobell House as much as possible so that it can keep going for other families who might need it. This year, the Sobell House team will be holding their Rainbow of Ribbons event on Sunday 28 July in University Parks, Oxford. Ryan’s ribbon will be on the tree to keep his memory alive and for Riley and me to remember him together. I hope you will be able to join us with your friends and family between 1pm and 4pm for an afternoon of celebration and reflection. If you are unable to attend the event, the ribbons will be displayed on the tree until the end of August.

Thank you so much to Nicki for kindly sharing her family’s experience of Sobell House.

Dedicate a ribbon in memory of your loved one today and help us create a rainbow of ribbons this summer.