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Former Patient Lands His Dream Job At Hospice Charity

At the age of 11 Stephen Pender was under the care of ellenor. More than 20 year later, he has joined the fundraising team, fulfilling a long-held dream to give something back.

The children’s team at ellenor helped provide treatment for Stephen, who had undergone an operation after developing a brain tumour.

He said: “I don’t think I would have got through it without ellenor’s help. Having the care available at home was a big part of it, especially as I wasn’t always in the best of health. That’s why ellenor is so important to me. All the services they provide mean so much to people in this area.”

Stephen took on the role of supporter engagement officer, which involves encouraging businesses and the community to support the charity by organising or taking part in fundraising activities.

He said: “It’s really good and it’s a big change for me as I worked in retail before. I came across the job in a funny way: The company I worked for in Bluewater asked us to choose a local charity and I was put in charge of it. Of course, I chose ellenor straight away, not just because it is a really important local charity but because of everything I went through and how they helped me.”

Through organising charity events, Stephen got to know ellenor’s fundraisers and realised it was an area he would be interested in as a career for himself.

He said: “I had wondered about it before, but I thought all fundraising work was voluntary. I’m young and need to have a job where I earn money. I’m so proud of my job at ellenor and I think I’m happier in my work than most the people I know. It certainly feels like an upgrade from working in retail and it has so much more meaning. It’s what I’ve always imagined doing – having a job where I can help people.”

As a fundraiser, Stephen is now tasked with encouraging local cafes, restaurants and pubs to join ellenor’s Hospitality Heroes initiative. He also particularly enjoys helping to organise fundraising events such as the recent Twilight Walk. As a youngster he benefitted from some of the events himself.

He said: “The help I had from ellenor was so good for me, not just with the nursing care. I went to a lot of events like the Christmas party, and the nurses also took me out to do things like shopping.”

When Stephen’s family were first put in touch with ellenor, he had recently undergone an operation to remove his brain tumour. His parents had opted for him not to have chemotherapy but for him to undergo an alternative treatment called antineoplaston therapy. This involved an ellenor nurse coming to the family home once a week to change his Portacath.

Stephen said: “I was really unwell at the time and as a result of the brain tumour I also became epileptic. If I had a seizure sometimes the Portacath would get pulled out and an ellenor nurse would come and check everything was in place again and that I could have the treatment safely.

“When I was ill, I didn’t really think about it; I was always looking at things in a positive way, like I was going to get through it. I don’t know how my family felt but I think it helped that they always made me think everything was going to be fine.”

Stephen lives with his dad Vince in the family home in Gravesend, but sadly his mother Ann has now passed away. His older brother Richard, who lives in Devon, has followed a career in psychology.

Stephen said: “I wonder if Richard’s interest in helping people came from how much he helped me through my illness. I wasn’t going to school, and he became like a real friend to me.”

Doctors have told Stephen that he is clear of the brain tumour now, although some dead cells remain.

He said: “I recently had a scan, and they were happy with the results. I still suffer from epilepsy, but it is getting a lot better.

“A lot of people don’t understand epilepsy at all. I had a bad seizure on the train a couple of years ago and no one really knew what was happening to me or what to do. Luckily a couple of people called a friend on my phone, and he explained it to them, and they were able to help me. There needs to be more information out there about it, like there is about strokes and heart attacks. People don’t know what epilepsy is like until they have seen it.”

Thankfully epilepsy has never been a major issue for Stephen at work.

He said: “I have sometimes had interviews for jobs in the past where they weren’t caring enough about my epilepsy and that would put me off the idea of working for them. Of course, at ellenor they are all very caring which is great. It really is the perfect place for me to work.”