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Mario Romeiro taking part in Pilgrims Hospice Blackbird Project

A terminally ill man from Folkestone is taking part in a real-life version of P.S. I Love You, by recording messages for his loved ones to listen to once he's gone.

Mario Romeiro, diagnosed with Ampullary carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, is now preparing for the last part of his life with the help of Pilgrims Hospices.

Ever since his diagnosis Mario has been recording his experiences, initially by writing a cancer diary.

It is part of the Pilgrims Hospice Dying Matters Campaign
It is part of the Pilgrims Hospice Dying Matters Campaign

He was not able to be with his family to break the news, so the diary helped him to communicate everything to them.

Then, in August 2018 Mr Romeiro was referred to Pilgrims Hospices and began accessing services at the Ashford site. He attends Time to Create sessions in the therapy centre, where patients and carers spend the afternoon together doing art and craft projects. Naturally skilled at drawing, Mr Romeiro has a BTEC qualification in Art and Design and enjoys the activities.

He said: “The Pilgrims team are brilliant. If I have any problems I can tell them how I feel and they’ll help to make sure I’m keeping well and that my symptoms are managed.

"At first, all I heard was ‘cancer’. It doesn’t need to be like that. Pilgrims has helped me to live well.

Some of Mario Romeiro's drawings as part of the Blackbird Project
Some of Mario Romeiro's drawings as part of the Blackbird Project

"Coming to the Time to Create groups is really good for me, otherwise I’d just sit at home. I come here and meet others in the same situation and that really helps."

Mr Romeiro, who has shared his story as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, was born into the travelling circus. His trapeze act Mario and the Flying Romeiros performed all over the UK and he later married into a fairground family.

The Blackbird USBs (10515060)
The Blackbird USBs (10515060)

His oldest daughter, Sammy Jo, asked him to make voice recordings after he was diagnosed, so The Blackbird Project arrived at the perfect time. This is a new service offered by Pilgrims, enabling patients to record messages for loved ones and store them on bespoke blackbird-shaped USB sticks to keep forever.

Mr Romeiro said: “I’ve got to learn how to die gracefully. That means not being as stubborn and letting people know how I’m feeling. I’m recording goodbyes and thank yous, my parting messages to the kids and the missus, so they can listen to them after I’m gone. There might be a time when they’re feeling a bit rubbish and then they can listen to my voice and remember: ‘Dad would want me to get off my bum and enjoy life.’ I hope my messages can help them in that way.

“I think some people can never say what they want to when people are there, so The Blackbird Project gives them that opportunity. It’s a great relief knowing that the recordings could bring comfort to family and loved ones.”

Mario Romeiro is taking part in the Blackbird Project (10503524)
Mario Romeiro is taking part in the Blackbird Project (10503524)

Mr Romeiro also does tattoo work from home and his youngest daughter, Rebecca, 21, has asked him to tattoo ‘I love you’ on her arm in his own handwriting.

He is also planning his funeral to take the pressure off his loved ones and make things as easy for them as possible.

For more information on the Blackbird Project, visit www.pilgrimshospices.org

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