Harry Moseley – Making It Happen
An Interview With Georgina Moseley
Whilst battling an inoperable brain tumour, Harry Moseley was inspired to make a difference to all people with brain cancer when a friend of his who also had a brain tumour became very ill. Within the space of just over two years Harry had organised and attended nearly 100 events to raise money for and awareness of Brain Cancer. He touched the hearts of the nation with his efforts and helped change the lives of everyone he met. Sadly Harry’s health took a sudden turn for the worse following brain surgery in August 2011. On 8th October 2011, and after 14 weeks in a coma, Harry passed away peacefully at home in his Mom’s arms. This is an interview with Harry's mum - Georgie - who continues the amazing work Harry started, and has kept his charity - Help Harry Help Others - going.
Can you tell me a little bit about Harry? How old was he when he was diagnosed?
Harry was an incredibly happy little boy. He was just so full of fun and laughter. When in his company you instantly became happier, his spirit was infectious. He was six years old when he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, a form of brain cancer. And that’s where the whole journey began and that became our new normality.
And how did that affect you and your family?
We were devastated. For your child to be diagnosed with cancer is every parent’s worst nightmare. But Harry had an amazing positivity within him, and an incredible humour, that kept us all together really. You just have to get on with life but yes it had a huge impact. I don’t think a lot of people realise that when your child is diagnosed with something like that, it affects the entire family – it affects routine, lifestyle, emotions, stress, finances. There’s so much more to it than just the illness. Your normal family life is just over and a new normality is just starting.
You said that Harry kept you guys together. Did almost nothing change for Harry, it just changed for you and the rest of the family?
Yes I think that’s right because Harry was diagnosed at the age of six – he was so young it became normal to him – he knew no different, cancer was almost all that he knew. It was just life for him. He didn’t worry about it, he faced it head on. He was just so incredibly positive, and had an amazing sense of humour and love of life – it was so infectious. And rather than focus on what he couldn’t do he focused on all that he could do. And it was that zest of life that helped us as a family.
To see him going through the treatment but still be so cheerful was an example to my husband and I. We felt that we both had to follow his lead and also set the right example to Harry’s older brother and sister – and rather than mope all day we made every effort to ensure our family life was one that was full of joy and laughter, and Harry was the person that instigated all of that.
I think it was a couple of years after Harry was diagnosed that he created the brilliant charity ‘Help Harry Help Others’. Why did he create the charity?
Harry met a gentleman at the hospital by the name of Robert Harley. Robert was a 55 year old man who, like Harry, had an inoperable brain tumour. And they became friends – they stayed in touch and we would often visit Robert. When Harry heard that Robert was getting more and more ill he decided he wanted to make Robert better. So Harry came to me and said, “not enough is being done, what can we do to help Robert and everyone on that ward get better?” He told me that he didn’t want to beg people for money but wanted to raise money, so I took him down to Hobbycraft and Harry saw these beads and thought he could make beaded bracelets for people that he could then sell. His face lit up when he saw the beads, he said, “Mum, I can do football colour ones, Halloween coloured ones, glow in the dark ones, and I can do them for children.” He then said that we could say that they were “made with love from people with cancer.”
That’s so remarkable. For someone of any age to be that kind and that generous is quite something, but to do it while still suffering yourself is incredible. How did that make you feel?
I was enormously proud. As Harry’s mum I was just so proud that even though he was going through something so nasty he wasn’t thinking of himself, he just wanted to help other people and that made me so proud. Only Harry knew what it was like to suffer from cancer and go through that journey and even though I held his hand every step of the way, he was the one who knew how it felt. And he could’ve quite easily have been ‘selfish’ and just thought of himself, and feel sorry for himself. But it was about helping his friend – he didn’t want other people to be poorly like him and for him to have that attitude was quite humbling to be honest.
The charity took off quite early on didn’t it? It got some attention from the likes of Duncan Bannatyne, Ben Shephard and the England football team. How did that come about?
Harry had a lot of success through Ben Shephard – Ben really championed Harry. But what people may not realise is that Harry wasn’t just making beaded bracelets. He was actually going to schools, businesses and events and giving talks. He used to talk often for Cancer Research UK. And it was through these talks that he met people like Ben and they seemed to be taken with Harry, his story and what he was trying to do for others despite being ill himself. He would often talk to 1000 people at time and amazingly it didn’t phase him. His favourite phrase was “stay in touch” and that’s what it was all about. It was a very personal charity and even though I now run the charity, as Harry is sadly no longer with us, people are still donating to the charity because they may have been inspired by Harry’s story but also I think because of how personal it all was, and still is. We make a real effort to get to know people, their stories – and that all stemmed from Harry.
Can you remember the impact Harry and the charity had on individuals at that time?
Oh absolutely. You yourself ran the London Underground, the guys up here cycled across the country, and countless others did various fundraising events because they seemed to be taken with Harry, which was lovely. For your son to have an impact on people’s lives, especially children’s lives, is very special. For example Harry (and now me) would go into the Young Offenders institute and speak to them about Harry’s story. This seemed to often catch their imagination, maybe because Harry was from a Council Estate and was very poorly, and his situation was so desperate but he was still able to make things happen in a positive way. I think it showed them that there were ways out of the situation that didn’t have to involve crime.
You mentioned earlier in the call the financial impact that cancer can have on families. The charity work Harry was doing must have cost as well I imagine? For example buying the beads for his bracelets. Was there any point where you felt you couldn’t continue the charity work because of your financial situation?
It was never an option, it was too important to Harry. We used to get beads donated to us and because Harry was a child people seemed to want to help him, and often gave him things for the charity for free. It’s so much harder now but people are ever so kind and really do look to help you where they can.
And did the charity help you deal with what Harry was going through?
Harry helped us more than he will ever know. The fact that as a parent you are so so helpless – the fact I couldn’t fix what was happening to Harry was heartbreaking. As a parent your job is to protect your children and to bandage them up when they get poorly, but there was nothing I could do. But the charity was one thing I could help him with. Harry was doing the charity because of his love for others, and I was helping Harry with the charity because of my love for him. That charity, and Harry throwing himself into it, really did save us. It helped us more than he will ever, ever know.
Harry sadly died in 2011 but you have decided to keep the charity going in Harry’s name. Was there ever any doubt it was going to continue?
As you remember Steve, Harry was very well in himself but then got very poorly with some headaches and was rushed into hospital and taken in for emergency surgery where he was then in a coma for three months before sadly passing away. It all happened very fast and we’ve still not come to terms with that. But his Twitter and Facebook pages were still inundated with messages. I literally sat there one day and went through these messages, cards, emails and I just thought that Harry had created such a beautiful charity; what sort of person would I be if I didn’t see his journey through to completion for him? We are a very tight knit family and this charity had such a big impact on us all that I knew I just had to keep it going. Other people were going through their own journey, like what we went through as a family, and I knew the Help Harry Help Others charity could be beneficial to those people. So that was it, when Harry passed I was incredibly, incredibly upset and also very angry and bitter because I felt if anyone deserved to be on this Earth then it was Harry because of his kindness and love. But rather than moan and be angry I decided to take Harry’s advice and “make it happen”. He taught me to believe in myself. It’s Harry’s work and not mine but it’s so lovely to see how it has escalated. We’ve raised over two million pounds in Harry’s name, and since we became a registered charity two years ago we’ve given out £700,000 to causes via our ‘Help Cope’, ‘Help Care’, ‘Help Cure’ vehicles. It’s still a very personal charity, the money raised is distributed to those people and places that we feel are in need. From one tiny bracelet and trying to help Robert Harley, Harry has truly helped many, many people and that is a daily comfort to me.
” Harry has truly helped many, many people and that is a daily comfort to me.”
That’s brilliant, such an inspiring story. You’ve said that around £700k has been given out to various initiatives. Are you able to tell me any specifics as I am sure people would love to know where you’ve helped?
Yeah absolutely. “Help Cure” is specifically for brain tumours under the age of 40. There are already registered brain tumour charities that do great jobs but we all need to join together to do more. So in 22 months we’ve given out £173,000 which has all gone to various research parties that are looking to find that elusive cure.
With “Help Cope” we help families cope. When someone gets diagnosed with cancer it impacts every single member of that family, their way of life, their financial and work situation – everything. For us, I had to give up work to become Harry’s carer which meant I couldn’t pay my mortgage. Petrol and parking 5 days a week to the hospital costs an awful lot of money. Sleeping by his bedside for four months at hospital you end up spending small bits of money on coffee and sandwiches but it all adds up and this can lead you to not being able to pay bills etc. So “Help Cope” is where we support, specifically financial support, for families going through this. So for example, we will pay hospital car parking, shopping, funeral costs, mortgages, utility bills – all those types of things. We’ve given out over £162,000 and helped over 90 families in 22 months.
And finally, we have “Help Care” which is where we give money to any other amazing charities or places that give core care to patients, specifically end of life care. For example we support hospices, nurses in the community, wards on hospitals and recently we’ve given money to have a bereavement centre built in a local hospice in Birmingham which is where the families of those who are ill can stay – so that they don’t have to come home, and they can always be with their child. They have their own kitchen, bathroom, lounge etc and it’s a place where they can spend their last days together but spend it in a safe environment where there’s the appropriate care available around the clock. They had a shortfall of £103k due to government cuts so Help Harry stepped in and because of the support we have given we’ve had tweets from families who have used the centre to say how much that has benefited them which was lovely. We’ve given £80,000 for a children’s recovery and treatment room in our local radiography department at our hospital. This is a nice environment for kids to recover. We’ve probably helped 5 different causes and given around £365,000 under the “Help Care” banner.
“Help Cope is where we support, specifically financial support, for families going through cancer. So for example, we will pay hospital car parking, shopping, funeral costs, mortgages, utility bills – all those types of things. We’ve given out over £162,000 and helped over 90 families in 22 months”
It’s just mind blowing. Do you ever pause and think what a wonderful job you’re doing?
Nope. I daren’t think about all of this because the best way for me to cope is to stay busy. I am very busy, me being busy is great. All my time is spent helping families and individuals deal with this horrible disease. And as far as the “job” goes, my job was to be the very best mother to Harry that I could be and Cancer can never ever take away the fact I was Harry’s mum. The future of the charity is exciting though, we have just got the keys to a building that will become our support centre. So we will offer advice, support, empathy and help families with housing, benefits, taking them to appointments, counselling and a lot more. It’s the first cancer support centre in Birmingham. It’s nice to be able to do that – it’s very exciting.
It sounds it. What a wonderful thing to be able to open. I am sure that will be of great help to lots of people. What was your job before Harry fell ill?
I worked in recruitment and sales. I then gave that up when Harry fell ill as I’d have to help him when he underwent chemotherapy etc.
So working in recruitment and sales doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the remarkable things you’ve been doing for the charity.
I haven’t got a brain – I am not sure how I’ve got this far to be honest!
No that’s rubbish, you should give yourself some credit. You and Harry have created something so brilliant. It takes an awful lot of skill to create something as powerful as this, and I would just like to say a huge thank you. I know you are doing it for Harry, and it’s Harry’s charity, but you yourself have changed lives and you ought to be enormously proud.
How can our readers get involved?
They can obviously visit hhho.org.uk and buy bracelets but we are also after more “Harry’s Hero’s” and this basically means you can represent Harry in your home-town and do some local fundraising.
Brilliant. Finally, I remember that day when I saw Harry’s story on Twitter and the impact he has gone on to have on my life. It’s no exaggeration to say that your son changed my life and I just wanted to say thank you, and a huge well done on creating such a wonderful charity.
Don’t Steve, you’ll make me cry!
Thanks for chatting to me today Georgie, good luck for the new care centre.