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Senior opts for charity over gifts

Giving back: Mavis Tatem, centre, presents a birthday donation to Jennifer Mahoney, left, of Friends of Hospice, and Colleen DeGrilla, of Pals (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An 85-year-old cancer survivor gave the proceeds from her birthday party to charity in memory of her son, who lost his life to the same disease 17 years ago.

Mavis Tatem, who celebrated her birthday on May 16, marked another anniversary yesterday, one year since a mastectomy for breast cancer.

Agape House, Bermuda’s only hospice, cared for her son, Irving Tatem, who died of cancer of the lymph nodes.

Ms Tatem presented $1,000 each to Friends of Hospice and the cancer charity Pals.

She said: “My son was at Agape House, I enjoyed going there and I was very fond of the people that worked there.”

Ms Tatem said her son got regular visits at the hospice and sometimes came home at weekends to enjoy his favourite meals.

She added: “About a year later, he just went. He would have been 66 now.”

Agape House, in Paget, next to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, opened in 1991 and Friends of Hospice was founded in 1994 to support it.

Pals, founded in 1980, was set up to help cancer patients remain at home rather than in hospital and provide free services to patients in need.

Ms Tatem said she realised she had cancer last year.

She added: “The doctor asked me how I knew. I felt a lump. Ultrasound showed up something, but it didn’t show cancer at the time.”

But a later biopsy confirmed she had the disease.

Ms Tatem said she had a single mastectomy, though she had asked for a double removal.

She said she still had lumps inside her but they appeared to be in remission.

She added: “I take a tablet every morning; I’m just hoping.”

Ms Tatem said she looked after her mother, Gladys Trott, before she died from Parkinson’s disease, and helped look after her aunt Maude, who lived with cancer for 25 years before she died aged 81.

She added: “I helped them all, so I’ve been a nurse, doctor, everything. So I wasn’t nervous. It would not do any good.”

Ms Tatem said she thought of her son as her birthday approached. She told daughters Sheina, Dawn and Barbara she wanted to fundraise from the party at her Pembroke home rather than get gifts.

Ms Tatem said: “I was fortunate enough that I could give both charities $1,000.

“I was very pleased, happy and blessed to know that I could donate to them.”

Jennifer Mahoney, the executive director of Friends of Hospice, said Ms Tatem had “our sincere thanks for this extremely generous donation”.

She added: “We feel honoured to been selected as recipients and to have able to provide support during a difficult time.”

Colleen DeGrilla, the executive director of Pals, said: “All donations are gratefully accepted, as we receive no government grants and rely solely on corporate and individual donations such as this.”

Both charities said the gesture helped show the public how the two charities worked together, and wished Mrs Tatem “a fabulous 86th year”.