CANCER entered my world on December 22, 2006. Three days before Christmas, my dad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia – and I knew in that split second my world was about to change.

To keep a promise is not always easy; my father, Ray Hurcombe, was to give me the biggest challenge of my life.

It’s funny how you never forget dates. On May 22, 2008 we visited the Leicester Royal Infirmary for his weekly bag of claret – which is what he called his blood – and his bag of gold – his name for his platelets.

We decided to go for a cuppa, and that’s when he hit me with it. He said: “There are two things I’m going to ask of you and, to be honest, neither of which you will have much of a say in.

“I need you to promise me that one day you will create something good out of our loss as a family, and the other is you will have to pay the bill as I’ve no money!”

That was charming, as it was his idea.

On May 25, 2008, in the early hours of a Sunday morning, my dad passed away peacefully in his sleep in the arms of my mum. He still had the last laugh though, as it was a Bank Holiday.

I moved to Bicester to marry my husband (I do remind him how lucky he is) and was made redundant.

Everyone who knew the promise I’d made told me I knew what I needed to do, but it was easier said than done, without contacts or friends. I was starting from scratch and at 42 going back to college to become what they call a mature student.

I shared my dad’s promise with someone I met along the way and together we looked at providing a support group and centre.

Walking the streets of Bicester, I started talking to the community, finding out what was needed, showing them the logo and presenting the concept to the GPs – one of whom worked with me to produce our plans.

On April 1, 2014, the doors opened to The Hummingbird Centr in Launton.

With regret, the person who started the journey with me resigned that July. Since then my team and the board of trustees have created a centre to support anyone affected by cancer.

We’ve basically looked at what’s been missing, provided the jigsaw piece and slotted it in.

We are now entering our fourth year providing an array of complementary treatments, counselling, activities, beauty treatments, courses, respite days, end of life, palliative and terminal support, financial support, in a place which is often described as homely – somewhere for you to get away and forget for a few hours.

To date, we’ve launched two new services: a bra fitting service and horse therapy.

We are very much part of the community, recognised for what we do, and have been nominated and won several prestigious awards – all of which we are very proud of.

It’s important to know all services are provided free of charge. The Hummingbird Centre is run entirely by volunteers, all dedicated and passionate in what they do. None of us take a salary, not even myself. Everything is put back into the centre, our guests and the team.

I know Bicester’s Alpha Cars will not thank me for this, but they play a major part in what we do as they provide free transport to and from the centre, they are very much part of our extended team of volunteers.

Looking ahead, it’s my intention to expand what we do, continuing to improve services to the people of Bicester and surrounding villages.

If you’ve never visited us, please do anytime from Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.

For details of the centre, call 01869 244244 or go to

I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my story – and I hope it’s inspired you to follow your own dream.

I never wanted to lose my dad, but he left me with the biggest gift of all – understanding the journey of cancer.