Strong women: Jo Tutchener-Sharp
I’ve been talking a lot about strength lately and I’m always amazed at what people can go through. Often with only our loved ones really seeing the depth to which we’ve been hurting or what we’ve been through.
So I wanted to share some amazing stories to inspire. To know that you can come out the other side, sometimes stronger than ever before.
Over the next week I’ll be sharing the stories of 5 amazing women who have created something out of adversity. And I’m going to finish with my story, you’ll know a bit of my story but it’ll be warts and all!
I’m starting with Jo Tutchener-Sharp. If you don’t know Jo she’s the lady behind the brand Scamp & Dude. Last year I remember going through Instagram and seeing loads of stuff on this new children’s brand, and it wasn’t until I took a closer look that I realised just how amazing this brand is.
In 2015 Jo suffered a brain hemorrhage and had to go into hospital, she was away from her children and her family. It was this that inspired Jo to create a brand that helps children feel secure when they’re away from the people they love. And in her words “from something dark came something light”.
Here Jo tells us her story.
Tells us how you felt in those early days when everything was going on.
I had been through a really stressful time in my life, then one day I had a really terrible headache, nausea and felt very dizzy/spaced out. I was taken to hospital and discovered I’d had a brain hemorrhage. Not only that, but they had found a lump on my brain. I will never forget the moment they came into my dark hospital room to tell me. I was asleep, it was 1am and the doctor came in and said ‘we have found a lump on your brain, do you have any history of cancer in your family?’ She then examined my breasts and lymph to check for lumps and left the room. I was left alone in the dark, in total and utter shock, shaking. I remember thinking that my life would never be the same again. All I could think about was my children (who were then 3 and 1) and how I couldn’t leave them without a mummy. What on earth would they do without me, what would my husband do, and my poor parents how would they react. It was the darkest of feelings, a horrible tightness in the pit my stomach, a sudden overwhelming grey feeling of loneliness and panic. I lay awake all night, wondering how on earth I was going to tell my family.
What got you through the most darkest days?
Spending lots of quality time with my family, doing really special things with the boys. I was so scared going out and about with the boys as I could have hemorrhaged again at any time and was also at risk from seizures post bleed (luckily I never had one). I used to tie our hands together with a scarf in case I collapsed so people would know they were with me. I didn’t want to stop taking the boys out and was trying to lead a normal life but I was terrified every time we left the house. It was a very emotional time; I was lapping up every moment with my family worried that I may be running out of time. I decided I was going to make the most of whatever time I had left and not spend it worrying or being sad. I was very conscious about how my family was feeling and wanted to stay positive to keep them upbeat. It was such a strange few months. I look back at photographs now and can see the fear in my eyes. I focused on planning Christmas to have the most happy time we possibly could (my surgery was booked for Jan 4th ) so I wanted to make sure Christmas was as special as possible as I was worried that it may be my last. We spent it with my parents and sisters and their families. I also spent time writing letters to my boys and my family; I hid them with the thought that if I didn’t make it, they would find them when clearing out my things. I even wrote letters for the boys to be given to them when they turned 18. Preparing privately like this helped me stay focused. I couldn’t bring myself to say any of these things to them in person as I was so desperately trying to hold it together and keep them feeling positive too.
What’s the one thing that you learnt the most about what you went through?
That life is short and we need to make the most of it. Anything could happen at any moment to change your life forever. It is so important to appreciate the now, be present, enjoy it, take opportunities and have adventures. I know it is a cliché but you really do only live once.
How are you different now that you’ve experienced what you have?
The main difference is that I now have a real burning desire to do good and to help others. Facing death had such a huge effect on me, it was like standing at the golden gates asking myself had I done enough good, had I helped enough people, did I feel I had made a difference. I knew that if I survived the surgery I wanted to do something to help others.
What would you say to someone going through what you’ve been through?
Stay positive and find a focus, you can’t help the dark thoughts, but try and focus on something you love whether it is your kids or doing some charity work or helping others in some way. My children were my focus before my surgery, then while I was recovering Scamp & Dude was my focus and it did me so much good to have something to put my energy into and this need to help others through a difficult time really got me back on my feet again.
Tell us about when you got that flash of inspiration to create Scamp & Dude.
It was when I was in hospital recovering from my brain surgery and missing my kids like mad. I couldn’t have them come and visit me as I had the whole side of my head shaved and a cut with 20 staples running the whole length of one side of my head. It was pretty scary looking and wouldn’t have been fair for the kids to see me like that.
I missed them so much and wished there had been something I could have given them before I went into hospital to make them feel more secure and to make them think I was still close even though they couldn’t see me. This is when I came up with the idea behind the Superhero Sleep Buddy. This is a shaped cushion comforter, two different Superhero characters, Super Dino and Super Bunny, who sit on the bed watching over kids while they sleep. Designed to help kids deal with separation anxiety, they come with a pocket on the back for a photo of whomever they want to keep close. I wanted to help kids going through what my kids went through so we donate a Superhero Sleep Buddy to a vulnerable child for every one sold. We work with charities Grief Encounter to gift children who have lost a parent, Don’t Forget the Kids who support kids who have a parents suffering with cancer and Great Ormond Street Hospital to gift kids who are in hospital themselves and need their own Superhero to have their back. I then developed a clothing range as I wanted kids to feel more secure when on the move, to know a Superhero has their back when they are apart from their parents. We have a Superpower Button on all of our clothes so kids can press it when they need a burst of confidence/a special superpower. Separation anxiety is an issue with so many kids and something as simple as telling kids they have their special Superpower infused clothes and a Superhero watching over them seems to bring them such comfort.
I have such a purpose with Scamp & Dude to help children feel more secure, to deal with separation anxiety and to help children who are generally having a hard time. This is definitely one of the best things about my job, I have received so many messages from parents of children we have donated the Superhero Sleep Buddies to, saying how much they are helping them. We have donated over 450 now to children who really need a Superhero to have their back, and this makes all the hard work worth it.
Now you can see why I love the those behind Scamp & Dude. The kids have a T-shirt and I have the women’s sweatshirt and I’ll be buying more. Thank for sharing so openly Jo.
Nicky Duffell is a nutritional therapist and health coach who works with clients to improve their health and wellbeing. With over 17 years experience in the corporate world Nicky uses her experience of coaching senior executives to help clients gain control of their health and achieve their goals. She’s a Mum of two beautiful children and know’s what it’s like to juggle family and work. Nicky is passionate about food, health and her family. After life took her on a few twists and turns she started this blog to share everything she’s learnt. You can follow Nicky on Instagram for all her food inspiration and health tips.