Huddersfield Station’s resident cats are picture-purrfect in a shiny new charity calendar in aid of Myeloma UK.
Back by popular demand, the calendar features endearing shots of Facebook sensation Felix and her trusty apprentice Bolt, hard at work – and occasionally sleeping on the job – in various locations around Huddersfield Train Station in West Yorkshire.
This year, proceeds will go to Myeloma UK, a charity very close to Alan Hind, the mastermind behind the furry duo’s social media accounts.
Sadly, Alan’s wife, Dawn, was diagnosed with myeloma back in December 2020, an incurable blood cancer which claims the lives of 3,000 each year in the UK.
“This year it’s going to be a special calendar because Myeloma UK is a cause close to me as the creator of the Facebook page,” said 60-year-old Alan. “Dawn and I have been on a bit of a rollercoaster in the last 12 months – it’s been a steep learning curve but Myeloma UK were there for us. The charity will always be special to us and we want to give back to them.”
Dawn added: “We had never heard of myeloma: it came out of the blue. In our time of need, Myeloma UK’s Infoline was the place to go. They were on the end of the phone as long as I needed. We got all our information about myeloma from their website. They’ve been so helpful.”
Alan first spotted Felix casually patrolling the platform on his weekly commute to Manchester back in 2014. When he realised Huddersfield’s most photographed moggie didn’t have her own social media account, he set up a Facebook page and Twitter feed. By 2016, Felix had shot to national fame. She was joined by her second-in-command, Bolt, in 2018. Since then, calendars of the dream pest-control team have sold like hotcakes and two best-selling books have been written about them. The pair now boast 22,200 followers on Twitter and 145,430 Facebook fans to boot.
“I thought, ‘This cat must have a Facebook page but it didn’t so I set one up and it grew very quickly. It was a hobby and, when I retired in 2019, I continued to run the accounts,” said the father-of-two. “All the photos came from the staff at the station or people passing through the station.”
Uploading pictures of Felix and Bolt complete with humorous captions became a welcome distraction for Alan following his wife’s devastating diagnosis last winter.
“Doing Felix and Bolt’s social media has been a fun diversion for me,” he said. “It’s kept me going. It’s a bit of fun and laughter, and I believe it makes you feel good.”
Dawn had been experiencing severe back and hip pain for months when, one day, she sneezed and felt her back crack.
It took doctors three months to pinpoint the cause of her increasingly alarming symptoms. By the time she was finally diagnosed, Dawn has suffered such extensive damage to her neck and spine she was on the verge of paralysis.
“They told me not to move my head because they were worried I could be paralysed,” the 60-year-old explained. “I had symptoms going back a couple of years but we just didn’t add it all up. I had a cracked rib in 2019 but it got better and I didn’t think anything of it.”
Thankfully “the chemo stopped it all in its tracks”.
Myeloma occurs in the bone marrow and currently affects over 24,000 people in the UK. Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, it is especially difficult to detect as symptoms, including back pain, easily broken bones, fatigue and recurring infection, are often linked to general ageing or minor conditions.
While it is incurable, myeloma is treatable in the majority of cases. Treatment is aimed at controlling the disease, relieving the complications and symptoms it causes, and extending and improving patients’ quality of life.
More than half of patients face a wait of over five months to receive the right diagnosis and around a third are diagnosed through an emergency route. By that point, many of them are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms.
Bone disease is the most common and often most debilitating complication of myeloma. Around 70% of patients show evidence of bone disease at the time of diagnosis. Their bones become thinner and weaker resulting in cracked and broken bones, collapsed vertebrae or spinal fractures.
Following rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant Dawn’s condition improved and she is now in remission.
Over the years the Huddersfield Station Cats calendar has raised thousands of pounds for a range of local and national charities. It is hoped this year’s edition will help raise a few thousand more for Myeloma UK and fund vital patient services and research into treatment.
Angie Hunte, TransPennine Express (TPE) Acting Group Station Manager for Huddersfield, said:
“Felix and Bolt are a part of the TPE family and the community here at Huddersfield. They have become well-known throughout the UK and worldwide, and without Alan’s support and creativity in running the social media channels, this wouldn’t have happened. All the team here at Huddersfield were devastated to learn about Dawn’s diagnosis, but it’s wonderful that we can support Myeloma UK with this year’s calendar profits.”
To order the Huddersfield Station Cats 2022 calendar, go to https://jesmond-cat-designs.myshopify.com/products/felix-and-bolt-calendar-2022
For more information about myeloma or to get in touch with Myeloma UK go to www.myeloma.org.uk. Myeloma UK runs an Infoline on 0800 980 3332.