FROM a very early age Ida Parkinson was on a mission – a mission to care for others and relieve unnecessary pain – and she did not deviate from that path. It was undoubtedly her calling.

Ida was born into a farming family in Northern Ireland in the early 1930s. They were humble beginnings – her home in County Monaghan had no running water or electricity.

She had ambitions to become a nurse but her parents did not approve. That, however, was to be no obstacle for the determined young woman. Ida ran away from home to train at Belfast Children’s Hospital and, after qualifying as a state registered nurse, she moved to Yorkshire.

Ida trained as a district nurse in Rugby, Warwickshire, and then moved to Redditch in 1972, again as a district nurse.

Her natural ability to connect with people and her love of the community resulted in her being chosen as the first Macmillan nurse in Worcestershire. She was in this role for eight years before the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch asked her to become the first hospital-based Macmillan nurse – a job she did until she retired in 1993.

But her association with Macmillan was far from over. During her time as a community Macmillan nurse, many people wanted to donate money so others could be helped, as their loved ones had been.

So Ida, married with three daughters, spent much of her free time setting up trusts with the aim of making the lives of terminally ill people more comfortable.

If funds were needed for a special mattress, rather than going through the lengthy process of applying for grants, which may not come through until it was too late, one of Ida’s trusts could make the funds available swiftly - improving quality of life exactly when it was needed.

Items not available in abundance from the NHS, such as syringe pumps, could be bought to keep patients as comfortable as possible.

Her daughter Alison Harris said: “To support Ida’s work, a fundraising committee was set up, which meant the trusts were no longer needed.” Ida spearheaded the Redditch and District Macmillan Committee’s efforts and she took on the role of president of the fundraising committee after her retirement.

Her goal throughout her career and retirement was to do all she could to help people with a cancer diagnosis receive the support and care they and their families needed for as long as they wanted.

Ida pioneered counselling for relatives, which is now the norm, and was instrumental in setting up the Primrose Hospice in Bromsgrove.

Alison went on: “She worked tirelessly, educating doctors and other health professionals in the effective use of pain relief, in addition to her day-to-day work with patients and their families.”

It was Ida’s belief that everyone had the right to spend their last months, weeks and days in their own bed at home, surrounded by their loved ones, if they wished and to be supported to live their life, however limited, to the full.

“Her care for the families of her patients did not stop when they died but continued in her own time and at her own expense.

“To Mum, being a Macmillan nurse was a way of life, not simply a job for a certain number of hours a week.”

Her dedication was recognised by those she cared for in her work, professionals and Macmillan. Macmillan Cancer Support gave Ida its prestigious Platinum Award and she also received the Douglas Macmillan Award - the highest recognition the organisation can give to a volunteer.

She was also honoured for her Macmillan work in 2012 when she was among the worthy guests who took lunch with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at the Guildhall Worcester, during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee tour.

Ida also featured in a Channel 5 programme called Celebrity Wishlist and was nominated as an unsung hero in the ‘Heartwarmer’ element of the show.

She was nominated by Peter Harris, who had been a family friend for years, after she nursed

Peter’s wife Chris during the final stages of her treatment for breast cancer and a brain tumour.

She continued to support Mr Harris and his teenage daughter – who was inspired to become a Macmillan nurse – during the months after Chris passed away. The show surprised Ida to thank her for volunteering so much of her time.

Since it started the committee Ida spearheaded has raised a staggering £970,000 and has set its sights firmly on reaching the £1 million milestone this year.

Ida died last August aged 84 but Alison said: “She would be thrilled to bits if it reached £1 million.”

Alison added that she and her sisters Melanie and Wendy are hugely proud of their mum and what she achieved. “She was an impossible act for anyone to follow. We are so lucky she was our mum and she was a friend to so many people.

“She absolutely loved her work. The big thing about mum was that she never treated people as patients, she treated them as people and she felt that dying in pain was unnecessary.”

Macmillan Cancer Support funds around 50 posts in Worcestershire, with nurses specialising in care for lung cancer, skin cancer, gynaecology, chemotherapy, head and neck and palliative (end of life) care, as well as other services.

There are four Macmillan Information Support Centres in hospitals in Redditch, Worcester (two) and Kidderminster giving free information and support. Each costs around £52,000 a year to run.

Grants totalling almost £87,000 were given last year by Macmillan to Worcestershire people struggling financially.

And Macmillan’s Citizens’ Advice Benefits Team enabled local people to access £1.8 million of benefits for which they had not realised they were eligible.

Ida’s daughter Wendy said: “The work of Macmillan has come a long way and the need for it has grown enormously since mum started it all off in Worcestershire.

“We hope businesses and individuals will help us continue her legacy and pass the £1 million milestone this year by holding a fundraising event or making a donation.”

To find out how you can help, or to donate to the Macmillan Cancer Support Redditch and District Committee, telephone Anne Healy (hon treasurer) on 01527 404696.