I briefly spoke on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about why I’m running the half with two other fantastic runners doing the Great Eastern this year.
With just over a week to go I wanted to share more about why I’m running. Running 13 whole miles. I’d only do that for a good reason, as even after training for months it still doesn’t sound that appealing.
Seven years ago my Dad was diagnosed with grade four brain cancer. My Dad was the fittest and healthiest men I knew. He ran every morning at 5/5:30am before he got ready to go to work in Swavesey, which he absolutely loved. He was full of life; a man with a rare vitality, strength and determination in life.
Even when he was diagnosed he made sure that everyday was an adventure, that we went to bed with full hearts and more memories to cherish.
At Christmas, our Macmillan Nurse told us that we should think about where Dad would like his end of life care, that we should look at hospices. It seemed bizarre at the time, like some sort of strange dream or parallel world that would never come to an end. But of course it would.
As the months passed, we all spent every moment we could together. Some of the best moments of my life will be from that year alone, because you’re not expecting anything to be funny or happy, so when it is it’s quite magical.
Then the time came and we went to look round Sue Ryder’s Thorpe Hall Hospice. I didn’t understand why Dad wanted to go into a hospice, or really understand what a hospice was. I didn’t know why someone would want to die somewhere they’d never been before.
But then we went to Thorpe Hall.
I’d imagine it would be sterile, cold, empty. Whereas it was warm, cosy, a stately home for people to share, that was full of so much hope and love and optimism. Once place I wasn’t expecting to find any of those positive things, but we did.
The people that work at Thorpe Hall are nothing but remarkable. You have to be a very special person to be a nurse or a Doctor, especially in palliative care.
Sue Ryder provided incredible care for my Dad in his final few weeks, and in the days and years since losing him have offered support, guidance and open arms to us when we visit again.
It was everything; a second home for us to share our last few memories in. When we were told it would be any day now, we stayed over, Mum on the hospital bed beside him, myself on the sofa in the lounge. The next night my brother and I were on mattress on the floor beside them both.
At 2am when I couldn’t sleep for crying, the nurses made me a hot chocolate. On my brother’s thirteenth birthday the kitchen staff had made Josh a cake, as Dad was too ill for us to leave the hospice. They talked us through everything; how to cope with the final days, what to after.
After he passed away, we sat in the lounge all together, my family, the nurses and I. All mourning, all tired from the sleepless night, with the most beautiful sunrise outside the window. They made us cups of tea and we sat and comforted each other.
It’s so much more than quality medical care at a hospice, it’s emotional support and empathy on another level. Thorpe Hall live and breathe what we did everyday, you have to have a very full heart to be able to do that; be there for so many patients, so many families, so many last moments.
I’m beyond words.
I’m running because I can never repay Sue Ryder, not even one of the staff at Thorpe Hall. I owe them so much, as do my whole family.
The half marathon is a huge challenge – I’m more of a born snacker than a born runner – but I wanted to complete a difficult physical and mental challenge for Sue Ryder, because they’re worth challenging myself for and every penny you can give them. That’s why I’m running for Sue Ryder.
My Dad also loved running; he got me into running, so it seemed like a fitting event to take part in.
Since I started training, I’ve increased my speed by about two minutes per mile, which is mad! I’m still not at a sub 10 minute mile pace, but for a woman that didn’t run much (and couldn’t stand it) that’s an achievement.
I also began training and this challenge as someone who didn’t like running – the pain, the monotonous pounding of the pavement and skipping songs that were too slow or I’d heard too many times. But I enjoy it now, its therapeutic. I think I finally understand why my Dad always liked it so much, and I’m grateful to learn that.
Sue Ryder support hundreds of families just like my own and the new Thorpe Hall Hospice is remarkable. It has state of the art facilities, beautiful gardens – with no gravel (as gravel with a wheelchair is not so good) – and it has the same warmth and remarkable staff.
If you can then please do donate to Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall and sponsor me on the run: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/team-bacon2