Walking the Ultra challenge

Taking on the South Coast Challenge

Hannah is walking 100km from Eastbourne to Arundel to fundraise in memory of her dad Gerry and her friend Bob, who were both cared for by Martlets. She tells us why she chose a walking challenge as a fundraiser. Hannah talks about the care her dad received from our community nursing team. 

“I’ve signed up to do the Ultra Challenge at the beginning of September, but I’m already encouraging people to sponsor me via my JustGiving page. The distance has to be completed within 24 hours, so I won’t be able to have too many breaks. However, I work as a personal fitness trainer so I should be ok! My husband and three friends are doing the challenge with me. My mum and the kids will probably drop by at the halfway point in Hove Park to support us. There will be a marquee set up there with toilets and food on offer which will help us recharge. 

The support Martlets provided towards the end of Dad’s life was just invaluable; I don’t know how we would’ve coped without them. 

I lost my dad Gerry in February of last year, right in the middle of the third COVID lockdown. He had cancer and received hospice care at home from Martlets. COVID infection rates were high during that period, and I could only wave to Mum and Dad through the window of the house; I couldn’t actually go in for a visit. That was so hard, not to physically be able to hug them. Mum was Dad’s main carer, and it was a lot for her to take on as I couldn’t go in to give her a break.  

The community nurses from Martlets looked after Dad during the last weeks of his life, which was such a help for Mum. They gave him pain relief and sorted everything out. They were in full PPE and it was hard for Dad as everyone was wearing masks. But they were still able to communicate with him and offer reassurance.  

There was one person from Martlets who just had this instant connection with Dad which was so lovely to see. A week before he died, Dad had a big brain seizure and was unresponsive for a couple of days. We didn’t know if he would ever wake up from that, but when this particular nurse visited, Dad suddenly opened his eyes and said hello to him. There was a real connection between them which was such a comfort to us as a family. He was so kind and you could tell he genuinely cared. After Dad died, he popped a letter through our door saying he was happy to have met Dad and that he was glad he had been able to care for him. It was so lovely and that really made a big difference to us at a difficult time. 

I did a lot of walking with Dad when I was a child; instead of getting the bus back from somewhere he’d ask if I’d like to walk, and I’d always say ‘yes’. I just really enjoyed that time with him. Doing this walking challenge connects me with those memories. 

My dad was my main carer when I was young. He worked early mornings as a dustman and was able to take me to school and pick me up. (Mum worked in the afternoon and evenings). They were together for almost 50 years. Dad and I used to walk to the shops a lot and I love walking still; it really does connect me to him. Being a dustman and being on his feet a lot, he would always tell me to look after my feet and to get a good pair of walking shoes. I’ll always remember that advice. Dad had to work in all weathers and back then they didn’t give dustmen proper waterproofs or waterproof boots. 

Despite COVID, we were able to attend Dad’s funeral, but we had to wear masks and sit in our ‘bubbles’. Only 30 people were allowed to attend, and we couldn’t hug anyone. Dad loved a party and wanted everyone to get together at his funeral and celebrate his life and to tell family stories. We couldn’t get everyone together then, but we managed to have a bigger celebration of his life last summer. And of course, we played ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ in his honour at the funeral which we would have enjoyed. 

Hannah and her dad at her wedding

I also wanted to raise money in memory of my friend Bob who was also a Martlets patient. He died at the age of 43. That’s my age and it really brought home how cancer can happen to anyone, not just older people. 

Bob was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and died very recently. We went to junior school together and had stayed in contact via Facebook. Bob became unwell during the first COVID lockdown. Like a lot of people he put off going to see his GP as that wasn’t easy during the pandemic. By the time the doctors discovered he had cancer, it had already spread and he was given a terminal diagnosis. He put up an incredible fight and Martlets helped him every step of the way. The message he wanted to get across to everyone was ‘if you’ve got any symptoms that are worrying you, get checked out immediately, don’t ignore them’.  

So, I’ll be thinking of Dad and Bob when I do this challenge and they’ll inspire me to make it through. I hope I’ll raise some money to help keep Martlets caring so they can continue to support other local people who are facing terminal illness.