Susan and Steve Wright recently completed a virtual cycle ride from Merstham to Paris in memory of Susan's Mum, Janet who was cared for St Catherine's Hospice. Here, Susan shares how the hospice supported her Mum, and why she and her husband took on such an innovative fundraiser to raise funds.
"My Mum, Janet, was under the care of St Catherine's for 10 weeks last summer after she was diagnosed with cancer at the end of May 2019. It was sudden, quick and aggressive and she passed away in mid-September.
When Mum first found out she was unwell she wanted to go the hospice
A bed wasn't available so she was looked after at home. Nurses came in morning and evening. It was a blessing knowing that Mum was being looked after and somebody was giving her care as I'm so not a nurse!
Mum would often call on me though as it was difficult for her to keep up with the medicine she was on. I remember she rang me in a panic once, and I had to drive over to her house, as she'd lost her tablets and couldn't remember if she'd taken them. She hadn't as they were no longer required, so had been taken away to avoid confusion. Even though we drew a chart for her with details of what tablet to take when, by mid-August, it wasn't easy for any of us to keep Mum's medicine under control. It was changing daily, so the hospice suggested a stay at St Catherine's to help her stabilise.
When Mum was at St Catherine's, she looked and felt better. All the stress of worrying about her medication was taken out of our hands. It had been a challenge to keep on top of it, but that worry was lifted from Mum's and our shoulders.
The level of care at the hospice was above and beyond
Mum was happy there and we all knew she'd be given her medication when she needed it. It made us feel better knowing she was being looked after. Knowing she was being so well cared for at the hospice meant I could leave her in the evenings and sleep through the night.
We'd been planning to take Mum on a family trip to Paris for her 75th birthday
Unfortunately, due to her illness, we never got there, but during lockdown, my husband, Steve and I looked at what we could do to raise money for St Catherine's. We decided to cycle 287 miles virtually from Mum's home in Merstham to Paris in her memory.
As non-cyclists we decided to do the challenge across 10 weeks, the same length of time Mum was under the hospice's care. It meant we had to ride an average of five miles every day. There were a few days I got up at 5.30am to fit my cycle in before work and to make sure I kept up with the miles. When you're doing something for a purpose, there's an added incentive, so you don't mind things like getting up early. I actually quite enjoyed it!
We finished our cycle a day earlier than planned and completed it on the same day as the Tour De France's final day which was fun. We took a selfie as we crossed the finish line and Steve joked people had come out with banners for us! We wore our St Catherine's T-shirts and wristbands, and when we arrived in 'Paris' we celebrated by sitting in the garden and having a glass of fizz!
It's the first challenge like this I've ever done. Although some people would have done it in a much quicker time, it was a genuine challenge for Steve and I. He has dodgy knees and neither of us cycle.
We set a target to raise £574 for the hospice as this was the equivalent of the mileage of both of us from Mum's house to Paris. We didn't take the shortest route either as we chose the same route we would have driven Mum to Paris on, down the M25, M20 and through the Eurotunnel.
We updated our JustGiving page when we reached milestones and it was brilliant to see donations pour in. In the end we raised £700. We know how important that funding is from our experience when Mum couldn't get a bed when she first needed one, so we're really pleased.
If Mum knew about our challenge, she'd had probably said what on earth are you doing? But I think she'd be quite pleased and proud of us."
To make a donation to support your local hospice so more people in your community can receive vital care please visit: www.stch.org.uk/donate or call 01293 447361. Or to find out how you can take on your own fundraiser to raise money for St Catherine's please visit: www.stch.org.uk/diy