I’ve been wanting to write this blog since I first signed up to run Plymouth’s half marathon in May. To try to explain why I’ve chosen to raise money for Marie Curie rather than any other charity.
Training for the half marathon is proving to be my biggest ever physical and mental challenge and I would have given up by now if Marie Curie didn’t mean so much to me.
So here goes…..
I want you to close your eyes and think about the person you love more than anything or anyone.
Imagine sitting in countless hospitals with them while the news gets worse, the options become more limited and hope starts to fade away.
Until you are left with the dreaded day your told that the person you love is terminal.
There is NO more options, no more treatment, just the knowledge that yours (and their) whole world is changing and you will lose that person.
You don’t know how long exactly they have, you don’t know how much they (and you) will suffer before the last breath is taken. You don’t know what to say or do to make it easier for them.
And you don’t have a clue how to deal with the news yourself. You have to block out the reality and survive day by day until the final day when your world implodes and collapses in on itself……
It took just six months for my beloved dad to go from healthy to passing away. It took six weeks almost to the day of his terminal diagnosis for him to take his last breath. For my world to implode.
We got little support from anyone. No Macmillan care. No palliative care nurses. No help for my dad to come to terms with his diagnosis. No help for his family. Just our love and my knowledge from being a carer was all we had.
When the cancer spread to his spine and made him go off his feet they left us (my sister and I) to move in to his flat to care for him.
To drag him from room to room on his commode. To have to sleep at the end of his bed so he didn’t fall in the night when he would try to stand to use the toilet because he’d forgotten he couldn’t. Nobody was there when his frustration and confusion turned into aggression towards me. When I almost gave myself a nervous breakdown. Only his GP listened to me and helped. Nobody else.
Then he began end of life and the worst five days of my life also began.
Surviving on little sleep (I managed 7hrs in five days) because I didn’t want him to pass away by himself so one of us always had to be awake.
I got his aggression. I got his anger and his frustration. I got to see my gentle giant of a dad scared for the first time. And I will forever have to live knowing one of the last things he said to me was that he hated me. And I will never be able to remember my dad without also remembering him slowly dying in front of me and feeling like I was responsible for his care.
It was four days before he passed away that Marie Curie was mentioned to me. But as the end was nigh and they are so incredibly underfunded they couldn’t help us.
You can’t change the past. But the more I learn about the services they are struggling to provide the more I think it would have been a god send to us. it would’ve helped my dad come to terms with his mortality. It would’ve given the people who loved him so very much support when the needed it most. It would’ve given us the chance to sleep safe in the knowledge that a trained nurse was with him. That we weren’t alone.
But we were alone all of us trapped in our own private hell. Except ironically we weren’t actually alone.
Marie Curie estimates that seven out of ten terminal patients and their families do not receive all the care and support they need (https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/globalassets/media/documents/policy/campaigns/changing-the-conversation-report.pdf)
With all the budget cuts continuing to happen to the NHS and people living longer then ever before it means that sadly I can’t see this situation getting better. It’s only going to get worse.
Marie Curie helps to take the burden away from the nhs but as it relies on funding and donations it hasn’t got a hope of being able to support every person with a terminal illness.
My heart goes out to everyone whose lost someone they love whether it was through a terminal illness or not. It’s all horrific. It’s all heart breaking. The only difference is that when someone is told they have a terminal illness they should be guaranteed support. They shouldn’t have to spend their final days scared like my poor dad did.
So that is why I’m running the half marathon. I’m running it in memory of my dad who was so much more then his end. I’m running it to raise awareness about what Marie Curie provides and how underfunded they are. I’m running it to prove that something good has got to come from losing my dad. And lastly I’m running it because I can. Because I’m lucky that I’m alive and healthy (minus the pneumonia damaged lungs 😤)
So if anyone reading this can spare even a pound it’s a pound closer to making sure nobody else has to suffer like we (and countless other families) have.
If you can’t afford to sponsor me (and god I know times are tough especially in cornwall) then please share this blog. Maybe someone else you know can spare some money. Maybe another family will see it and contact Marie Curie when they need support.
Thank you to everyone whose taken the time to read this 😘😘😘
Growing up in a small seaside town in the UK I eventually came to realise there are three kinds of people.
Those that live there for their whole lives, happy and content to live in such a beautiful part of the country.
the second kind of people, those who get the hell out of Cornwall the first chance they get and head for the cities, the bigger towns, the different opportunities.
And then there’s people lik me. People who are proud to call Cornwall their home but the thought of never leaving there gives me the itchiest feet imaginable.
When I don’t have travel plans I feel like I’m slowly suffocating. I wish I could be content to build my life there, I’m envious of those that do.
Sometimes I wonder how different my life would’ve been if I had never boarded that plane to Ghana all those years ago….
I’d certainly have more money in the bank, maybe I’d have settled down and been one of those contented people I secretly envy sometimes.
But I did get on that plane nine years ago and I caught the travel bug. Africa got under my skin
My travel/obsession has seen my passport fill with 42 international stamps, countless visas, 9 countries, and experiences I could never adequately describe to a non-traveller.
I’ve seen the sunrise over Kenya and Tanzania whilst sat on the top of Kilimanjaro.
or the slave castles of Ghana
But I have seen and experienced such incredibly mind blowing generousity from the African community. They treat you like a member of their family. Always giving you food even when they don’t have enough for themselves.
I’ve met amazing people and children who have become lifelong friends. Who inspire me every day. Whether it’s because of their huge hearts, their senses of humour or because I think of them as my African family…
most of all I achieved my lifelong dream of living in Africa working for a charity for a year.
There’s so many more things I’ve seen and experienced. The little things that I’ll never forget. The hug from a child who remembers you when you return.
Africa (but particularly Uganda) will always have an unexplainable hold on my heart.
I’m ok with never having much money because it’s all being spent on paying back travel debts, saving up for future travels, or actual travelling.
I’m ok with never having much in the way of relationships because I’m lucky enough to have an incredible group of friends who are always there when I return and always wish me well when I leave.
I have had to make sacrifices, I’ve missed out on dear friends getting married, or having kids, or the people who sadly passed away whilst I was away.
I’ve missed my friends and family every time I’ve gone away. I’ve had malaria, broken bones, ruptured abscesses, been hospitalised, and all manner of health problems when I would have done anything to have my friends and family by my side.
But I’ve learnt so much about myself, and become so independent that I genuinely believe I could wake up in any country in any situation and survive it. As long as I’ve had my morning coffee and fag 😂
I love my life, I love the excitement of travelling and I love how excited I get at returning home and even more I love that I have no idea where my future b will take me but that’s ok because wherever I end up I will survive it and grow stronger 💪🏻
Why am I so sure of this? Because I have the best support network waiting for me back home.
Because the truest saying of all is, Not all who wander are lost….. were just too damn inquisitive, we want to see what the world has to offer with our own eyes 🤗 🌍
Safe in the knowledge that my friends will always be back home waiting for me.
I’m no travel virgin I’ve traveled in Africa but it has always been part of a volunteer project or organised like when I climbed Kilimanjaro it was never with a “I have no real plans” kind of solo travel there was always an itinerary, people to meet along the way, a goal in mind.
To be perfectly honest the idea freaked me out a bit. Partly because I have no sense of direction, a thick Cornish accent that means no matter how hard I try few locals ever understand what I’m trying to say in their native language, sometimes they don’t even understand my English!
I am also accident prone, incapable of packing light and don’t have a great run of luck when it comes to finding myself in absurd situations that no normal traveller ever would…. It’s no secret that my dads hair started turning white around the time I started to travel… Sorry dad!
So all in all I had absolutely no intention of travelling solo after I had finished my TEFL internship in Thailand…. Travel with people (ideally people with a good sense of direction) and see more of south east Asia that way love to, see it by myself, i don’t think so!
So what changed that led me to write this whilst all by myself in Cambodia?
I’d love to say that it was something profound, a near death experience or a sudden display of direction/confidence but that would be a lie…
The truth is I’ve wanted to travel Cambodia for years, and when my travel plans changed with the people I was going to travel Cambodia with I was left with two choices. Admit defeat and fly back to the UK from Thailand or bite the bullet and travel by myself…
Well my flight was booked from Cambodia back home. That played a big part in it. The second part was for all my fancy and somehow legitimate excuses the real reason I’d stopped travelling solo since 2012 was fear.
Fear of being lonely, fear of getting lost, of getting hurt, of getting scared…. Unknowingly fear had been ruling my travels for years.
Did I really want to miss travelling around Cambodia because I was scared? Like hell I did.
So that first intimidating afternoon in Siem reap I made myself go and explore the local town.
I discovered that it was a lot of fun. Going where I wanted to go, stopping when I wanted to, haggling in the market, drinking coffee in a cafe, getting a moto (half motorcycle, half tuk tuk) and then finding my sense of direction.
From waking up at 4am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Siem Reap;
To seeing the carved faces of Bayon Temple (Wat Thom)
To then travelling down to the south coast and the paradise that is Otres Beach (Sihanoukville) where I shared my room with a variety of wildlife including this poor fellow I found swimming in my toilet….
As for being lonely, I found I loved my own company, hell no one finds me funnier than I do and there was always people to chat to. Even making friends with a Cambodian guy nicknamed Beyoncé who kept giving me free things for having a big bum like her….
Not to mention the ability to spend as much time lazing on the beach as i wanted… Getting up when i wanted, going to sleep when i wanted and being un-apologetically vain with my photos.
then travelling to the capital Phnom Penh and finding my way around all by myself for the first time ever. Before heading to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields which frankly deserves a blog all of his own…
Don’t get me wrong there has been points when I’ve wanted a friend near me to experience it. Like the beautiful sunsets/sunrises or to fish the rat out of my toilet so I didn’t have to but I’ve gained more than I’ve lost.
Life is an adventure. Somewhere along the line I forgot that, my fear took over….
But if you are the kind of person who craves the road less traveled and you want to increase your confidence and get to know yourself better then in all honesty it really is the road best traveled alone….
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