TWO friends who are living with cancer and lost their spouses to terminal illnesses have gone more than the extra mile to support Prospect Hospice.
Paula Dack and Rod Beechey, who are in their seventies, walked 104,267 steps (just over 52 miles) and raised £1,450 for the hospice.
The friends, who live in Cricklade, began walking together when they formed a bubble during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Rod was used to walking, Paula had not walked long distances, but gradually she increased her fitness, and they decided to challenge themselves to do a walk and set themselves the target of completing 100,000 steps (50 miles) in a week for charity.
Paula, 71, said:
“Before lockdown, I walked half a mile or three-quarters of a mile locally. During the pandemic, Rod and I started walking together. At first, it was just around the block, and then it became a couple of miles.
“We kept challenging ourselves to go further, and sometimes we walked up to six miles a day. We then thought to ourselves, we should do a walk for charity.”
They started the sponsored walk – which they called ‘Stepping it out in our seventies’ – on the late May Bank Holiday weekend and completed it in six days. They walked around Cricklade, Latton and Cerney Wick and exceeded their 100,000 steps target.
“The weather was quite hot on some of the days, so it was challenging at times. Some days we walked twice, early in the morning and in the evening. I had a couple of blisters and lost a toenail, but we are so pleased we did it, and it was quite enjoyable!”
They were sponsored by family, friends and neighbours and are thrilled at the amount raised for the hospice.
Rod, 75, said:
“We thought it would be good if we raised a couple of hundred pounds for the hospice, but we were overwhelmed and delighted at the generosity of everyone who supported us.”
Rod and Paula both have cancer and have supported each other since their spouses died. Rod’s wife, Rosie, died of cancer on 5 May 2016, aged 64, and was cared for by nursing staff from Prospect Hospice. Paula’s husband, Paul, died on New Year’s Eve 2018, 14 months after being diagnosed with a rare lung disease. He was 74.
Rosie was cared for by Prospect Hospice’s palliative nursing team, firstly at Great Western Hospital, Swindon, and later at home by the charity’s Prospect@Home service. Rod was also helped by a social worker at the hospice.
“The team at Prospect Hospice were a great help to Rosie and me all the way through. When Rosie was very ill, nurses came to our home every day to care for her until she died.
“The hospice also provided practical aids for our home to help Rosie, and a social worker was a wonderful support to me with practical things, including getting me a free parking permit that I used when I drove Rosie to appointments.”
Rod and Rosie were married for 47 years, and Paula and Paul were married for 50 years. Both couples had three children and were great friends.
Paula was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before Rosie died, and after treatment, the cancer went into remission, but last year a routine check-up found the cancer had returned.
She has regular treatment, and Rod is being monitored after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017.
“Our families had known each other for many years, and we are great friends, spending time together and going on mini breaks away. Rod and I have supported each other since our partners died, and we are able to talk about them freely, which helps keep Paul and Rosie real for us.
“Rod and I are both living with cancer. We are quite strong characters, and we’ve got a similar sense of humour. My philosophy is ‘what will be, will be.’ The cancer never goes away, but if we’re active and busy, we can put it to the back of our minds.
“We raised money for Prospect Hospice because it is a vital service locally, caring for terminally ill people and their families, including Rosie.”
Sheryl Crouch, head of income at Prospect Hospice, said:
“We’re so grateful to Paula and Rod for raising funds for Prospect Hospice and are glad that we were able to help Rod and his wife Rosie during her illness.
“Paula and Rod’s dedication and determination to complete their step challenge is so inspiring, and we thank them for supporting the hospice. They have shown how you can turn something as simple as walking into vital funds so our specialist teams can be there for others at the end of their life.
“We rely on donations from our community to provide end-of-life care to people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and all of our services are free to those who need them thanks to donations like this.”