ANTHONY Saxton from Sandiacre left for Canada five years ago and is cycling the distance from Toronto to Nottingham for a local charity.
Anthony, 43, will saddle up and cycle 3,500 miles on a stationary bike for Treetops Hospice Care, which supported his late grandmother, Mollie Southway, before her death in 2019.
Anthony works for finance company Capital One and, having spent fifteen years in their Nottingham office, he moved to Toronto – via London – to join Capital One Canada.
He was inspired to do the fundraising event as the end-of-life hospice holds a special place in his heart, having supported his late grandmother, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), and his grandfather, John, who turned 90 in January this year. Anthony is hoping to raise £3,500 for Treetops.
“I lived on the same street as my Nan and Grandpop during my school years. Both of my parents worked, so I would go to their house every day after school.
“When I think about them, I see them sitting in their individual chairs with the Daily Express crossword on the side and Countdown on the television; there was always a Tupperware container full of chocolate biscuits for us to enjoy and a bottle of Tizer in the cupboard.
“Nan was a real home-maker, and so, after her diagnosis for MND, it was difficult seeing her doing the things which she had done with ease for many years. Things like cooking and making a cup of tea. I only saw her twice after the diagnosis, and the changes were pretty dramatic.”
Treetops provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions such as cancer, MND, respiratory conditions and heart failure.
Following her death, Treetops launched a new support group for adults with MND aimed at offering peer and professional support for anyone affected by the disease – patients, families and carers – and named it ‘Mollies MND Support Group’ in her memory.
Richard Feist, from Allestree, Derby, was diagnosed with MND 20 years ago. The 72-year-old attends Mollie’s and says that the group, which has been held online during the Coronavirus pandemic, has been an important outlet to him, having spent most of the lockdown shielding.
“I like the virtual meetings very much. We need to talk to each other, and mutual support, sharing, encouragement and empathy are great for those with this condition if only just to appreciate the variety of ways it affects us.”
Prior to his diagnosis, Richard enjoyed playing golf and football and was a dab-hand at DIY, having converted a barn in France into a bungalow.
His condition went undiagnosed for three years; he put problems with his speech down to his teeth, but, in 2001, his condition deteriorated rapidly. He began to suffer spasticity and a lack of balance in his legs before, eventually, his deterioration plateaued, leaving Richard unable to walk and with pronounced speech impairment.
Daughter Rosie, who has been caring for her dad throughout lockdown, says it has been sad to see her mum and dad’s independence taken away and realises how much two otherwise independent people have come to rely on one another.
Recognising the importance of the MND support group, the 35-year-old attends with her dad and has recently been made the voluntary group leader.
“As a family, we have so much experience and advice to offer to those with MND. It is a lovely group, and we have met some amazing people. The biggest thing that has come from it for me is the realisation of how lucky we are and realising the unique and rare situation we are in with dad surviving 20 years.
“The meetings really bring to light how much more needs to be done and the need to advocate for all on there in regards to care, equipment and other things. I can relate to the families too, and I get a lot from not feeling like ‘it’s only us’.
“My dad loves to help and offer his experience and wisdom to others, which I think comes from his long career as a head-teacher. The group has made him feel like he is helping and is a hope for others.
“MND has changed our lives. We’ve developed an inner strength and a lust for life that otherwise may not have been there. Mollie’s Group is something I wish had been there 20 years ago, as I know it would’ve been such a support. I look forward to the group every month, and I am sure all the other attendees feel the same.”
You can help Anthony fundraise for Treetops by donating to his JustGiving page.
Further information about Mollie’s MND Support Group and other Treetops services can be found at: www.treetopshospice.org.uk.