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28 Day Marathon

24 March, 2021

Written by Alan Smith in loving memory of his mum, Norma

On January 7th 2021, I lost my much loved Mum to Pulmonary Fibrosis, aged 76.

Although she was diagnosed some years previously, she didn’t make a fuss over the diagnosis, and in fact it was only in August 2019 that I discovered she was suffering from the condition. It was after the funeral of my boss’s wife, Andrea, who was due to go to Newcastle for a double lung transplant only days after she died, that I found out. After paying my mum a visit on that day, she enquired as to what had taken Andrea who was in her late 50’s at the time of her passing. “That’s young” she said. “Was it cancer?”.

“No. It was Pulmonary Fibrosis” I replied, not even expecting her to know what that was.

“That’s what I’ve got” was her reply. To say I was shocked was an understatement!  Naively, I assumed that she “didn’t have it as bad” as Andrea, as she appeared to be her normal relatively healthy self. I now know that she was just in the early phase of the disease. Mum soldiered on for the next 18 months, not letting anyone other than my dad know and understand the effects the disease was having on her.

COVID-19 came around, and mum was staunch in her sticking to the rules of the day, allowing family to visit the home when restrictions allowed, but only at the back door with her staying inside. During this time, an oxygen machine was obtained, and a stair lift fitted. Even though my siblings and I were aware of these developments, perhaps burying our heads in the sand, we remained blissfully unaware of how ill she had become.

She simply didn’t want us or her 8 grandchildren to know. Therefore when she passed away, despite her long fight, it was still a massive shock to us all.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were limited to a funeral of 20 family members and close friends, robbing mum of what would have undoubtedly been a large gathering to give her a good send off. She was active in the church, holding many roles over a number of decades, and was also a keen bowler.

As a result, as a family, we felt slightly robbed of an opportunity to raise some money for a suitable charity at the funeral. That was when I decided to undertake a challenge to raise some funds. I have read that to a sufferer, taking a few steps can sometimes feel like a marathon. I decided to run mum’s marathon for her. During the month of February, I undertook the challenge of running at least 26.2 miles, no mean feat for an overweight man in his 40’s who hadn’t run the streets for over 20 years! With the support and company of my wife, Lindsay, on 28th February, I ran the last few miles with a playlist of mum’s favourite music ringing in my ears to spur me on.

Although mum never called on the support of any charity throughout her illness, after some research I decided that I wanted to raise funds for The Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust, in the hope that however much raised would go on to help support others in our position. With an original target of £200, a JustGiving page was set up.

With the fantastic support of family, friends and colleagues, this target was easily passed, and a final total of £1,585 was raised. A massive thank you goes out to all that supported me, and I know my mum will be proud of what we have collectively achieved.

I’m sure the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust will put these funds to good use and on behalf of sufferers and their families all over the country, I’d like to pay a massive thanks to them for all they do. Keep up the good work and stay safe!