As Wendy Freeland heads out for a run she has her mum Barbara’s favourite Motown music playing on her iPod.
Even when the going gets tough as she pounds the street quitting isn’t an option. She focuses on her reason for running and pushes on for the next mile.
Wendy is just a few weeks away from running her first ever half marathon – the Great Eastern Run – and she’s doing it to support Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, the charity which gave her and her family ‘nine extra days with mum’.
Barbara was admitted to Thorpe Hall at the end of February this year, just weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
“Mum’s grandchildren all have birthdays between November and February,” explains Wendy. “We had given her a calendar for Christmas with them all marked on before her diagnosis.
“She said there was no way she was going anywhere until after all the birthdays. She’d look at the calendar and focus on getting to the next date.”
Her family cared for Barbara at home as she wished. But providing that care became harder and harder. The turning point came when Barbara could no longer get out of bed to use the toilet.
Feeling her dignity was going she suggested Thorpe Hall Hospice may be a better place for her to be.
Wendy said: “Mum hadn’t really known we were there over the weekend and we barely had a conversation with her. But within hours of being at Thorpe Hall that Monday the transformation was just incredible.
“With the right medication and level of care she was sitting up in bed instead of being slumped over. The fluid had drained from her face. She was laughing and joking. And most importantly she was comfortable.”
The following nine days were full of love and laughter for the Freeland family.
“We went back to being her family because someone else was doing the caring,” said Wendy, a mum-of-three.
“She did colouring and drawing with the grandchildren and we wheeled her outside in her bed so she could watch them on the play equipment. They went from being scared about seeing nanny look so poorly to asking when they could go and see nanny because it was fun.”
Barbara was given a bath at Thorpe Hall, something the family hadn’t been able to manage at home.
Wendy said: “She was like a completely different woman afterwards. It was the first time she had had her hair washed properly for weeks. When we arrived to see her she was sitting in a chair looking all pampered and so happy. We almost expected her to get up and walk out the door.
“We really believe if she had stayed at home mum would have died that Monday. As it was we had nine more days.
“And they were good days when we could talk and laugh and the grandchildren could share and do things with her – nine more days to remember, nine more days of memories.”
Barbara was just 60 when she died, peacefully, at Thorpe Hall in March.
Now Wendy, who lives in Orton Brimbles, wants to say thank you for the care her mum received by taking on a challenge she never thought she’d do.
“My partner Steve is a really keen runner and I’ve often cheered him on from the sidelines,” said Wendy.
“I started doing a little bit of running after mum died and I found it helped, particularly when I listened to her favourite songs.
“We are so grateful for what Thorpe Hall did for us I wanted to raise money – being sponsored to do something so far out of my comfort zone felt worthwhile.”
Wendy (36) is sticking religiously to a training plan and is on course to complete the 13.1 mile run on October 8 – albeit a little slower than Steve.
“The whole family will be on route cheering me on and I know I’ll be hearing mum’s voice all the way round,” said Wendy. “It’s going to be emotional but it’s going to be worth it.”
If you’d like to follow in Wendy’s footsteps and join #TeamIncredible to run the Great Eastern Run in aid of Thorpe Hall Hospice, call the fundraising team on 01733 225999 or email Thorpe.firstname.lastname@example.org.