St Barnabas House South Downs Trek fundraising challenge
On Saturday 26th March, 115 people took on the St Barnabas House South Downs Trek, walking 26.2 miles across the South Downs, and are set to raise £49,000 for the hospice.
Many of those who took part in the South Downs Trek did so in memory of a family member or friend cared for by the hospice. This included 37-year-old Olivia from Hassocks, who took on the South Downs Trek in memory of her mum, Michelle, and raised £10,000.
Olivia took on the South Downs Trek with her three brothers, 46 year old Warren, 44 year old Paul, 41 year old Gary, and 38 year old husband, Yosef. “Mum loved walking, so this was the perfect challenge for us,” said Olivia. “In her last few days, Mum asked us to fundraise for St Barnabas House to say thank you for the care she received, and we would never not do what she told us to!”
Raising £10K for the South Downs Trek in memory of Mum
“In September 2020, amidst uncertainty across the world, we didn’t know what was just around the corner for us as a family,” said Olivia. Following investigations due to swelling under her arm, Michelle was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer that had spread to lymph nodes under her arm and in her collarbone.
Michelle had an intense course of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and two operations, and the family received the news that the tumour in her breast had gone and most of the cancer in her lymph nodes had been reduced. Michelle then had more chemotherapy to try and clear the rest of the cancer.
“Throughout this difficult time, Mum made sure she lived life to the full and continued to look after our family.” After a summer together with time on the beach, in September 2021, Michelle suffered from seizures and was admitted to hospital. “After some investigation, we were told the devastating news that the cancer had spread to her brain. And, once again, our world had been turned upside down.
“We were told that these tumours could be treated, and she was booked in for radiotherapy in early October.” However, in the weeks leading up to her operation, Michelle started to have many other symptoms which were a cause for concern.
“After many scans and trips to hospital later, we unfortunately received the heart-breaking, devastating, and earth-shattering news that Mum’s illness was terminal and she only had weeks to live,” said Olivia. Michelle was diagnosed with Leptomeningeal Disease, meaning the cancer had spread to the lining of her brain and spine. A few days later, Michelle was referred to St Barnabas House hospice.
“Mum was, understandably, reticent to leave her beloved family home, knowing it was unlikely she would ever return, but she showed unbelievable courage and took the journey to the hospice. We were all nervous about going, but as soon as we arrived so many of our worries and concerns were alleviated. The team were simply incredible.” On 4th November 2021, Michelle passed away at St Barnabas at the age of 68.
“Mum spent her last five weeks at St Barnabas House, and we would never have got through that time without them. There are no words to express the gratitude we feel towards the staff for the way they looked after our family. Everyone at the hospice was incredible, from the nurses and care assistants to the receptionist and cleaners.
“Because of St Barnabas House, we could be a family for her final few weeks, and not her carers. We will be forever grateful for the quality time they enabled us to have with her and the kindness they showed us all.”
When asked why the family wanted to take on the South Downs Trek in memory of her mum, Olivia said: “You never want someone you love to have to receive the care of a hospice, but my goodness you don’t realise how much you need them until you need them.
“We want to help as many families as possible to be looked after by St Barnabas House like we were. We can never repay the hospice for what they did for us, but we are going to give it a good go!”
To sponsor Olivia’s fundraising on the South Downs Trek in memory of her mum, please visit www.justgiving.com/oliviasalameh
To find out more about St Barnabas House, visit www.stbh.org.uk.