Lynda and her husband Richard tell us their experience of taking on their own Big Step Forward challenge during lockdown after Lynda was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.
I first heard about the Big Step Forward while lying in a hospital bed in February, feeling very sorry for myself. I’d had 10-hour Whipple surgery, followed in quick succession by a massive bleed and then sepsis.
My husband, Richard, who used to spend hours every day chatting away to keep me entertained, was keen to go to London for the flagship Big Step Forward event that was originally planned for 16th May. At that stage though, I was feeling really down, and was sure that I was going to be stuck in hospital for the rest of my life. I left him to it. He managed to persuade a couple of our friends to join him, so he was happy that he was doing something. He set up the “Lynda’s gang” fundraising page.
But things got better, and I eventually got home mid-March, a week or two before lockdown started. I was very weak, and even walking round the house was a struggle. Having a shower would wipe me out for the rest of the day. I was determined to get stronger though.
By April, I was walking round the garden regularly. It was obvious that the flagship Big Step Forward event in London would have to be cancelled, but Richard was keen to still do it virtually. I decided that there was no reason for me not to join in, and to do as much as I could. So I set myself a 2km target, at that stage, which was a huge push for me.
Lynda and her son, Ewan
I’m a city councillor in Winchester, so I mentioned it in our WhatsApp group and asked if anyone would join me. They were all really supportive, and several did. The others donated generously. Being politicians, we all love a good press release, so I wrote one for my local paper, the Hampshire Chronicle. I also shared the fundraising page on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Lynda’s gang got bigger and our donation figure kept increasing.
For some people, it was the first thing they knew about me having pancreatic cancer. Those that googled it were horrified at the survival rates. But when I told them that I was one of the lucky ones – one of the 10% diagnosed early enough for surgery – they all got really behind the fact that we need to do so much more to raise awareness of this horrible disease.
The day of the walk was beautiful and sunny. I’d set up a WhatsApp group for my gang and people shared when they’d started, where they’d gone and photos from their walks. One of our friends made a great collage out of the photos taken. I managed my 2km, although I had to do it in two stages, and I was completely exhausted afterwards.
We’ve now raised over £10,500 and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. I’m going to aim to do 5km on 25th July. After that, the sky’s the limit!
Back in December 2019, my wife’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis came as a huge shock. Before Lynda fell ill, the only thing I knew about this cancer was its name. And a quick Google gave me the terrible survival statistics. But I also found the Pancreatic Cancer UK website, which became a great source of information as Lynda’s treatment progressed.
Lynda was fortunate that the cancer was found early enough for her to have surgical treatment, and she had Whipple surgery on 7th January. She had many serious complications after the surgery, which meant hours sitting with her in intensive care.
As she slowly recovered, I read more about the disease and wanted to do something to help others who are unlucky enough to get this diagnosis. We signed up for Pancreatic Cancer UK's, Big Step Forward, in May, hoping to raise some money to support their three aims of providing support to those with cancer and their families, lobbying for better treatment, and funding research.
And then Coronavirus hit, the country closed down and the Big Step Forward was postponed. Lynda was home from hospital at this stage and she was under doctor’s orders to try to walk a little more each day. So we decided we would keep our big walk on the original date. We roped in some friends who also agreed to walk – all separately from each other and with appropriate social distancing!
Richard and Lynda with their son Ewan
Close friends had been aware of Lynda’s diagnosis, but the walk became a way to have that conversation with others about what had happened to Lynda and how her slow recovery was progressing.
The sun shone on the day and everyone took photos. It was great for us all to be able to do something together, even if physically we had to be apart! The fundraising all went a bit viral and we have so far raised over £10,500.
And with the fundraising of all charities hit by the lockdown, it did really feel that every pound we could raise was helping keep Pancreatic Cancer UK’s vital work going.
Would you like to take on the Big Step Forward? Sign up today.