After losing her brother John to cancer in July 2015, Brenda Potter from Holywood, County Down in Northern Ireland set herself the challenge of walking the Great Wall of China. The trek helped her come to terms with her loss, and to raise money for Marie Curie – a charity very close to her heart.
DEALING WITH LOSS
‘The staff at the Marie Curie hospice, Belfast were so kind to John when he was with them, and they really took care of all of us after he passed away too. So when my sister-in-law Karen said she was going to sign up for Marie Curie’s Great Wall of China trek, I decided to sign up and show my support too. My husband Stephen thought I had lost the plot, but he also understood it was something I needed to do to help me grieve.’
ONE STEP AT A TIME
‘Once I’d made the decision to go, I started on my training straight away. I began by walking 2-3 miles after work each day with my headphones on – adjusting my pace to match the tempo of whatever song I was listening to! Then I gradually increased the length of my walks until I was going for 9-10 miles at a time – complete with walking boots, backpack, walking poles and a water bladder just like I would be in China.
‘To stop myself from getting bored by my training, I’d plan my walks to finish at friends’ and relatives’ houses so I could catch up with them after I’d put the miles in. And as an extra challenge, I’d time myself to see if I could knock a few minutes off my journey whenever I walked one of my regular routes.’
‘Sadly Karen developed sciatica and couldn’t come on the trek, so I set off to Belfast airport on my own. I was nervous but very excited, and instantly felt completely at ease with everyone else – we were all in the same boat. What I wasn’t prepared for though was how overwhelmed with emotion I became when we landed in China.
‘The trek is something I will never forget. It was challenging and emotional, but also healing, and the other trekkers were all so incredibly inspiring. At different times along the way, John’s face would appear in my mind spurring me on whenever I started to struggle. For me, the last leg of the trek was particularly emotional. I found myself crying and talking to John while I walked. But then, with the encouragement of the other trekkers, I was able to run across the finish line to collect my medal!’
BRENDA’S FUNDRAISING TIPS
- Kick-start your fundraising with Brenda’s tips – she set herself a goal of £11,000!
- Write to your MP. Mine put me in touch with the local police officer in charge of charity street collections.
- Let your boss know what you’re up to. When I sent a letter to my head office, they donated £500!
- Get your friends and family involved – my son tweeted one of his favourite bands and they donated a signed LP that we auctioned off on eBay for £200.
- Hold a disco or raffle night. My local club let me use their venue and the DJ offered to play for free. Then we sold tickets and various friends and family donated prizes for us to give away in the raffle.
- Ask your local supermarket if you can help customers pack their bags in exchange for a donation. My husband would always turn up to help me pack the bags too.
- Send letters to all your local businesses so they know what you’re up to – you never know how they might be able to help out.
- Plan ahead. It can take time to reach your goal but it really is possible.
ABOUT MARIE CURIE
Marie Curie provides care and support to people living with a terminal illness, and their families. By taking part in an overseas challenge, like Brenda, you’ll raise vital funds to help provide even more care. Marie Curie believes that everyone living with a terminal illness should be able to get the most from the time they have left. Its nurses care for people in their own homes, when they’re needed most, while its hospices are at the heart of communities around the UK.
To sign up to a Marie Curie overseas challenge, click here or call 0800 716 146