Charity challenge pushes Petra

Anyone who has ever cared for a loved one at the end of life will, I am sure, testify that it is one of the most demanding physical, mental and emotional challenges they have ever faced.

At times it can feel as though you’re slogging your way up a mountain, ill-equipped, with no experience and an overwhelming fear that the task is far beyond your capability.

So it was with our family when our mum Renate was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in 2009.

We knew she wanted to be home at the end, close to the people and things that made her feel most comfortable but try as we might, keeping her there – safe and comfortable round the clock – was a monumental task.

Just as our feet were losing their footing, Marie Curie’s nurses stepped in, picked us up and guided us to the inevitable summit. By offering free high quality hands on care overnight between 10 pm and 7am, our family survived the loss of mum.
My sisters, brother, the 11 grandchildren – we all made it to the top of that mountain in one piece because of Marie Curie and it left us forever thankful.

For six years we’ve hiked, biked, trekked, ran and raised a pot of funds so that other families like ours can know the gift of a Marie Curie nurse in their own hour of need.

But now my latest challenge – climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak – in September 2016 resonates more deeply than any other.

With a temperature range of 25 degrees on the valley floor to an anticipated minus 20 at the summit, our bodies will be forced to acclimatise rapidly to varying conditions.
Most worryingly, the altitude at 6000 metres can scupper the fittest of athletes. Of the 40,000 people who attempt the summit each year, 10 die and over 70% will experience some form of altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea and dizziness.
Ignore the signs and life-threatening swelling on the lungs or brain may ensue.

This is no holiday, make no mistake. In an age when it seems everyone and their uncle is taking on a challenge, it is easy to become complacent but the challenge is significant and it only takes one look at the stats to know potential risk to life is real too.

And yet, probably because it is so hard and it reminds me so much of the torturous journey we endured at the end caring for mum, I want to do it. To remember her, as a tribute to our wonderful nurses in the community and to pay it forward so another family like ours can have Marie Curie care at the end of life, makes the risks worth taking in my eyes. Luckily my family feel the same.

Pushing ourselves – physically, mentally and emotionally – to keep going when every fibre of our being is shouting ‘stop!’ is what we do to get through the tough stuff in life but more than that, doing these things reminds us, we are alive, we count and we can make a difference with the time we have on this planet. In Africa, when everything hurts and I feel sick to the core, I’ll be thinking of all the beautiful families we help and I’ll be sending them my love in every footstep.

To support Petra’s Kilimanjaro Challenge in aid of Marie Curie, visit,

For more information about Marie Curie, visit


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