Barry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of oesophageal cancer while recovering from heart surgery. He underwent chemotherapy but there were complications and, sadly, Barry died the day before his 34th wedding anniversary.
For his wife, Anne, it was like losing half of her: “It’s hard when you lose your best friend. We grew up together, we grew together.” Anne struggled to come to terms with her husband’s death, but found great comfort in her two daughters, Holly and Megan, her dog Charlie, and her family and friends, who let her talk when she needed to talk, and cry when she needed to cry.
Before he died, Barry had wanted to be cared for at home, and Heart of Kent Hospice had been working with Maidstone Hospital to make that possible. “The help we received from the Hospice made me realise how valuable their support is. It’s so important that the Hospice is there for the people who need it.”
Eventually Anne felt ready to return to work and, along with her youngest daughter, Megan, began planning a charity fundraising adventure to the Great Wall of China in aid of Heart of Kent Hospice. The pair arranged their trip through Charity Challenge, a group that specialises in organising fundraising adventures.
“Charity Challenge arranged everything, including our accommodation and our guides, and we were supported by them every step of the way.” Anne was particularly moved by the camaraderie among her fellow walkers: “Our group really bonded and we shared our stories and helped one another. There was a great team spirit and we were all united by a common goal.”
While she was at the Great Wall, Anne tied a ribbon to a tree with her husband’s name on it. Barry’s death had inspired Anne to do something extraordinary, and it had changed her life: “When you’re married to someone for a long time you find it hard to think of yourself as an individual. Over the years, I’d lost a little confidence – I was Barry’s wife and I was a mum. Going to the Great Wall of China not only enabled me to raise funds for Heart of Kent Hospice but it gave me back a sense of identity.”
Anne raised £300 for Heart of Kent Hospice and is already planning her next fundraising adventure. “It was such an incredible experience and I came to realise that life goes on. I can’t put into words the feeling I had from completing the challenge – I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”