When Jo Priston’s good friend, Kerry, died of cancer she wanted to do something positive to help support her husband and children. Having already signed up to run the London Marathon, she decided to use the opportunity to raise funds for HOLG.
“Sadly, I lost my very good friend of ten years, Kerry, on 7th August. She was only 33 and just a lovely, beautiful young mum. She had a son, eight-year-old Kyran and a daughter Danni, 12 who is actually best friends with my daughter. They went to nursery, primary school and now secondary school together.
“I really wanted to do something to help them. I was due to run the marathon, so a couple of weeks after Kerry died, I contacted her husband, Bob and asked him if there was a charity that had helped him and the family that he’d like me to raise funds for. I was surprised when he suggested HOLG. I’d never heard of it, but he said they’d been brilliant while Kerry was ill. He told me all about them and how amazing they’d been with the children. He said that for now, HOLG was giving them space to let the grieving process sink in but that they would be continuing to support them over the coming months.
“I contacted Pam at the charity to find out more and tell them what I was planning. She was so helpful and even explained that my daughter and I would be eligible for help too, if we thought we needed it.
“Although I’m a runner and I’ve done long distances before – up to 20 miles – I was always one of those people that said they’d never do a marathon. But I decided to apply last year. I didn’t get a place in the actual London event but was offered the opportunity to take part virtually. Training was quite difficult. Kerry was ill for 15 months and we knew she was terminal so my head wasn’t really in it. I didn’t really know if I wanted to do it, but now I’m so pleased I did.
“I’m a member of the ‘Your Pace or Mine’ (YPOM) running group and our run leader helped devise a route involving four 6.5-mile laps of Sittingbourne. She organised it so we started from her house which meant we could leave a change of clothes there, grab food, water, and make toilet stops, which was great.
“Five of us from the group ran the whole course. One of them was my best friend who’d run five marathons before. Other group members did the first lap with us and our run leader did the last two. We all really kept each other going. People came along to cheer us on, there were some on bikes supporting us and we had our bibs on with numbers so we got a lot of toots from passing traffic. It was a really good day!
“I did have some tears on the way round though. Just thinking about Kerry and what she’d be saying – “What are you doing woman? You’re absolutely mad!” I think she would be really proud though, that I was doing it for her children.
“I managed to complete it in 6 hours, 24 minutes which I was pleased with but I wasn’t aiming to do it in a particular time, I just wanted to finish it before midnight, which is what the rules of the virtual race state. If I was just doing it for the sake of it, it would’ve been a lot harder but because I was doing it for her, I would’ve walked or crawled to get across the finish line, whatever it took.
“My initial target was £500 but I’ve now raised £1,000 which is incredible.”
“The days after the marathon have been quite difficult. People have been asking me why I did it and I tell them about Kerry which obviously makes me emotional. It’s still very raw. We had a mums’ WhatsApp group that Kerry was part of. I still find myself thinking she’s going to message me something funny. There are five of us on the group and we all make sure we speak a lot, go out together and keep her memory alive.
“I work for the Kent oncology centre at Maidstone Hospital as a medical secretary so in a way, it’s been really hard to think that we couldn’t save Kerry. But it really helps to know that I’m supporting a charity that will provide practical support to Bob and the children now. It feels like I’m doing something really useful for her family.
“I hope that by raising funds for HOLG, I can help raise awareness of the great work they do so that people like Kerry’s family know they’re there if they ever need them.”
Kerry’s family was supported by our pre-bereavement service; when a family knows someone is going to die, we can help them to make memories, talk about any concerns, answer questions, talk about the funeral and really prepare the children for the death.
Please get in touch if you or someone else would like to know more. Referrals are easy to send, and all of our support is free.