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John Piears story

john-piearsJohn Piears explains below why he chose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro last year for Princess Alice Hospice:

‘Cancer Widower’; I never thought I’d be describing myself as that. But at 4:50pm on 8 October 2015, my status as ‘Husband’ slipped away from me, along with the woman I loved.

Beata was just 37 years old when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, shattering our happiness in a heartbeat. Sadly, it had already spread when it was detected. She did everything she could to try to fight her illness during her three year battle. But, in the end, she eventually ran out of options and was referred for palliative care.

I felt very emotional when we arrived at Princess Alice Hospice. However, once settled into the room, we immediately felt safe. Doctors and nurses busied around us and everything was being done to make Beata as comfortable as possible. It was a huge relief to be there. The care we received at the Hospice was incredible. The nurses showed the most amazing sensitivity and compassion and were truly angels amongst all the sadness and despair.

I decided I wanted to give something back to the Hospice for the support they gave to me and Beata. So when reading their latest edition of ‘intouch’ magazine, the challenges section stood out to me and in particular, the Mount Kilimanjaro Trek.

Why Kilimanjaro? I wanted to do something significant that reflected the scale of the challenge Beata faced, and also the leaflet-and-postercourage and determination that she showed during her fight. So, climbing the world’s highest free-standing mountain seemed appropriate!

My friend Colin offered to do the climb with me, so in September this year, we joined a group of 15 trekkers to make our ascent to the summit – nearly 6km above sea level, where the air has less than half the amount of oxygen we’re used to and where temperatures can be as low as -25°C.  We hiked through four climatic zones to get there, starting off in temperatures of about 30°C. Each day of the ascent, we drank around 4 litres of water to keep hydrated and burned around 5,000 calories of food and fat!

Before the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro, I had set myself the task of raising as much sponsorship as I could for the Hospice and for the cancer charity Yes To Life. This meant not only making sure I built up my fitness and walked as much as possible, I also spent my spare time organising fundraisers, from coffee mornings to quiz nights. My friends and family were so supportive, helping me raise thousands of pounds. I even staged my own treadmill challenge at the Surrey County Show, where I simulated climbing the height of Kilimanjaro in a day (well, 9 hours and 12 minutes, to be precise!)

I’m glad to be able to report that the trek itself was an equal success, despite picking up a foot injury in training – we had an amazing time and were privileged to be able to share the experience with a really lovely group of people. The Kilimanjaro trek was one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done, particularly as we approached the summit in the dark, when the air was thin and cold, and every small step took a herculean effort.  For most of the ascent we couldn’t see the summit, but in a way that was no bad thing – just as in life, you don’t always need to be able to see where you want to get to; just know that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t give up, you will get there.

I wanted to raise money for Princess Alice Hospice, to thank them for doing everything they could to ease Beata’s suffering, while helping us all to make the most of her final days with great sensitivity and compassion. Shortly after Beata moved to the Hospice, she said to me: “We were so lucky to get this”.  That’s how we both felt – grateful to have had access to such wonderful care, in a calm and peaceful environment.

If you’d like to read more about John’s challenge, please visit:

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