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“Walking every day helped me get over my grief”

Rhiannon Packer, 48, a Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University lost both her father and grandmother to cancer. They were both cared for at the Marie Curie Cardiff and the Vale Hospice in Penarth and Rhiannon is now doing all she can to raise money for the charity that supported her family through tough times.

“When dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer almost 10 years ago, it hit us all really hard,” said Rhiannon, of Penarth.

“I can remember that week as a whirlwind of emotions; my daughter was born on the Monday, my husband was made redundant on the Wednesday, and dad was diagnosed on the Friday – it was a really challenging time.

“Dad’s cancer was quite aggressive and he was told that he had about 5 years to live, and this was indeed the case, as he died five years later. Towards the end of his life, a Marie Curie nurse came to our home and provided amazing care. Mum wanted him to stay at home, but dad wanted to be in the hospice, as I think he didn’t want mum to have to provide the majority of his care. Dad spent the last two weeks of his life at the hospice and the whole family was with him at the end.

Rhiannon’s dad Anthony with his grandchildren

“It was a really difficult time for us all and six months after he died, my gran, dad’s mum, found out she had lung cancer. She too, was cared for in the hospice and again the care by the nurses was second to none. The support was amazing.  Everyone was so kind and thoughtful. Even the little things that the nurses do make such a big difference.

“The care my family received was second to none.  The nurses not only looked after my father and gran, but also made sure that we as a family were okay as well.  At such a difficult time in our lives it was reassuring to know that they were receiving the best care possible and that our needs were part of that too.

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“After they had both passed away, I started looking for ways that I could fundraise for Marie Curie, to say thank you for the amazing support that my family had received and that’s when I came across Step into Spring. I wasn’t doing much exercise at the time, so I saw this as a way to kickstart my fitness again, as well as raising money to help other families going through the same situation as us.

“I really enjoyed the challenge of walking 10,000 steps a day – it encouraged me to get out into the fresh air. I would walk around the university campus at lunchtime and I bought myself a FitBit so I could accurately track how many steps I was doing.

Rhiannon with her son and daughter

“The whole family got involved with Step into Spring – my son and daughter would often join me for a walk. One time we went down to the seafront to get our steps up and it started pouring rain – we didn’t let it stop us, but we did reward ourselves with some chips to eat in the car before heading home!

“Walking every day helped me get over my grief, particularly it was a way of remembering my dad. It gave me a chance to think and reflect on everything that had happened and I know that dad’s still here in my heart.

“I ended up raising £630.00 and I was delighted with that. I couldn’t believe how generous people were. I’d definitely take on the challenge again, as it encouraged me to get active whilst doing something good for a charity that did so much for us.”

The charity’s Step into Spring campaign is challenging people to walk 10,000 steps or more every day in March as part of their annual fundraiser; the Great Daffodil Appeal.

Marie Curie hopes that Step into Spring will encourage people across the UK to put their best foot forward throughout the month, sponsored and supported by their friends and family, with the added feel-good-factor of raising vital funds.

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