Emily Walls from Harpenden will join hundreds of other runners at the Herts 10k start line on Sunday 9 October, inspired by her own unique experience of Rennie Grove’s care.
Emily explains: “I was 3 years old when I first met Alex and his little sister, Sophie. They lived next door and from the day we moved in, I would wait by the fence to see them. I may have been an only child, but in my eyes I had gained the coolest big brother and sister.
“As we grew up together, with Alex and Sophie always protecting me, the bond between us strengthened. Although the family moved once Sophie went to university, we all kept in regular contact, rejoicing in each other’s successes and sharing each other’s heartache.
“In 2013, my big brother and his beautiful family were told the heart-breaking news: Alex had cancer - the extent unknown. The big brother I grew up with continued to live every day to its full potential. He accepted all offers of treatment, including radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and battled the disease for two years before the doctors said there was nothing more that could be done.
“What could be worse than effectively being told you are dying, and we think you only have two weeks left? However, Alex, being the courageous and undefeatable man he’d grown to be, completely flipped this into something positive.
“This is where the angels in disguise appeared, sent by Rennie Grove Hospice Care. Alex wanted to spend his final weeks - and moments - at home, surrounded by his incredible parents and inspirational sister. Due to his deteriorating health, he needed specialist hospice care and on-hand medical help to keep him comfortable. So Rennie Grove’s hospice at home nurses stepped in, and offered their help and services to the whole family, ensuring that Alex could live his life, the way he wanted, at home. The nurses were there for them all, night or day, physically, mentally and emotionally. Offering anything and everything they could, to let our dear loved one pass peacefully in a place that he knew and loved.
“So Alex spent his last days, at home, with his closest friends and family, listening to memories, making future plans for his loved ones, arranging his final goodbyes. He made the inevitable something bearable, and truly special, making sure there was not a single box he didn’t tick.
“After Alex died last year, on 28 September, I was inspired by the support, treatment and care that Rennie Grove made available to my hero and his sidekicks through the toughest and most testing times any human being can be put through. Whilst reading about Rennie Grove, I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone in the way Alex would have. I wanted to see how I could fundraise to allow others to pass the way they wish, with no regrets, and no unsaid words. I found that the annual Herts 10k was the charity’s flagship fundraiser, and that although it was fast approaching, I could still take part!
“So on Tuesday 6 October 2015, I entered, and pledged to raise £100 before the run took place that coming Sunday, the day before our final goodbyes to Alex. By the Sunday I had smashed my goal to pieces, and in fact raised £730 in memory of him, for Rennie Grove. At that point, I made a promise to myself and Alex, that I would do the Herts 10K every year. This time with a goal of £2,000.
“All the people I know and love, know full well how much I dislike walking and running! So until last year, I had never entered an event quite like this. I plan to do no training at all – and I’ll explain why. The obstacles Alex faced, and the challenges that arose - I cannot even begin to imagine how hard and impossible they were. So because of that, each step I take in the Herts 10K this year, I would like to be challenging, hard, and a reminder that not always, but sometimes, no matter how high the mountain is, or how complicated the challenge ahead could be, when you put your mind to it, and you tell yourself you can do it, you will achieve and conquer.
“I wish to help continue Alex’s legacy; his passion for all of the charities and genuine hearts that helped him grow to be the man he was. I hope I can help inspire others to fundraise too - and spread awareness of the support that, thanks to Rennie Grove’s angels in disguise, was available to Alex - my big brother and my hero.”
Gillian Barnett, Rennie Grove Director of Fundraising & Marketing, said: “Alex and Emily’s story is an inspiration. If you’ve been motivated to sign up and raise funds too, then register now at www.herts10k.com or call 01442 820740. Emily’s story proves that it really is possible to complete the Herts 10k even if you haven’t done anything like it before. But you can make it slightly easier on yourself by training in advance! To help support you in your preparation we’ve compiled training tips in conjunction with Harpenden Arrows at www.herts10k.com/training and a list of fundraising ideas at www.herts10k.com/sponsorship.