Floating in the Summer sky, 99 red balloons go by….

Sunday 10th January 2016 – first week of healthy eating completed, 3lbs lost and also my first long run of the year, 9 miles under the belt.

It is also the day my beautiful auntie would have been 52.

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Back in 2008 we first found out that auntie Linda had stomach cancer. Her consultant whisked her into the Luton & Dunstable Hospital in August 2008 and removed her tumour. I remember visiting her in hospital, once she had been released from high dependency unit and put on the ward. She had no strength and had to learn to walk and hold herself all over again.

I presented her with an invitation to my wedding in May 2009 and told her, she’s got no excuse not to make a full recovery. She had to be at my wedding. When she was finally discharged from the hospital in January 2009, she moved in with mum and dad. Over the course of the next few months we watched her fight to get back to full health, despite being very weak and tired she made it to my wedding. Her fight continued, but she’d done it, she’d kicked cancer’s butt, and she seemed like she was back to her amazing self.

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In the summer of 2013 we got the news that we prayed we would never hear, not only had the cancer returned, unfortunately there was no treatment that could help reduce or remove it, surgery would be fatal, this was it. The word terminal was just so blunt, it cut like a knife. Auntie Linda remained positive, and actually provided comfort to us.

Unfortunately, shortly before her 50th birthday she was admitted into Luton & Dunstable hospital with a chest infection. We’d organised a 50th birthday party for her, family flew in from Scotland, however she couldn’t make it, she was still in hospital. I visited her after work a few times each week, and it became apparent that auntie Linda would not be coming home from the hospital.

On Monday 27th January 2014 she was transferred from the hospital to Keech Hospice. I went straight to Keech after work, and as I walked into her room, I was surprised to see her sitting up in her armchair, TV on and eating eggy bread.

At Keech they worked around the clocks to make sure she was comfortable, well looked after and had everything she needed. She really enjoyed it there, describing it as ‘just like Trivago – a five star hotel’. I would visit at lunch times, and after work, and she would ask me about my running and how work was. She would tell me off for coming to visit her, saying go and see your friends, or go home to Harrison and Scott, don’t waste your time sitting here. She would tell me off for crying, especially when she spoke of her dying. She was a much stronger and braver lady than I was. In the final couple of weeks, I would just sit quietly, whilst she was sleeping, it was comforting just being in the same room, and because Keech was such a warm welcoming place, it helped.

On Friday 14th March, I received a call very early in the morning from my mum. As soon as I saw her name, I knew what she was going to say. I answered and she said, ’Auntie Linda is with the angels now.’ The tears rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t think they’ve ever stopped.

I drove to Keech that morning, and spent the whole morning comforting, and being comforted by my mum, aunties and cousins. I was able to hold Auntie Linda’s hand, kiss her head and say goodbye.

Not only were the staff hugely caring towards Auntie Linda, they also offered the family invaluable support. Keech made her resting room very special. There were scented candles, flowers, it was beautiful. It’s the little touches like that, which make saying goodbye easier.

This is the reason why I am raising money for Keech Hospice. I am running Milton Keynes Marathon, and numerous other races over the course of the year. Please spare some money, even a little, for this very worthwhile cause https://www.justgiving.com/forLindaHerkes

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