Running for Nicky with a smile…

After making a promise to his partner Nicky, James and his team are participating in the Brighton Half Marathon for the fourth year in a row. He shares his story...

Running for Nicky with a smile…

As a charity we are very lucky to have so many amazing people support our work and fundraise for us in many and varied ways. James is fundraising for us this weekend by taking part in the Brighton Half Marathon. He, along with a large group of family and friends, has done this for the past three years, following a promise he made to his partner, Nicky, who was cared for in our Inpatient Unit. But Nicky wasn’t his first partner to have been cared for in the unit.

Here is James’s story:

“In 2011 my girlfriend, Natalie, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. We were due to get married in Italy in August 2011 but had to postpone as Natalie needed to start treatment immediately. In October 2011 we decided to get married in Watford and the following day Natalie went into hospital where she had her stomach completely removed.

“During the first part of 2012 she had chemotherapy, more operations and lots of treatment as the cancer had spread.

“In July 2012 she was admitted to Peace Hospice for 24-hour care and respite. During this stay she was so well looked after by the wonderful staff. Thanks to their kind and expert care, Natalie became stable which meant she could achieve her wish of going back to her parents’ house for her final weeks. She passed away at their home on 21 September 2012, at the age of 33.

“In 2015 I met Nicky and we began building a life together. Nicky loved running and in September 2018 we ran a half marathon together. Nicky cruised through it in approximately two hours.

“She was a fit and healthy 46-year-old who ran around 20 miles each week and had a very healthy diet. But she developed a cough and a stitch in her side when she ran. She went to see her doctor and after a number of tests she was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were devastated when doctors told us no treatment was available as it was already stage 4 at the point of diagnosis. We were told it was just a case of keeping her as comfortable as possible.

“In February 2019 Nicky was due to run the Brighton Half Marathon with her best friend, Debbie. She could no longer run but we went to Brighton with Nicky in a wheelchair and using breathing apparatus, to cheer on her friend.

“As we watched the race Nicky said to me that I could have run it in her place. And I promised her then that I would run it in her memory, in 2020.”

“During Nicky’s illness we talked about her end of life wishes. After hearing from me about the care Natalie had received at Peace Hospice, there was only one place she wanted to be cared for. Her family and I also knew it was the best place for her to be.

“On 2 March 2019 Nicky was admitted to Peace Hospice for end-of-life care. Once again I was back in this place that I had never thought I’d need to go to. And now I was there for the second time. The care, attention, love and respect that every member of staff showed Nicky was outstanding, as it had been with Natalie. Nicky passed away in the Inpatient Unit on 5 March 2019 at the age of 47.

“In 2020 I kept my promise of running the Brighton Half Marathon in her memory and knew I wanted to raise money for Peace Hospice to thank the charity for the outstanding care it had offered both Natalie and Nicky. Everybody I know was so grateful for the care Nicky received that I didn’t run the half marathon alone – 37 of my family and friends joined me. And we were joined by more than 60 supporters on the day, all in Nicky’s memory.

“It has now become an annual tradition to run the Brighton Half Marathon and we all wear t-shirts saying ‘Running for Nicky with a smile’. This is because when we ran together Nicky would always say to me ‘smile, James, as running with a smile is always easier!’

“We have continued to take part in the race each year. Even during the pandemic when it was cancelled, groups of family and friends ran a half marathon in their hometowns around the UK and Ireland.”

“We have continued to take part in the race each year. Even during the pandemic when it was cancelled, groups of family and friends ran a half marathon in their hometowns around the UK and Ireland.”

For 2023, James will be part of a group of 17 runners, some of whom will have travelled a long way from James’ native Ireland for the event. All will be running the Brighton Half Marathon and this will be James’ fourth time in a row doing so! The group will be ready for the off on Sunday 25th February! This year they are aiming to raise £1500 to support us.

Thank you to James and all the members of his group for doing something amazing together and raising money for us, in memory of Nicky and Natalie.