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Rachel Everett - Alex J 25 Oct 2018
On Sunday 14th October 2018 I did a 10km Twilight Walk for The Brain Tumour Charity. I had been to one of their events called Ask The Researcher and been impressed, had signed up to their BRIAN project and had been on their mailing list so when they asked me months earlier if I would consider walking for them, I made up my mind to do it. To be honest it could have been any of the charities that dealt with brain cancer or any of my rehabilitation units: Addenbrooke’s or the BIRT, OZC or even Maggie’s Wallace. But The Brain Tumour Charity got to me first. I invited the other member of my OZ cohort who’d had a brain tumour, Mark, but he couldn’t make it.
I’ve got a background as a professional fundraiser but have never done a special event. In line with my career, I’ve been a donor, even a major donor, but never an events fundraiser.
When I told my family I was going to do it, only my older sister, Catherine, offered to do it with me. Of course I said yes.
So together with Cat, I set up a fundraising page with Just Giving – we’ve raised almost £5k so far and that’s not including Gift Aid, from lots of generous friends and family members. And friends of friends whom I’ve never met. And it’s still trickling in. The Just Giving page wanted me to post on Facebook, a website I’ve not used for several years so of course none of my brain cancer ‘journey’ had been posted on Facebook. So it was a way to tell a wider audience just what had happened in the last year. You can see the page at www.justgiving.com/Alex-Jelly - and support me if you feel like it!
I didn’t do any specific training for the walk as it was only 10km but I did a 10km walk the day before just to be sure I could manage the distance. I could, with ease. Probably not a good idea to do it the very day before but still! So it was just a case of getting my walking boots on – plus a rain jacket as the weather had turned from bright and hot to cool and drizzly – and getting on the train to meet my sister in Windsor. She’d done the Shine walk – 13 miles for Cancer Research UK a few weeks before and her team had raised over £11,000, so she’d already beaten me by miles and thousands! But I was so happy to have her along for the walk – she’s eminently cheerful! And I don’t see her nearly enough so it was good to spend some ‘quality time’ with her.
The walk started from the Leisure Centre which was massive and quite big enough to hold us all. We registered, received our T-shirts, and after a speech by the CEO of The Brain Tumour Charity were drummed out – literally: there was a marching band to see us off. It was a bit like going to war! Cat and I were early leavers as we both had to get back home in good time. In retrospect that was probably a bad idea as we didn’t get to talk to many people but it’s just how it was.
Windsor still showed the evidence of the royal wedding and we imagined as we walked within view of the castle that Eugenie and Jack were watching us. There was a part of the walk that had some of us walking one way over a bridge with others walking the other way – you could have got quite easily confused! And another part where we were all walking down a long pathway near the castle – you could look back and just see a sea of red T-shirts. Some of it was really moving, with people wearing TBTC stickers that read “I’m defeating brain tumours for … and people had filled them in with all sorts of things. “My beautiful friend, Anna, who battled this disease but finally lost” or “My fabulous Dad, who died from brain cancer at the age of 62.” Or, “Sam, who lost his life to a brain tumour at the age of 18 months”. There was one little girl who I was walking behind and when we stopped at a traffic light I saw that her, “I’m walking to defeat brain cancer for” sticker just read “For myself,” and I asked her if she had had a tumour and when she shyly said that she had, I smiled at her, saying, “Me too” and showed her my sticker which also read “For myself – and Mark and all the lovely people I was in rehab with”. She just beamed, all shyness completely gone and her father mouthed a ‘thank you’ to me.
Staff from The Brain Tumour Charity were brilliant, standing out there in the cold and increasingly dark and rainy weather. We had been encouraged in the opening speech to ‘high five’ them, so we did and they gave us a high five back, accompanied with cheers and applause to encourage us to keep going.
It was great to see Windsor up close, a town I know I must have visited as a child as I’ve definitely been to the castle, but had forgotten.
It was over before we knew it, and a band with drums played us in as it was just starting to get dark. We were given a ‘gold’ medal and posed for a picture in a frame that the charity provided, then my sister offered to drive me to the station. By this time it was properly dark and cold so I said yes.
One of the most wonderful outcomes from the walk is that I’m in touch with several old friends who I haven’t seen for years. Facebook is a bad thing, in my humble opinion, a timesucker and all sorts of nasty things that I won’t write here for fear of lawsuits (!!!) but it does have the advantage of posts being shareable. Several old school and university friends have done so, so while I’m out of touch with most of these people, even on Facebook, they’ve seen my post as it’s been shared by mutual friends. I’ve also been able to thank people this way when I’ve not had their direct contact details. I’ve got back in touch with one particularly lovely university mate who’s still got just as big a heart as when we were at York University together and we are emailing each other.
All in all a wonderful experience. Perhaps I’ll even repeat it for some of the other organisations that have helped me!
 a database to share information among the brain tumour community, BRIAN asks permission from those who’ve had brain tumours to collect their medical data, puts it into plain English in a searchable format and shares it with others – patients, the medical community, researchers and so on. This will help find a cure faster.