My mum Gina was a fiercely independent woman. She was definitely of the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ mindset. She was tough, but at the same time the most loving parent anybody could hope to have and I miss her every single day.
She rarely went to the doctor as she didn't like to make a 'fuss' and this sadly meant that when she did get ill to the extent she felt she did need a doctor, well, by then it was simply too late. The cancer had spread throughout her body and there was not much that could be done other than to make her comfortable.
Supporting her through this was really difficult because mum lived in a tiny village up in Scotland and my family and I live 450 miles away in Somerset.
This is where St Margaret's Hospice came to the rescue. Their Taunton hospice is less than 10 miles from our home in North Petherton and they agreed to take my mum and give her the complicated care she needed.
I can't begin to explain how much this meant to us. My mum got to spend the last few weeks of her life with her family around her. She got to spend time with our daughter, Eleanor. My wife, Laura, and I could visit at any time of the day or night, and the staff supported us all with care, compassion, understanding and patience.
It wasn’t just the nurses, doctors and health care assistants – every single person I came into contact with, from the reception volunteers to the catering staff, was so kind. Being at the hospice was such a contrast to the clinical environment of the hospital my mum had come from, and the quality of life she had at the end was so much better.
It’s a really important time of life, not just for the person who is dying but for their family as well. If it hadn’t been for St Margaret’s Hospice, Eleanor wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spend time with Granny Beef (as she calls her, because of the roast dinners mum always cooked). And I wouldn’t have been able to see my mum every day and be there when she died.
We knew my mum was going to die and it was all about making the last part of her life as good as possible. It’s never easy losing a family member, and St Margaret’s knew exactly how to relate to somebody who was going through that. I asked a straight question and got a straight answer, but always delivered with sensitivity.
A few years ago St Margaret’s Hospice also cared for my next door neighbour, Malcolm. He was a lovely man, always positive and cheerful. I am really grateful that they helped him during his long illness. It all goes to show how many people's lives St Margaret's have touched.
That's why I decided to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End to encourage people to donate to St Margaret's. Over 12 and a half days in July, I spent 76 hours in the saddle, climbing 47,000 feet in total while covering the 991 miles. I think my mum would have approved of the hardship - 'nothing comes easy', she used to say.
I posted updates on my twitter feed, @Gregs_JOGLE, and at times when I was struggling with the climbs and the heat, it really gave me a boost to get messages of encouragement.
My wife and daughter were my support team, driving ahead to set up camp, making sure I had enough to eat and carrying spare bits and bobs. I saw some fabulous scenery and wildlife, and met some really lovely people along the way who helped me or donated money when they heard what I was doing. I’m absolutely elated to have raised £2,105 and humbled that so many people sponsored me for such a good cause.
I can never repay St Margaret's for what they did for us. Money just doesn't tell enough of a story - but money does help the good people at St. Margaret's do for others what they did for us.