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Since August, Jack Devonport has walked 180 miles along the Monarch’s Way – an ancient 625-mile footpath which runs from Worcester to Shoreham-by-Sea, said to be the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester. He has challenged himself to complete the whole 625-mile route before the end of the year, raising money for St Barnabas House hospice.
The University of Sussex student from Southwick, who originally set himself the challenge of raising £625, a pound for every mile walked of the Monarch’s Way, has already smashed his target and looks set to raise over £1,000 for St Barnabas House.
Jack first became aware of the hospice two years ago. “I charged out of the final assignment of my university degree to a missed call from my Mum,” he says. “My Dad had been told he had terminal lung cancer. One of the reasons he is still here is due to the fantastic work of everyone at the hospice. I couldn’t think of a better cause to walk for.”
I had no idea how long it was going to take me. In walking the entire length of the Monarch’s Way, I’ll cover the distance of London to Milan, ascending a total distance equivalent to climbing Everest and then some!
Dad and I live a mile from where the Monarch’s Way finishes in Shoreham-by-Sea, and plan on walking the last stretch together at Christmas time.”
David, has kindly shared his story.
“I was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2016, three weeks after I retired as train driver for Southern Rail. The doctors told me I had six months to live, so I feel really lucky to be here still.
The December before I came to St Barnabas, I was really unwell – I’d been taken off my steroids which caused me to feel dreadful and I had stopped eating and lost a lot of weight. I was so close to just giving up and it was a worrying time for my family and friends.
That’s when Dot, one of the hospice’s specialist community nurses came to visit me at home. She was absolutely brilliant and helped with everything from arranging physiotherapy sessions, to pain management, sorting out benefits that I didn’t know I was entitled to, and even arranging for our family home to be adapted so that I could get around more easily.
When I was referred to St Barnabas, I did think that it was a place that you come to pop you clogs, but when I got here I realised it wasn’t at all. I was really surprised. The hospice is all about celebrating life, being positive and pushing on. The care I have received from all the staff and volunteers has been fantastic, you can talk to them about anything and they are there for you when you need them.
The physiotherapy sessions I’ve been having have made a big difference to my quality of life. I was struggling with my walking and simple things like going to watch Brighton Albion play were becoming impossible as there’s 96 steps to my seat and I just couldn’t make it. But after a number of sessions I was able to start going to the football again.
As well as physiotherapy, I have also been having complementary therapy at the hospice to help with neuropathy in my feet. It’s a side effect from chemotherapy which has damaged the nerve endings and can be really uncomfortable. After I have a foot massage, it feels so much better all of the next week.
Another service which has also really helped my health pick up is the Day Hospice, where I visited every Thursday. My wife has been so strong and caring throughout my illness, so it felt nice to be able to give her a break once a week. At the Day Hospice there are so many activities that you can get involved in and I’ve found it has really helped me to meet other people in a similar situation.
My wife and I are so proud of Jack for taking on the Monarch’s Way challenge, but also think he’s a bit mad! When he comes back from walking each weekend, he’s usually filthy and has a new injury or an interesting story to tell us. He’s walked through thunderstorms, slept outside in the wild without a tent and met a lot of lovely people along the way.
I think that when Jack saw the change in me after coming to St Barnabas he wanted to do something to help support the hospice. Whatever he raises will help another person to receive the same care that I have been fortunate to have, and I hope that it makes a difference for them in the same way it has for me.
At the moment, I’m seeing a consultant every three months for scans to make sure I’m still stable and I’m looking forward to Jack completing the challenge, as well as celebrating my eldest son, Andrew’s wedding in November and my 60th in December!
Being so unwell has been hard for the family, but in some ways it has brought us even closer together.”