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“Getting to the top was really emotional and a bit of a blur. All I wanted to do was spread Mum’s ashes and let her be free.”
Chantal Cox, 25, is home safely after climbing the world’s highest freestanding mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, in honour of her mother, Shirley Goldie, who was cared for by St Barnabas House.
Shirley, a Littlehampton resident, had battled with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition which scars the lungs and makes breathing increasingly difficult. When she was referred to St Barnabas House in March 2019, the hospice was a welcome retreat from hospital, which, Chantal says, “gave her a sense of comfort in her surroundings which the family were so relieved to see”.
“Nurses would pop round to see Mum at home and she also loved going to the Day Hospice each week. She said it was nice to socialise and talk to other people in a similar position and naturally grew extremely close to those around her, making some unforgettable friendships. We had nothing but dedicated support from all of the staff and for that, we are eternally grateful.”
When Shirley sadly passed away on 16 September 2019, the month before the trip, Chantal decided to take some of her mother’s ashes with her to Tanzania.
Chantal says, “Mum knew that I had booked this trip and was looking forward to seeing me do it. I knew that trekking up to the summit with her right by my side would make it an even more special occasion.”
Chantal spent five days trekking in challenging conditions and extreme temperatures, reaching Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit as the sun rose on 1 November 2019.
“The lack of oxygen at times meant that just moving made me out of breath, and I kept thinking that this is how Mum must have felt, but worse.
“It made me appreciate what I was doing a lot more because every time I was struggling, I thought of Mum and what she had to go through. The challenges that I was facing was nothing compared to what Mum had to face every single day.
“On the summit day, we climbed a total of 2,000 metres and there’s not much you can do to prepare your body for that. During that last push, I suffered from severe altitude sickness and had never felt so ill, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me.
“It was really emotional when we finally reached the top for sunrise and my tears just froze as it was -20 degrees. The skies were clear, beautiful and blue and we could see for miles, however with winds growing stronger and stronger at a blink of an eye we were hurried off the top of the summit by the porters. I was determined to spread Mum’s ashes though, as I knew she would want to finally fly free from the hospital beds and oxygen masks that had consumed her.
“Mum fought right up until the end and for that I’m so proud to call her my Mum. She’s nothing short of a hero and I will love her forever.”
Chantal has raised an incredible £602 for St Barnabas House in sponsorship, which is enough to fund the cost of over two days of Day Hospice care for someone like her mother.
Inspired to take part in a breath-taking or action-packed challenge for St Barnabas House? Visit www.stbh.org.uk/challenge-events to find out more.