Taking on a marathon trek in memory of mum

On 26 March 2022, Lanna Hanks, 36, from Littlehampton, and six friends will be taking on the South Downs Trek – a marathon trek to raise funds for St Barnabas House, the hospice that cared for Lanna’s Mum, Fiona, when she died in 2021.

“My Mum was just incredible,” said Lanna. “Everyone that met her just fell in love with her, she just had a way of connecting with people and making them smile. There was no one quite like her.”

In 2020, Lanna’s Mum, Fiona, was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer that forms in the bile ducts. Fiona was told that she only had eight months to live.

“Mum was a midwife, so she was quite heavily involved with her medication at the beginning, but as time went on, her health started to deteriorate and she was in a lot of pain,” said Lanna. “Mum didn’t want me to be her carer, she wanted me to be her daughter and because of St Barnabas House, that was possible up until the end.”

In July 2021, the family made the decision for Fiona to stay in the In-Patient Unit at St Barnabas House. “Mum was initially going to stay at the hospice for one week, but she was deteriorating rapidly so they decided to keep her in for longer,” said Lanna.

“I remember the first time we visited the hospice; I was expecting it to be a scary place, but it wasn’t at all. It was so welcoming, and everyone was so friendly. I have two young children, Cameron, 4-years-old, and Rory, 1-year-old, and the staff and patients loved it when they went in to visit my Mum. They were laughing and making special memories with their beloved Nanny, and St Barnabas let them just be children.”

On Thursday 12th August, Fiona died at St Barnabas House at the age of 62.

Fiona was cared for by St Barnabas House for a total of four weeks. Speaking about her time at the hospice, Lanna said: “I couldn’t fault the hospice one bit, they were amazing. The moment Mum went to the hospice, I knew she was safe, and they really helped manage her pain.”

Each patient room at St Barnabas House faces out onto private patient gardens, meaning that Fiona could have her door open, listen to the trickling from the water features, the sounds of birds singing, and feel close to nature. “The patient gardens meant a lot to us. We spent a lot of time in them together and it was lovely that we had the freedom and independence to go outside whenever we wanted to.”

The St Barnabas House chaplain offers patients and families – with or without faith – spiritual support at any point of their journey. “My Mum had a really strong faith, and in her last few days, we asked for the chaplain to spend some time with us all as a family. This was incredibly special to us at that time, and I know it meant the world to Mum.”

Speaking about the South Downs Trek, Lanna said: “My Mum would be so incredibly proud of me and her girls for taking on the South Downs Trek to raise funds for St Barnabas House. The trek is the day after my Mum’s birthday, the first one we aren’t spending together, and the day before my first Mother’s Day without her – so it’ll be an emotional time for me but one that’s so special.”

To sponsor Lanna on her challenge, please visit Lanna Hanks is fundraising for St Barnabas House (justgiving.com)

It costs just £40 to sign up to South Downs Trek with a minimum sponsorship of £250. For more information and to sign up, please visit www.stbh.org.uk/southdownstrek. Hurry, there are limited spaces left!