A team of 100 supporters are gearing up for the Virgin London Marathon in aid of their local hospices and two runners have shared their very special reasons for taking part.
Kevin Coyston and Jenny Lowther both have loved ones who have been, and are being, cared for by Havens Hospices which incorporates Fair Havens for adults in Westcliff and Little Havens for children, in Thundersley. On Sunday 24th April they will put months of hard work and dedication into practise and join the other 98 members of ‘Team Havens’ for the 26.2 mile race.
Kevin’s Mum, Sue Coyston, was cared for at Fair Havens Hospice before she died on 9th May 2014 aged 57 at the hospice after living with cancer of the bladder for 14 months. Kevin ran his first London Marathon in 2015, a year after his Mum died. He had previously tried for eight years to get a space but it was during Sue’s stay in the hospice that he found out he would be able to join the charity’s marathon team.
“I remember sitting there in her room watching the Marathon on the telly and Mum said ‘You still haven’t done that have you?’ One of the nurses overheard and popped her head in and said ‘Do you want to do it? I think I can help.’ A few days later she said ‘You’re in.’ It was one of the last things Mum heard. She smiled in bed and put her thumbs up and that’s how I crossed the finish line."
Kevin is now looking forward to his second race, in honour of his Mum and the care that Fair Havens gave him and his family.
Kevin, 33, from Leigh-on-sea, says,
“Mum was rattling she was taking so many tablets. She was a patient patient but she’d had enough. She couldn’t even walk. Physically, she couldn’t do any more. It was horrible, the illness just ate away at her.
“Until you’ve been involved with it you just can’t understand what a hospice is like. It was calm, just calm. We could visit when we wanted, any time every single day. It was clean and immaculate. She had her own little room so she could get the rest she needed.
“They’d put a curtain around her bed and shut the door to get her changed, we’d be outside but you could hear her laughing and joking, the nurses giggling with her. They knew her, they were gentle with her. She could have broken a bone at any moment she was so weak but they took their time. The nurses would be there as long as she needed them. They’d ask which pyjamas and slippers she wanted to wear. They did her washing. Every little thing, all the tiny details – the service was five star.
“They cared for her as if she was their own. They were like family.
“No amount of money I raise could even begin to thank Fair Havens for what they have done, but knowing that the money I raise could help another family in these awful circumstances would make my Mum proud. My aim this year is to beat my time and raise more than last year.”
Jenny, 30, from Basildon, will be running to thank Little Havens for the care they give to her son Brandon, and the support shown to their family.
1-year-old Brandon has Lennox-Gastuat Syndrome, a type of severe and rare epilepsy with multiple types of seizures, which he started showing symptoms of when he was 19 months old. Although Brandon started to say a few words as a toddler, like Mummy, Daddy, Car and Plane, the seizures meant he lost the ability to speak, his mobility is worse on some days more than others, he needs a wheelchair, hoists and he has to wear a protective hat. The nature of his epilepsy is particularly difficult to treat and he has profound learning difficulties.
Brandon was referred to Little Havens Hospice when he was five years old, giving him and the family, including mum Jenny, dad Steve and little sisters Katie, 7, and Rosie, 2, the respite and support they need.
“Brandon is not going to get any better. As he’s getting older his seizures are much harder to control, and if he doesn’t come out of one - it could kill him. We never find someone quite like him. He seems to take the rareness of things to a new extreme. I feel guilty for a lot. He doesn’t understand. He hasn’t asked for this. I can’t explain it to him. I feel like I do my best. If I know I give him my best, and I give him my everything then I know he’s alright, I know he’s happy.
“Having a child who is ill - it’s the unknown, you have no idea what it’s like until you’re in it. Everything is harder, everything is a battle. Not only am I a mum, I’m a nurse. It just puts a different perspective on life. “Little Havens is an opportunity for us to be a family. It is our time. Without them Brandon wouldn’t have the support he needs, we wouldn’t have the break we need. Where else would we get that? Where else would we go?
“I don’t know if I can put it all into words. Little Havens does make every day count and we do. It’s about having time, it’s about not having to worry, it’s about knowing if Brandon was coming to the end of his life, we’ve got somewhere. It’s about being a family one last time. I didn’t think we realised how much more that would become important to us. It’s a feeling, about grabbing that moment, possibly the last chance you’ve got of being together. It’s about appreciating the moments with your family because you don’t know when it’s going to end. For us, it’s just….love.”
Caring for Brandon is 24/7 but with the support of her family, Jenny has found time to train to run the London Marathon for the first time as part of Team Havens.
“I owe it to Little Havens, they put their time in us and we are just so, so grateful. Yes I’m tired but other children and adults have to battle with their condition every day of the year, if it takes a few months of my time being tired and crying like a mess then I’m going to do it. No one said I have to, thank you just isn’t enough, it’s about giving back.”
Jenny’s husband, Steve, 35, adds,
“I think Jenny is crazy for running the marathon. I’m really so proud of her. It’s something she’s wanted to do for a long time, she’s a determined person and despite the barriers of looking after Brandon and the children, she’s doing it. I’m really, really proud.”
Each runner taking part for Havens Hospices pledges to raise £1,500 for the charity which provides respite, pain and symptom management and end of life care to seriously ill babies, children, teenagers and adults from across Essex. Collectively the charity hopes to raise £220,000 in total and will be supporting runners on the day at various ‘cheering stations’ along the route.
For more information on the charity and the care it provides visit havenshospices.org.uk
To sponsor Kevin go to justgiving.com/kevin-coyston1
and to sponsor Jenny go to justgiving.com/jenny-lowther1