Why I took on a mammoth challenge for Marie Curie

After his father was cared for by Marie Curie Nurses, Andrew Aitken dreamed up Mammoth May, a series of challenges to raise money for the charity.

Andrew with his wife Lynne and his mum and dad enjoying a day out last summer on the Waverly paddle steamer.

In 2014 my dad received the happy news that five years after removing a tumour in his larynx, he was cancer free. But when he started experiencing breathlessness, we discovered that fluid was gathering around his lungs. After testing, the dreaded news came, cancer cells were present.

Despite battling bravely the news in autumn wasn’t good. The cancer was terminal. My dad was incredibly positive, but you could see his strength being sapped away. Things started to come to a head in December when draining the fluid became too painful. My dad made a brave decision: he didn’t want to be drained any more.

His final wish

It was his final wish that he stay at home and not end up back in hospital. One of our district nurses, Mary Wilson, also works as a Marie Curie Nurse. When my mum, brother and myself needed help, Mary and her colleague Karen were brilliant in liaising with Marie Curie. We’d been caring for my dad day and night before Marie Curie became involved.

Having an overnight nurse was reassuring and let us get some much-needed rest. Without help from Marie Curie and district nurses my dad’s final wish probably wouldn’t have been fulfilled. On 22 December my dad passed away peacefully at home with all his family around him. He was only 67. Before he passed, my wife and I were lucky to be able to tell him he was going be a grandpa for the first time, it brought a smile to his face.

Speaking with the nurses in the evenings, I’d got to know a little about their job and the charity. I had no idea that it cost £180 to have a nurse stay overnight. I began thinking of ways I could fundraise. I dreamed up Mammoth May and set a goal of completing four events through the five weekends in May.

I threw myself into training

It started with the Deeside triathlon: a 36 mile road cycle, 11 mile trail run and 15 mile kayak. I moved onto the Etape Caledonia, an 81 mile cycle through Highland Perthshire before taking on the Keswick Mountain Festival triathlon’s 400m open water swim, 20km road cycle and 5km trail run. I finished with the Edinburgh Marathon on 31 May.

I threw myself into training and was lucky to have support from friends in my running club. By the time May came around I was happy with my fitness. I also prepared for the mental lows I might face. I would tell myself, the pain I’m feeling right now is nothing compared to what my dad suffered, or any cancer patient. This thought helped me during the marathon when I was struggling.

I’m proud to say I managed to complete everything and raised £2,771 for Marie Curie. The support and generosity from so many friends, family and colleagues was unbelievable.

If you've been inspired by Andrew's heroics, you'll find loads of challenges and events on our website.