I'm trekking Sri Lanka to thank Marie Curie for looking after Mum

Vicki Burton will trek through Sri Lanka in 2015. She’s raising funds for the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford, where her mother Maggie spent her final weeks

Vicki Burton with her mum, Maggie
Vicki Burton with her mum, Maggie

My mum Maggie was a real force of nature and very active. She and my dad met in the RAF and travelled across the globe. They returned to Yorkshire in 1984 and I grew up there.

Once back home, Mum taught aerobics for almost 30 years and my parents were involved with the local rugby and golf clubs. Everyone seemed to know my mum.

She was definitely the matriarch and family was very important to her.

Mum was diagnosed with cancer of the vulva and in July 2013, she was told it was incurable.

Mum started chemotherapy that September, but she was getting weaker and her pain unbearable. She would have to crawl up the stairs or Dad, who was her main carer, would carry her.

Eventually, it was suggested that Mum go into the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford to help with the pain relief. She was terrified – she thought that if you went into the hospice you were going to die. I felt the same way, but I couldn’t say that. Instead I encouraged her: ‘You’ll get the right care 24/7 and then we’ll get you home and get you back fighting.’

Bright and positive

The atmosphere at the hospice was bright, cheery and positive. Everyone there was so considerate. I once broke down and cried and one of the kitchen staff saw me and took me for a coffee.

Mum had her hair done, and a Reiki session. One of her friends brought her some Clarins body lotion. The nurses offered to put it on Mum so they could use a bit themselves. She became very popular!

Mum was getting stronger and on top of the pain and we managed to get her home for 24 hours, but her infection wasn’t going away, despite treatment with antibiotics. It returned aggressively and we didn’t know whether Mum would live to see Christmas.

Christmas party

The hospice organised a family Christmas party for us on Sunday 8 December: they put a Christmas tree, a television and Wii console in the room. There were 15 of us there. It was amazing and Mum was on top form.

It was such a great day, but I noticed that Mum asked for pain relief, something she hadn’t done before. When we returned the next day, we discovered the infection had broken through the antibiotics and Mum had just hours left.

She finally passed away in the early hours of the following Thursday morning. While she was unconscious the doctors and nurses continued talking to her and even after she died, the nurses doing her final cares with me showed such respect and compassion. The medical staff were the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

Fundraising plans

After Mum died, I thought about how I could get fit and raise money for the hospice. That’s when I saw their Sri Lanka trek in November 2015 on Facebook. For five days, we’ll trek for five or six hours a day through the rainforest and the mountains. I’m training for it already.

I’d like to raise £18,000 as a starting point which is a rough guess of the cost of Mum’s care. I’ve already raised the minimum amount of £3,250 and am planning lots of events too.

On 10 October this year, I’ll be holding a fashion show at the Craiglands Hotel in Ilkley. There’ll be canapés and a glass of bubbly, a raffle and 40 tables of sparkles and luxuries plus entertainment. We have over 220 women coming.

I’ll never stop fundraising for Marie Curie, so that they can give someone else just a little bit of what they gave my Mum.”

Read more about Vicki’s fundraising, buy tickets to her events, and donate at http://trek4care.co.uk