Melbourne sculptor and garden designer, Ross Danby, has completed a 113-mile run through the Lake District in memory of his late wife, Jacqui. Through his challenge, he’s raised £2,000 for Treetops Hospice who helped the couple with counselling support.
Jacqui died in April last year, aged 56, eight years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ross, 57, an experienced climber, walker and fell-runner, was inspired to complete the epic run after reading an account of the ‘Lakes, Mears & Waters Challenge’.
“I wanted to do something in memory of Jaqui and just had this lightbulb moment when I read about the challenge. It was first done back in 1973 by Josh Naylor, the most well-known fell runner in in Cumbria.
“I just thought, ‘wow, that’s what I’m going to do’. I’ve done these kinds of things before, but most importantly for me, the route was around all the Lakes. Jacqui is buried in a wood we own, overlooking Grassmere, so I started and ended the run with her.”
The challenge took 46 hours over three days and Ross admits it was very tough at times.
“The route takes you to some really remote places in the Lake District that you’d never otherwise go to. You’re literally going from one valley bottom, right up over a mountain, and down the other side to the next valley. And then the same again, and the same again.
“And then you wake up at four o’clock the next morning, put your trainers on, and go and do it all over again. It was painful. Your feet kill, your legs kill. It becomes quite relentless.
“But at the end, I was loving it and I just dived straight into Lake Grassmere in front of everybody. It was very emotional and uplifting. And it’s been a cathartic process and about me making a positive step forward since Jacqui passed away.”
The couple were childhood sweethearts after meeting at school and were married for 33 years.
“Jacqui was my soulmate and just a wonderful, kind person. People really connected with her because she was a fantastic listener. She was someone you instantly felt comfortable with and a true friend to so many people.
“She led her life around a quite well-known verse called the ‘Desiderata’. It’s a short set of beliefs about how to lead your life and the qualities of life. She had a copy in the loo, so that everybody who came to the house saw it. She gave copies to her sisters, her nieces, their friends. And she wanted to share it with everybody in her passing. So, everybody at her funeral got a copy of it too.”
“Jacqui’s diagnosis was that she was going to not come through this. We were told it could be months or years. It was a long, drawn-out time and very hard on us both.”
Jacqui’s palliative nurse suggested the couple contact local charity Treetops Hospice who offer emotional support and nursing care for adults with life-limiting conditions.
“The year before she died, we found out that the disease had spread, and it became very clear that there would not be a way back from that.
“Jacqui started going to Treetops for counselling to help her get her head around what was happening, and to help her deal with the end of her own life.
“It’s something that she struggled to be able to communicate with me because it was just too painful, and she knew it would be too hard for me to hear. I know it helped her to be able to talk about it with somebody independently.”
Not long after her death, Ross completed a 400 mile walk along the southwest coast around Cornwall and Devon, sleeping in a tent on the coastal path next to the sea. But on his return to Melbourne, his loss really hit home.
“I found the walk very cathartic but when I came home, reality really hit me. I wasn’t dealing well with life and struggling in a very bad way. Although I’d come around to knowing I was going to lose Jacqui at some point, it still doesn’t equip you for when that happens.”
Ross approached Treetops Hospice for bereavement counselling support.
“I had great family and friends around me, but I needed somebody to help me with the right expertise and that I could talk to completely openly. The counselling helped me through some of my lowest points.
“It has helped me enormously, but it also helped my family as well. I’ve got two children, aged 26 and 23. They’re adults, but they’re still dealing with something dreadful, the loss of their mother. And almost the loss of their dad because they’ve seen me completely struggling at times and that’s extremely difficult to deal with.
“Treetops is a lovely place. The staff and the environment made me feel calm. When all this is happening to you, you need to be somewhere that makes you feel calm inside, instead of all the turmoil of your emotions. You know you’ve got people around you that care. It’s like getting a hug, without getting a hug. I’m indebted to Treetops for their support.”
Ross raised almost £4,000 from his sponsored run, which he’s split between Treetops Hospice and MacMillan Cancer.
“When you read about people doing things in memory, you wonder how they are doing. I’d like people to know that I’m doing okay. I know I will have another life beyond my time with Jacqui and find my way, but she will never leave me, ever, and I’ll never forget her. And Treetops has helped me with that.”
Treetops welcomes people to take part in a wide range of challenges and events to raise money for the local charity. For further information, visit www.treetops.org.uk/challenges2023 or call 0115 949 1264.
This year, Treetops Hospice is celebrating 40 years of caring for people and their families in the local community. During this time, the hospice has supported thousands of patients with end-of-life nursing care and bereavement counselling.
Lead photo: Ross and Jacqui Danny
About Treetops Hospice
Treetops Hospice, the leading end-of-life care charity in Derby, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions, and their families.
The charity provides support from diagnosis onwards for patients with conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease and heart and respiratory conditions.
This year, we are very proud to be celebrating 40 years of caring for people and their families in our local community. During this time, we have supported thousands of patients with end-of-life nursing care and bereavement counselling.
We have achieved this amazing milestone thanks to our dedicated volunteers who help across the whole hospice and in our charity shops, our hard-working staff team, and our supporters, past and present.
Last year, our team of Hospice at Home nurses provided over 20,000 hours of care to terminally-ill patients, working day and night to give much-needed support.
Our team of bereavement counsellors provided over 4,500 counselling sessions – more than 900 of them to children and young people. Wellbeing team members provide valuable information and support to those who need it.
Treetops is doing all it can to continue to support those in most need and welcomes donations to ensure the future of the hospice and its services: www.treetopshospice.org.uk/donate
A counselling session for a bereaved child costs £34.50. An overnight Hospice at Home nursing shift for a patient at the end of life costs £108.
Treetops Hospice, Derby Road, Risley, Derbyshire, DE72 3SS
0115 949 1264 | www.treetopshospice.org.uk
Registered Charity Number 519540