Ian Barrett was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2015 and was supported through his illness by the expert palliative care team at Sue Ryder’s Manorlands Hospice. Following his death in January 2019, aged 53, Ian’s wife Jane, his family and friends spent the year fundraising in his memory, culminating in Jane’s inspirational and moving trek along the Great Wall of China.
Ian had a very positive attitude to his illness
‘Ian went through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy and for much of the time he remained quite fit and well and had a very positive attitude to his illness so we were very lucky. In the last 18 months it got harder and more difficult for him to get out and about and he had to give up work and that’s where Manorlands stepped in. Without Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice I don’t know how I would have coped. They are just incredible there and will do anything they can to help. The counselling I received was just amazing and it got me through the darkest days.’
As a result of the support they received, Ian and Jane, a fitness instructor, started fundraising for Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice.
‘Even before Ian died we were doing a little bit of fundraising. I did the Great North Run and one or two 5K and 10Ks for various local charities but when Ian became so ill it really brought it home how important Manorlands is to our community and when Ian died we decided we wanted to do something, not only in his memory but also as a thank you to the staff there.’
Jane started a real team effort with Ian’s family and friends baking, cycling, running and more to raise funds for the hospice.
‘Ian was an amazing person and he was very generous and kind so it was a fitting tribute that we did something like this in his memory. I think we have raised more than £6,100. Sometimes it has been quite overwhelming but it has given me a focus and I’ve been doing it for Ian – I wanted to make him proud of me. There were four coffee mornings with a cast of thousands baking cakes and helping out. One friend cycled a stage of the Tour de France this year and another cycled coast to coast – it’s been such a team effort.’
The most incredible experience
The culmination of all their hard work was Jane’s Great Wall of China Trek with fellow Sue Ryder supporters in October.
‘China itself is amazing – you run out of superlatives – it was the most incredible experience. The people were so friendly and welcoming and it’s a fascinating country and so completely different to anywhere I had been before. The Wall looks amazing in photos but you have no idea until you actually see it. It’s quite challenging terrain in that there are lots of ups and downs. As someone who does a lot of hillwalking it was just challenging enough for me and it wasn’t so difficult that I couldn’t enjoy it.
‘I thought that walking with a group would be my biggest challenge because I was so used to just walking with Ian and there were 30 of us on the trip but we all got on so well so quickly. I have made friends for life on that trip. We had all been through something – everybody had their own reason for being there. We were there for 10 days in total, trekking for seven. We spent one day in Beijing to see the sights but the rest of the week we barely saw another person. We were staying in farming communities and would then move on for the day and see nobody.
It was very emotional and there were points where I just wanted to be sharing it with Ian
‘You could see the grandeur of the wall even where it was run down. It was very emotional and there were points where I just wanted to be sharing it with Ian but it was also so cathartic because it proved to me that life goes on and I can do things on my own. It was an incredible trip. I can’t recommend it highly enough and if I had the chance I would definitely go again.’
Manorlands were able to give Ian and I a good quality of life which we just wouldn’t have had without them
Jane hopes her efforts have also raised awareness of Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice and its dedicated team.
‘We were lucky that we managed to keep Ian at home but that meant that I was his main carer which does take a toll and the last couple of years were tough. The Sue Ryder Nurses visited us every few weeks and as we got towards the end of Ian’s life they came to see us more often. I called them several times on the 24-hour helpline in the last few months. Their support was life-changing. They were able to give Ian and I a good quality of life which we just wouldn’t have had without them.
‘Ian used to go to Manorlands for leg and foot massage and Indian head massage and the therapists even visited Ian at the house when he was not able to go out. When he was well enough we would go to the drop in on a Wednesday and meet other patients and carers. Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice is not a depressing place. It’s actually really full of joy and laughter. The staff don’t talk about the fact you are dying, they remind you to keep living and enable you to have a good quality of life and that is a huge thing.
‘Ian and I were together 28 years. When we celebrated his life people gave £1,400 to Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice and I think that’s a mark of who he was. People thought so highly of him and he is hugely missed and the fact that so many people have supported my fundraising this year has helped me enormously.’
Find out more information on Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice, the expert palliative care they provide and how you can help them continue to support people with life-limiting conditions.
Jane's husband Ian was supported by Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2015. Following Ian's death in 2019, Jane, their family and friends spent the year fundraising in his memory, culminating in Jane’s epic trek across the Great Wall of China.