When she lost her husband Chris to cancer last October, Miki Mitchell was devastated. She’d lost the love of her life, her best friend and the most amazing father to their two children. However, through it all, our Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice was there to provide support and now, one year on, Miki is supporting them – bringing with her 100 entrants to Manorlands’ annual Bronte Sportive cycling event.
“It all started in the February 2018,” Miki explains, “when we were told that Chris had Stage 4 bowel cancer and all that would be available for him was palliative care. It was a death sentence − literally – at the age of 59.
“Chris was adamant he would stay at home – and die at home. It was a terrible thing to get our heads round, especially as he’d had no symptoms and, at the time, he didn’t feel ill.”
An active promise
“For 30 years, we’d been so active – off to the caravan with the kids every weekend; jet-skiing and mountain-biking in the summer; scuba-diving and snow-skiing in the winter – and then, all of a sudden, there we were, sitting in our front room, facing the end,” she continues.
“Chris looked at me and he said: ‘You know you’ll go loopy stuck here looking after me. Promise me you’ll get off on your bike twice a week and start now’.”
Miki told an old friend, Christine Swale, what Chris had said and, as chance would have it, Christine was a member of a local all-women cycling club, the Queensbury Queens of the Mountain. Miki went along and she’s never looked back.
Cycling: “wonderful therapy” and a “lifeline”
“Cycling is wonderful therapy,” Miki says.
“I’ll be cruising along in my own little bubble – thinking things through, maybe having a cry, talking to Chris – and then someone comes up beside me and we get chatting and, before I know it, we’re having a laugh – and we always finish up with tea and cakes.
“Cycling’s good for the soul and good for friendship – the Queensbury Queens of the Mountain have been my lifeline,” she states.
“The Sue Ryder Nurse said: ‘Don’t worry about a thing – we’ll look after you’. And she did.”
“At the end of 2017, Chris got a pain in his kidneys. The doctor sent him for a scan and that’s when the cancer showed up,” Miki recalls. “As I say, he didn’t feel ill at the time but over the next few weeks he did. He started a course of chemo at Airedale Hospital and that made him sick; his pain got worse, he’d no energy and, in the spring, he had to give up work.
“Then our GP suggested Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice,” she continues. “Chris was adamant he was staying at home but that wasn’t a problem; when Sue Ryder Nurse Joanna from Manorlands came over to see us, she said: ‘Home is best. Don’t worry about a thing – we’ll look after you’. And she did. She was lovely.
“Manorlands gave Chris specialist nursing and pain management – even complementary therapies – and there was financial advice and counselling for both Chris and me.”
Miki and the Bronte Sportive
Miki was so moved by the help she and Chris received from Sue Ryder that, when Chris passed away last October, she made up her mind to help her local Manorlands Hospice.
She collected donations at Chris’s funeral and, when she took the money into the office, conversation soon turned to cycling. For eight years, our Sue Ryder Manorlands fundraising team have been organising an annual fundraiser called The Brontë Sportive. There and then, Miki said she would help.
She negotiated a partnership with the Queensbury Queens of the Mountain and, when the event takes place this year on Sunday 21st July, entries will be boosted by over a hundred Queens bringing their entrance fees and individual sponsorships.
Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice has become the Queensbury Queens of the Mountain’s charity of the year and they’ve already raised £1,300 before the event has taken place. Miki is totally involved in the project, selling Sue Ryder cycling jerseys and persuading Queens members who are not entering the event to bake cakes and help out at the food stations.
About the Bronte Sportive
The Sportive is a tough but fun event and, with four distances to choose from ranging from 29 to 93 miles, it’s open to all abilities. For those who like an extra challenge, there’s a timed hill climb − the Chris Mitchell Memorial Hill Climb – a fitting tribute to a much-loved and much-missed husband and dad.
“Sue Ryder needs to raise £2.1 million locally to be able to continue the amazing care it provides each year,” says Miki.
“Please dust off your bike and join us on 21st July so that, when someone else finds themselves in a situation like Chris’s, Manorlands can be there when they need them most.”
Inspired by Miki and Chris’s story?
Find out more about the Manorlands Bronte Sportive 2019 and how to enter
Stephen is retired and a volunteer at our Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice in West Yorkshire. Before retirement, he had a varied career that included journalism, broadcasting and 20 years with the Brontë Parsonage Museum.