A family of fundraisers is hoping to inspire others to take on the Great North Run for a South Tyneside hospice.
Daniel Dunleavy and his relatives are taking on the 13.1 mile challenge for St Clare’s Hospice, who cared for their loved one in her final days.
Daniel’s sister-in-law Shirley Dunleavy passed away at the hospice, in Primrose Terrace, Jarrow, in January 2006, aged 46.
The mum-of-one found out two years earlier that she was suffering from a distended stomach and was in a lot of discomfort.
After seeing her GP, she was referred to a number of specialists and given a variety of diagnoses, but no clear pathway to a cure.
Shirley and her husband, Michael, from Cleadon Village, went to A&E one day, refusing to leave until she knew what the problem was, and she was eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Daniel, also from Cleadon Village, said: “Obviously, we were devastated at the diagnosis. Like most families, we were very ignorant of cancer and simply thought it meant death.
“That said, everyone quickly got to grips with the diagnosis, as the proposed treatment was spelled out. This was especially hard on Shirley’s daughter Sophie, who was just 17 at the time.”
Shirley, who lived in Washington, went through chemotherapy and a hysterectomy and all seemed fine, but two years later, she was given the devastating news that she had colon cancer.
She passed away just seven weeks later.
Daniel added: “A couple of weeks before she died, Shirley was discharged to spend her remaining days at home, with the close support of a palliative care team. Sadly, through an oversight, they didn’t arrive and Shirley and Michael ended up in a tearful heap on the floor of their shower.
“Obviously, Shirley needed specialised care, and she was admitted urgently to St Clare’s Hospice, where she spent her last two weeks. As a family, we can only look back in awe at how compassionately the dedicated staff at all levels took care of Shirley and the rest of us.”
Since then, Shirley’s loved ones have laced up their trainers and became Team Shirley.
In 2006, the group of eight did their first of 10 Great North Runs in support of St Clare’s.
So far, they’ve raised £70,000 for the hospice, which provides palliative care to the people of South Tyneside with life-limiting illnesses.
Daniel said: “Michael and Sophie were cursed with the loss of Shirley in her prime. The sight of this woman wasting away was a horror, but what we have achieved is to give Shirley life after death, and say thank you on her behalf.”
St Clare’s is looking for people who have their own spot on the Great North Run, which takes place on September 11, to sign up to raise cash for the charity.
Anyone interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0191 529 7111.