Friday, September 30, 2011

Running Home for Alex

Some of you loyal Freedom Followers may remember a blog I wrote last year called Precious Lives about 2 families who had been dealt a completely crap hand health wise and were stuggling on, to overcome illness.
I wanted to catch you up with the good news and tell you about the most incredible day I was lucky enough to witness last Sunday.

Sam, my sister's friend who was hospitalized almost overnight with a very rare and paralyzing disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome was in hospital for the best part of a year on a ventilator, unable to communicate with her husband and small son. Well, the great news is that her perseverance and strength as well as of course the wonders of medical science sees her now out of hospital, several stone lighter and a little shaky on her feet but making a complete recovery. For her family who were called into her hospoital room on more than one occasion "to say goodbye" it must seem like a dream come true to... to Sam too. I am sure it has left them all exhausted but with a new found understanding of the important things in life and perhaps a new zest for living.

The other person I mentioned in my previous blog was a brave little boy named Alex Sharp. At only 3 years old he was diagnosed with a very aggresive and rare form of childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma. The last 17 months have been, as you can imagine, an unfathomably difficult time for little Alex and of course for his parents, Ben and Miranda, and their gorgeous daughter Jennifer. Alex has been through some frankly awful and drawn out drug therapies including chemotherapy radiotherapy and immunotherapy as well as surgery to remove the abdominal tumour.
The great news is that last weekend marked Alex's last night in hospital after more than 100 nights having completed all his treatments.
A truly noteworty occasion.
The family are unwaveringly positive and determined for Alex's long and happy life ahead. They have had untold support from The Neuroblastoma Society and The John Radcliffe Hospital and in true Ben and Miranda style they had to do something big to mark the day and make sure they could give a little back to help families in the future dealing with this disease as well as raise awareness about Neuroblastoma and the much needed funds for research.

Now Ben is a bit of a superman!
He hikes and cycles and runs...but not your average Sunday afternoon ramble in the woods to a nice tea shop or a bike ride down to the shops for a lolly, oh no! He is a serious iron man type.
Hence, last Sunday he embarked upon "running home for Alex". Ben took on the amazing feat of running 35 miles from The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to their home in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire.
Bloody Hell!
I know...that's like a marathon and then another 10 miles!!!!
My sister-in-law who is great friends with the family decided she wanted to join him in the last 10K and roped my sister in along with her running partner Wendy. My running skills are slightly lacking and I opted for support vehicle and cheering on!
Ben was super organised and emailed all his supporters a list of where he hoped to be and at what time with OS references and everything!!!!
So he was due at Annie Baileys pub at 3pm on Sunday, which is where we dropped his running sidekicks before we sped off to see if he was on schedule.
"It is Ben Sharp!", said my brother! And he was right, infact Ben was stalling for time as he was ahead of schedule!!! When we caught up with him at a makeshift feeding station just before the pub he looked completely amazing! Not a drop of sweat, and fresh as a daisy.
From The Radcliffe he had been joined by two mates who were running in relay an hour at a time to keep him company and motivated. He also had a support car stashed full of bananas!

Wendy, Louisa and Kate

Waiting for Ben to arrive
Ben with his support team

Getting ready to roll out

The final leg

By the time he got to the pub having already run 29 miles he had picked up two more runners. Then at the pub there were seven more who joined in.
We - my Brother, his girls, my Mum and Dad and several other husbands and wives - decided to cheer them along the route, so we zoomed in our cars to the next vantage point and clapped them along their inceredible journey. I think it helped the runners, not knowing where they were going to see us next, but knowing that every mile they would get a little boost of energy and confirmation that they were doing a great job! And every time I got back in my car I cried my heart out at what a fantastic thing Ben was doing and for the most worthy of causes. I cannot imagine having to go through what that family and millions of other families across the world go through, wondering from one day to the next if your child will make it through.
Louisa and Wendy just before a nice cup of tea!
By the time the posse got into Little Chalfont they were more than 20 strong and had been joined by several children on bikes for the last mile or so. Then about 400 yards before the house, a gaggle of scooter riding rugrats and a gang of supporters on foot took the final trek home. Along with Alex sat atop his Mum's shoulders.
As Ben and the other runners got to the house, it was hugs all round and in true English style, mugs of tea and slices of cake in the cul-de-sac. Then photos galore and many pats on the back along with several tears.
Ben is truly an inspiring man.
Not only has he pushed his body to a test of endurance that only the truly brave would consider, he managed to raise more than £10, 000 for The Neuroblastoma Society to boot,which is remarkable.

I am sure there were more than a few beers in the Sharp household that night and perhaps a couple of aching legs on Monday!

But what it makes me realize is that if you put your mind to it, you can be strong enough to achieve anything.
Congratulations Family Sharp!
Check out Alex's Blog here

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