A keen runner who works for CancerCare in Lancaster is preparing to tackle a challenging 10K run in memory of her mum.
Penny Swann from Lancaster is set to run in the Coniston 10K Lakeland Trails event on Saturday, September 22, to honour her mum, Ann Thorp, who died of pancreatic cancer in January, 2017.
Penny, who is CancerCare’s Bids and Trust Officer, said her family had received much-needed support from CancerCare when her mum died and her husband left.
Penny’s daughter Aislinn was 12-years-old and Ilsa was 16-years-old when Ann died. It was an extremely traumatic time for the whole family but CancerCare was there for them.
Penny, who has worked for CancerCare for around five years, said: “My mum was a proper grandma to my daughters. She lived down the road and was like a third parent.
“It was only six to seven months from diagnosis to her death from pancreatic cancer. It was a huge shock to all of us.
“Aislinn was seeing a counsellor at CancerCare following her grandmother’s death and then her dad left.
“It meant so much to me to know that Aislinn had somewhere to go to talk about things and to say how she felt.
“It was a relief to know that Aislinn had an adult to talk to who had the skills to help her to deal with everything. It was such a weight off my mind. As an adult I was barely hanging on myself.”
“One of the things about CancerCare is that we do all these things for our clients and the support is also there for people who work here.
“My lovely team was amazing. My colleagues were so supportive. There was a genuine understanding that things were hard.”
Penny saw a CancerCare counsellor to help her adjust to her loss. “It was so important to be able to talk things through. It was good feeling that I was ok and that I wasn’t failing.
“People say all kinds of ridiculous things about how they think you should feel and how quickly you should feel better.
“It was a relief to speak to my counsellor who said “this is grief and it can take a while”. That helped me to get my confidence back. I don’t think I would have been able to carry on without the support I received.”
Penny’s mum had trained as a bereavement counsellor after losing her husband to cancer years ago. “Mum understood that you can go on for six months or so and then it all comes crashing down if you don’t talk to someone.
“You can talk to friends but you can’t go on and on about it. To have someone with the skill to see where I was going and to point out that I was really moving forward was invaluable.”
Penny said she had never been particularly physically fit and she started running when her mum became ill as a way of looking after herself.
She said: “I was caring for mum, looking after the girls and working, so I realised I needed to be fit and healthy.
“I thought it would be nice to do something that was a bit of a challenge so I signed up for the Coniston 10K. A friend of mine was doing the run so I thought I’d do it for my mum.
“One really important thing is that though I’m doing the 10k, there are lots of other ways people can support CancerCare.
“Mum was a weaver and when she died I wanted to do something special with her loom and wool so I sold them for CancerCare. She had come to CancerCare in the last months of her life and had found it really welcoming.”
Penny jokingly added that her mum wouldn’t necessarily have been proud of her 10K attempt: “She’d have said you’ll bugger your knees!”
If you would like to sponsor Penny, please go to her Just Giving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/penny-swann