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Hospice Stories

Andy’s story: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in memory of Natalie

By August 20, 2020October 11th, 2022No Comments

Whether dancing at festivals, wining and dining, or taking their children on magical family adventures, Andy and his adored wife, Natalie, made it their mission to have fun every single day. Here, as he prepares to take on the challenge of a lifetime in Natalie’s memory, Andy reflects on their life together.

‘Natalie was in the year below me at school and we dated for a while when we were young,’ he says. ‘Still, it wasn’t until years later, when we met for a catch up in a pub in Burgess Hill, that we realised we wanted it to be serious! She was a good-looking girl with long blonde hair and a beautiful smile. As we got chatting, I realised she was also incredibly kind, intelligent, and bubbly. We moved in together soon after and married on 2nd September 1995.

‘Life with Natalie was something special; we never wanted to sit back and slip into the mundanity of everyday routine. If either of us wished to do something, she’d simply say ‘well we better go and do it then!’. Her infectious zest for life inspired all who knew her and meant we made many brilliant memories over the years; I’ve lost count of the number of live gigs
and festivals we danced through! We saw artists including Noel Gallagher, Paul Rudd, Ed Sheeran, George Ezra, and Natalie’s non-guilty pleasure, Take That. After the events we’d go celebrity-hunting and try to get autographs from artists we’d seen, which we’d then add to our downstairs toilet wall…It was a good sport! We also loved going our holidays, going to the theatre and eating out.

‘Natalie and I had two wonderful children: Joseph, 23, and Molly, 21. Natalie was in incredible mum; spending time with the kids meant the world to her and we shared magical family holidays to EuroDisney, Lapland and Lanzarote.

‘A week before her 50th birthday, Natalie was diagnosed with rectal cancer. With the shock of the diagnosis and impending treatment, we had to cancel her birthday party, as well as a surprise trip to Vegas I’d organised. Still, Natalie was brave and  determined, accepting all of the gruelling treatment she could. We were elated to get the all clear in September 2018.
Never one to miss out on a party, we celebrated Natalie’s 50th on her 51st!

‘In January 2019, at a routine check-up, we received the news that Natalie’s cancer had returned aggressively, spreading to her liver and lungs. It was devastating, but there was no time to waste. My girl needed to go to Vegas and have a good time! We spent a month out there enjoying evenings on the main strip and trying our luck at the casinos. We even took a
helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. It was unforgettable.

‘Shortly after we returned, Natalie started attending sessions at the hospice’s Wellbeing Centre. We were worried at first about what it might be like, but were pleasantly surprised. Natalie affectionately named it ‘playschool’, as she’d often do arts and crafts and bring home things she’d made. The group wasn’t just a fun distraction, but gave her the opportunity to be around people who understand what she was going through. It was the best thing in the world for her; she found it reassuring and looked forward to going.

‘In September last year, we went on our last family adventure to Sorrento. Natalie had always wanted to go there and it was as stunning as we had imagined. Sadly, once we returned, she began to deteriorate. In November last year she was moved to the hospice ward for end of life care. It was a difficult time, but we couldn’t have been in a more perfect place; we felt safe and secure. I was able to push Natalie around the beautiful woodland in her wheelchair, and we visited the donkeys and welcomed visitors.

‘During the final weeks of Natalie’s life, our good friends Bob and Dawn came in and the four of us hatched a plan as we were all keen to give something back – Bob and I would climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the hospice. Natalie made us promise we’d do it after she’d gone.

‘Of course, Covid-19 has delayed the trip until next year, but we’re training like mad. I’m determined to raise £16,000 to cover the running costs of the hospice on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year.

‘If Natalie’s death doesn’t emphasise how important it is to keep living, I don’t know what does. I miss her so much, but I feel privileged to have shared in her beautiful, crazy life.’

You can show your support for the amazing Andy and Bob here.