In October, Hannah ran the Cardiff Half Marathon in memory of her best friend, Emily. Read her heart-warming story below…

Emily and I became best friends when we were just 12-years-old. We met after sitting next to each other in maths lessons and quickly realised we shared the same, quirky sense of humour. We were inseparable and would spend our free time going shopping, taking walks and having sleepovers. It’s hard to sum up 11 years of friendship but Emily really was one-of-a-kind. She was a brilliant person and an equally brilliant friend and she’s greatly missed by those who were lucky enough to know her.

Emily was just 22-years-old when she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her Mum came to my house to tell me the news and I just remember feeling shocked – I couldn’t believe what was happening. I visited her a few days later and in true Emily spirit, we spent our time laughing with one another. When I arrived at the hospital, her younger sibling asked Emily if she remembered who I was and she gave the very sarcastic answer of “yes, unfortunately”. She never did lose that sense of humour that I loved.

It was just a matter of weeks after that first diagnosis when Emily’s family found out the cancer was incurable. That’s when she came to Birmingham St Mary’s Inpatient Unit. It was a very emotional time but somehow, the doctors and nurses made it just that little bit easier. It was the simple things, like bringing tea and biscuits round or letting Emily’s family sleep over in her private room, that comforted us all. I’ll never forget how helpful the staff were – nothing seemed like too much hassle and they always had time for Emily, her family and me.

Whilst Emily was at the Hospice, her family asked for her to be blessed. It turned out to be a beautiful service, and heart-shaped stones were placed in Emily’s hands during the reading. Her siblings got to keep those stones afterwards which meant so much to them. That’s what I’ll always remember about the Hospice – how they provide a caring, gentle service to people when they need it most.

Emily spent just five days at the Hospice before she passed away. She spent her final hours surrounded by her family and friends. I was heartbroken but comforted to see her at peace.

After seeing first-hand the incredible care Birmingham St Mary’s provides, I knew that I wanted to give back. Although I’ve always enjoyed running, I’d never done a running challenge before so The Cardiff Half Marathon seemed like a good way to push myself. When I told Emily’s family I was running it on behalf of the Hospice, they thought I was crazy! But they were also really proud that I was doing something good in Emily’s memory.

I trained for around six months and although I found it both physically and emotionally challenging, pushing myself to keep going was made so much easier because of the cause I was raising money for. My regular training route would take me past Emily’s family home, which would always spur me on to keep going.

When the day of the race came, I was really nervous. Thankfully, my friends and family came along to support me and motivated me with plenty of high-fives along the route! The atmosphere was just electric – there was so much excitement in the air, making it a lively event.

Crossing the finish line felt amazing and I was so grateful that my family were there to cheer me on for those last few meters. It had been such a long journey up until that point – filled with lots of different emotions – but to finish it felt like a huge achievement. I felt so proud to be doing something incredible in Emily’s memory, whilst raising funds for the Hospice that did so much for her and her family in those last days.

I didn’t know much about hospices before Emily came to Birmingham St Mary’s but now I can see the real difference they make. The nurses did so much to make Emily comfortable and I feel proud that my half marathon will help support more families and friends who are going through some of the most difficult of times.

Thank you Hannah for sharing your story with us. Hannah raised an impressive £915, which could help fund vital research into improving end of life care for future generations. 

Read here to find out more about our vital services, or if you fancy taking on a running challenge for hospice care, find out more here