For over eight years, Becky Dawlatly has been working as a doctor at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. This September, she’s taking on her biggest challenge yet for the Hospice, cycling the Deloitte Ride Across Britain– a 969-mile route from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Here, she explains why…
Why are you doing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain?
Every day, my job reminds me that you only live once, so you really should take every opportunity to follow your dreams and complete your ‘bucket list’. As a keen cyclist, I’ve decided to take unpaid leave from work so that I can complete one of my bucket list challenges – a huge cycle across Great Britain.
With the cycle, I also wanted to raise sponsorship money for Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. It costs the Hospice £8 million a year to keep providing its essential service, over 60% of which needs to come from kind, charitable donations. I see first-hand the amazing care the team provides to people and their families living with life-limiting illness and I feel very passionate that this support should be available to everyone who needs it. That’s why I’m raising money for the Hospice – to help raise awareness and funds for the incredible work it does.
Can you tell me a bit more about Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice?
At Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, we care for people and their families living with life-limiting illness across Birmingham and Sandwell. We care for 400 people every day, including at our hospice in Selly Park, in people’s homes and in community locations, such as GP surgeries.
More often than not, people will associate hospices with end-of-life-care but in fact, a large portion of our work is helping people to live well with their illness. We do this by offering symptom management, specialist medical advice, psychological, spiritual and emotional support, and more. We also support family members, loved ones and carers, by providing them with bereavement counselling, financial and housing support, and other services.
We have a fantastic, expert team at the Hospice, which includes nurses, specialist therapists, social workers, spiritual care leads and more, as well as doctors like myself. We all work together to make sure we can help the people we care for achieve their goals and wishes.
What’s your role at the Hospice?
As a doctor, I mainly work at the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit and in the Day Hospice. I was training in general practice but I decided to become a specialist palliative medicine doctor because I loved it so much.
In my role, I help people come to terms with their illness, relieve them of symptoms and support them with achieving their goals. Sometimes, it can be heart-breaking but it’s always immensely rewarding because I feel as if I am making a real difference to people. It is a privilege to care for people and their families at the end of life.
How long have you been cycling?
I cycled from London to Paris in support of the Hospice three years ago and I definitely got the cycling bug then. I bought my first-ever road bike and started cycling on the pavements! Once I got more confident though, I absolutely loved it.
What else is on your bucket list?
I really do think you have to seize opportunities that come your way because none of us know what’s around the corner. I think it would be too reckless to live every day as though it’s your last but we shouldn’t be making excuses and putting things that we want to do off.
I see so many people work hard all their life, with grand plans for their retirement, only to be faced with a life-limiting illness. Both my husband and I are lucky to be able to work part-time so that we can have more time with our children as they grow up.
With regards to my bucket list – seeing my kids grow up into happy adults is the big one. But I’d also love to cycle in the Alps, travel through Europe in a campervan and see a lot more of the world too.
What are you most nervous about?
I’m nervous about the weather! It’s totally out of my control but wind and rain could make the ride tougher – plus I’m much less experienced when it comes to cycling in adverse weather. I’m also nervous about riding such big distances and up hills on consecutive days – it’s something I’ve not done before.
What are you most excited about?
I am looking forward to exploring parts of the UK I’ve never been to before, meeting new people and testing my cycling ability. I’m also excited about achieving the end goal of crossing the finish line at John O’Groats and raising as much sponsorship as I can for the Hospice.
Have you done a lot of training?
Not as much as I’d like! I was training indoors until about May because the weather and roads were cold and icy. I’ve been riding out regularly since then though but juggling work, family commitments and training can be tough.
How much money have you raised so far?
I’ve raised £2,000 so far but I’m still hoping to raise a little more. £2,000 really will make a difference and could help a family to create precious memories together in our Family Centre at the Hospice.
Most people are sponsoring me via my JustGiving page, which is: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rebecca-dawlatly3
Would you encourage other people to take on a challenge like this?
Absolutely! I would encourage anyone who is considering a challenge such as this to just go for it. I think there are a lot of people who say they ‘can’t’ but with a bit of grit and determination, anything is possible.
Thank you Dr Becky for sharing your story with us – and good luck with your cycle! If you’ve been inspired by Dr Becky’s story and would like to do something amazing for the Hospice, why not take a look at our cycling challenges here.