Gina Dyer: “every time I think of St Christopher’s it always brings a warm feeling in my heart”

Gina has raised nearly £2,000 walking 20 miles memory of her husband, Fred

“My name is Gina Dyer I am 55 years old. I live in New Addington, and I work for Sainsbury’s in Wickham High Street. I have worked for Sainsbury’s for 15 years, with the last 10 at Wickham High Street.

I was married for 35 years and have 2 children: Fred who is 34 years old and Vicky who is 30 years old. I met my husband Fred in Sept 1979 and I knew from the first date that I was going to marry him. 11 months later we did just that, on August 16th 1980 when I was 18 and he was 33 years old. 

In 2010 Fred Senior had a heart attack that was to leave him unable to work and live an active life, and he was then diagnosed with Asbestosis. Life was hard but we made the best of it. In January 2015 we moved to a 1 bed flat as caring for Fred and working full time was taking its toll, and our home of 30 years was too much. It was a good move and we were making a new last home and were happy in our new life.

Fred started feeling a little unwell, but with his health issues we were not concerned, but by the end of June he was still under the weather so he went for tests. At the end of July the doctor called him in and said they found a tumour in his lung. 

After more tests and a visit to Royal Marsden on August 25th he was told his small cell cancer was untreatable and that he was too weak at this point for treatment. The doctors and nurses were so kind in how they told us that there was nothing they could do, and to go home and enjoy his last few months together.

 It was a devastating moment and one that I still have not come to terms with.

Fred was so sad, not for himself but for us who he would be leaving behind. He was brave and dignified and never asked ‘why me’ or said ‘it’s not fair’. He accepted his diagnosis. He only ever said when asked how he felt by the doctor at the Marsden that he was frightened, and I felt so sad as we could do nothing for him. We were all so proud of him and the bravery he showed throughout knowing that nothing or no one could help him.

 This is where St Christopher’s came in. We had a lady from the home care team, Caitriona, came to visit and I never believed that there were ‘living angels’. But there she sat in our home and I have never met such a caring and gentle person as her. She helped us understand what would happen and she asked Fred if he wanted to go into the hospice when the end was near but he said no that he wanted to be at home with his ‘darlin’. 

In the next 2 ½ weeks Caitriona was with us every step of the way. She answered my questions and eased my fears and when Fred was getting weaker she asked him if he needed things and when he refused she went with his decision. At all times we were made to feel as we had first class care and attention and that we were her top priority, even though she had more patients than Fred.

When she realised Fred was much more poorly than we expected she put the wheels in motion for his hospital bed, medication and everything Fred needed immediately.

Sadly Fred passed away on Friday 11th September 2015. 

St Christopher’s kept in contact and still do through letters and newsletters and are always asking and reminding me that there is always a listening ear there if any of the family need to talk.

I still do not feel ready and I still feel I have not come to terms with Fred’s death. I lost my husband, best mate, the rest of my life, when Fred died; it’s as if a part of you is missing. You give your life’s partner everything and you know them and they know you like no one ever will and you will never have the love like that first love.

 My grief was deep and dark and at times it still is; I was finding myself fighting to stay afloat to stop the grief and sadness pulling me down. I started walking with my headphones in and I would walk to ease the pain and torment of the grief. My car was old and so in June 2016 I got rid of it and decided to walk home from work every night, just on 3 miles.

 I then decided I needed to do something to try to begin to say thank you and show my appreciation for all the care Fred received, and that he was able to be in his home with me holding his hand as he passed away just exactly as he wanted. So I thought I would do a sponsored walk of 20 miles.

The walks got longer and on my days off I would walk anything from 5 to 16 miles in preparation. I didn’t find it hard as it was like a therapy because I would feel the anger and tears coming and would just walk further and faster. I would and still do walk everywhere; even to Croydon at times to go shopping. 

When our store’s Charity of the Year was voted St Christopher’s, I thought I could now ask my colleagues and customers to sponsor me. With family, friends and residents of my flats where I live I managed to get more sponsors than I imagined.

On the day of October 1st I set out at 6am I wanted to walk by myself but had made a route that involved all the local Sainsbury’s in the area. I left my flat in New Addington and walked to Sainsbury’s Wickham High Street, then along to Trinity round about in Shirley, up through Shirley Hills, down Gravel Hill up to Selsdon Sainsbury’s. From there I walked to the Sanderstead roundabout through to Warlingham Sainsbury’s, back on myself to Selsdon Sainsbury’s and through to the Harvester/St Mary’s Church along the Kent Gateway through to Hayes local Sainsbury’s, then on to Wickham High Street. That was exactly 20 miles. It took me 6 ½ hours. When I got to 15 miles along the Kent Gateway I felt very emotional and cried on and off for the last 5 miles as I realised that the walk would not change my life, but what kept me going was that it was going to help others have the care and help that Fred and our family had received. Every pound raised was important.

On the last 2 miles my hips were hurting as I had never walked that far, 16 miles was the most I had done. I didn’t think I would make it walking up Glebe Way to my store as every time I lifted my right leg the pain in my hip hurt. Brenda, a volunteer (her daughter Christine works for the hospice) met me on the last bit and walked with me. It was very emotional as I so wanted Fred to have been there and to have said he was proud of me. I felt proud of myself that I achieved the walk and of course I enjoyed the fact that I did something to give a little back.

I raised £1198.00 so I put the extra £2 in to make it a round £1200. I have left the collection pots and buckets out and have so far banked nearly £1700 for St Christopher’s. Hopefully we will get to £2000 before our year of fundraising is up for St Christopher’s and that will only touch on the thank you that myself, mine and Fred’s family owe to the wonderful caring staff and hospice. For us our lives have changed forever and my grief is still painful, but every time I think of St Christopher’s it always brings a warm feeling in my heart that you were there for us in our darkest time and I can never thank you enough.”