In 2015, my sister Jo was diagnosed with leukaemia, aged 21.
She had just finished studying Agricultural Food Science and Production at the Royal Agricultural College. She loved university and was the brains of the family!
After graduating, she had been working at Waitrose and was on her feet a lot. Over Christmas she was working long hours to save money, and by the end of January she was incredibly tired and achey, but we just put it down to her working so hard.
Jo went to see her regular doctor, where he took some blood tests. He came to our house the same night, and said "This isn't good, we need to go". She was taken to hospital, where she had more tests. A couple of days later she started chemo. It was all very quick.
We were gutted, but we remained hopeful. Our dad was diagnosed with cancer 10 years before, and he'd got through it. We thought because she was so young she had everything on her side, and that it would be a rough six months and then everything would be back to normal. She had a bone marrow transplant, and it seemed to us like it had gone well. I got married at a similar time, and she came out of hospital and was able to be a bridesmaid for us, this made our day! She was up at the crack of dawn, and one of the last off the dance floor at the end of the night. You would never have known what she had been through just weeks before.
It turned out that the bone marrow transplant hadn't worked very well. There was a new drug over in America and we were told that Jo could try it. Jo was so determined, she would go for every new treatment that she could have. It was a glimmer of hope, so we all agreed she should do it - you've got to take every chance you can get. It turned out to be so much harder than chemo, the side effects made her feel incredibly ill and weak, but she was all for doing it. She wasn't going to give up.
She was incredibly brave, and stronger than any of us lot.
For her treatment, Jo was based on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Southampton, where we'd visit her regularly. We've got a small, close knit group of friends in the New Forest, and every Friday and Saturday night we'd have between 6 – 12 people sitting in the lounge on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit. It meant that we could keep her included with what was going on, she was still integral in our social group, and without the unit wouldn't have been able to do that.
Between our Mum and Johnny, someone was able to stay with her in her room every night. There was a kitchen, so when Jo was feeling up to it she'd bake cakes or make sandwiches, or just keep herself busy messing around in the kitchen. I think it would've been a completely different story if it hadn't been for that ward. It helped us feel normal in the worst possible circumstances.
Everything went downhill very suddenly. It was what would turn out to be her last week, we were told that the treatment wasn't going to work. Jo passed away in April 2017.
When she was first diagnosed we did the Bath Half, it just felt like the right thing to do. None of us had considered doing a marathon, but when she died last April, it was around the same time as the London Marathon. It made sense for us to push ourselves and to raise a bit of money. Jo would have wanted us to do something.
I've done a couple of half marathons, but never a full one. Training is going really well, but I've tweaked my knee so that's put me back a couple of weeks, but it's getting there now. I'm feeling fairly confident.
The thing I'm most looking forward to on the day is finishing the race! The atmosphere is going to be amazing.
There are 4 of us running in total, including Johnny (Jo’s boyfriend) and 2 very close family friends Ben and Ellie . We're going to try and aim to do the first 10 miles together, and from there we'll go at our own pace. We're hoping to raise £10k altogether. We did a New Year's Day breakfast at the farm for around 80 people from the village that raised around £500. Jo was really into her baking, she loved it, so we did an afternoon tea which raised around £3k!
Me and my family are all very close. We've got the farm, close friends, and now we've got to get on with it. You've got two options, you can let it get you down or you can pick yourself up. Jo wouldn't want everyone to be sitting around and moping, she'd have been the opposite. She got on so well with the nurses at Southampton and she thought a lot of Teenage Cancer Trust. Now is our chance to give something to the charity that meant so much to her.