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Sarah’s story: Why I’m riding the 100-mile Pilgrims Cycle Challenge

Posted on 18 April 2017

Sarah's story: Why I'm riding the 100-mile Pilgrims Cycle Challenge

Sarah Callery from Ashford is taking on the 100-mile Pilgrims Cycle Challenge for the first time this year. She’s riding in memory of her dad, Patrick, who was cared for by Pilgrims.

Here, Sarah shares how her love of cycling is the perfect way for her to remember her dad and support Pilgrims at the same time.

I’ve cycled for several years on and off, and used to talk to my dad about my cycling and goals. I was due to complete the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 in August 2015. Just before my dad passed, he said he wanted to come and see me do it. We were planning how Mum could get him to a place somewhere on the route. Unfortunately, he passed 10 days before I was due to do the ride.


Sarah Callery and dad Patrick

My dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer on 28 April 2015. He was referred to Pilgrims Hospice Canterbury and cared for by the hospice until he passed away less than three months later on 23 July. The Pilgrims staff were amazing from the offset. From the consultant, who explained my dad’s diagnosis with care and compassion and listened to and considered my dad’s wishes, to the nurses who cared for him during his final week in the hospice.

Before he went into the hospice, Dad had a nurse come out to see him. They reviewed where he lived and what he would need to fulfil his wish to pass away at home, if possible. An Occupational Therapist from Pilgrims also organised a new bed to be delivered for him, although his health deteriorated so quickly that we didn’t have the opportunity to take him home. Dad was offered everything he would need to make his end of life as comfortable as possible, whether that was at home or at the hospice. I know this gave him comfort that his wishes would be carried out.

My dad also had vascular disease. He was in severe pain, and was taken into Pilgrims to sort out his pain medication. Weirdly, this was possibly when Dad seemed his most content. I think that was due to the care he was given. The nurses treated him as if he meant to them the same as he meant to me. That touched my heart, knowing that when I or my family weren’t there he was being looked after and wasn’t alone.

Pilgrims is like a big family unit that surrounds you and your loved ones in a big cocoon.

My dad took a sudden turn for the worse. At that point, my mum and I basically stayed at the hospice with him. Again, the staff continued to care for my dad and supported me and my mum. I can’t really describe how that support got us through the most difficult time we’ve ever experienced. Even after my dad passed and I would visit him in the chapel of rest, the nurses supported and comforted me and my mum. The only way I can describe it is like the care and love you would give to a close friend or family member. Pilgrims is like a big family unit that surrounds you and your loved ones in a big cocoon.

I was also offered reiki therapy to help me come to terms with my loss. The fact that Pilgrims continue to support loved ones afterwards really does ease some of the emotional pain that you go through.


On the morning of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 I woke up at 3am. I was still debating whether I had the energy or emotional strength to complete it, but I decided to do it for my dad. It was the longest day of my life emotionally; I was done at 60 miles and I cried for the final 40 miles. But I completed it.

Sarah Callery's dad Patrick

That’s why I want to do the 100-mile Pilgrims Cycle Challenge; it seems the perfect way to continue to honour my dad’s memory. I also want to raise some money for Pilgrims. I’m always taking stuff to the charity shops to raise money, and I want to add to that.

Fundraising can be hard, but I’m trying my best. Pilgrims Cycle Challenge combines my love of cycling with my respect for the work that Pilgrims do.

Sarah is fundraising on JustGiving, where you can read more about her story and keep up to date with her progress.

Pilgrims Cycle Challenge takes place on Sunday 30 April 2017.

Sign up today.

We recently launched a new service to help people with a life limiting illness access the support they need earlier.

The Wellbeing and Social Programme is free for anyone in the later stages of a life limiting illness and their family. It aims to enhance their wellbeing in mind and body.

The first step is to talk to your GP or healthcare professional. They can advise whether the programme is right for you. More information is available here.


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