Matt Simms is gearing up to take on the TCS London Marathon next month to support the charity that cared for his mother-in-law, Yvonne Pettitt at the end of her life.
44-year-old Matt, who lives in Yeovil, is taking on the 26.2-mile distance alongside thousands of others on Sunday 2 October for Sue Ryder, in memory Yvonne who died in October 2021.
Yvonne lived in Henley-on-Thames her whole life and worked at the local Waitrose for 25 years. Matt hopes to raise vital funds for Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire, which provided expert palliative care to Yvonne at her home in the town, as well as supporting his wife Karen, Yvonne’s husband and the rest of their family.
Karen, who grew up in Henley, said: “Mum had been diagnosed with, and recovered from, breast cancer about 15 years ago and everything seemed fine. However, during the COVID lockdown in December 2020 she started to become unwell and after going to the hospital in January they discovered that she had cancer of the uterus.
“She was in and out of hospital a number of times, which was particularly difficult because it was during the pandemic and we couldn’t always go and visit her. Sadly, a few months later in August, the day after her 70th birthday, an MRI scan showed that the cancer had spread to her spine, lungs, pelvis and lymph nodes. She was given radiotherapy but it was decided that she should be moved to palliative care.”
Yvonne was discharged from hospital and received Hospice at Home care from Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire in her final weeks.
“The support and compassion from Sue Ryder was just absolutely fantastic,” Karen added. They didn’t just care for Mum, but the whole family too – they spent so much time listening to us as a family and supporting us through it.
“As a family we were determined to do everything ourselves, but I think we soon realised that the help from the Sue Ryder Nurses was invaluable. They visited several times a day and it just gave us the confidence in what we were doing – I could ask them any questions even if I felt they were stupid. They were so great with us.”
After Yvonne passed away, Matt was inspired to give something back by doing a fundraising challenge and signed up to the 2022 marathon.
He said: “We were all just so appreciative of all the Sue Ryder Nurses that I wanted to do something to say thank you for everything they did for our family. I know the charity was also hit hard financially by the pandemic so I wanted to raise as much money as possible so they can continue to be there for other local families going through difficult times.
“Although I am a keen runner, this is the first marathon I have ever done so it’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity though, and running for a cause that means so much to me and my family will keep me going.”
Meghan Bentley, Community Fundraiser at Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire, said: “We’re so grateful to Matt for choosing to run the London Marathon to support us in memory of Yvonne and we’d all like to wish him the very best for the race day.
“Our Sue Ryder Nurses and healthcare teams have always been there for patients and families at the most difficult time of their lives. With the help from our generous supporters who fundraise for us, our teams can continue to go above and beyond, filling last days with love and helping to give families a better goodbye.”
To donate to Matt’s fundraising page, visit: justgiving.com/fundraising/Matt-Sims-1