For dad:

Jon Lawrence is walk­ing 100km across five deserts on five con­ti­nents to raise money for Nor­folk’s Big C char­ity in hon­our of his dad

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Jon Lawrence

Son’s desert trek for can­cer char­ity

Within hours of be­ing ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal with chronic back and leg pain, dad was told he had ter­mi­nal can­cer and only three months to live. It’s the hard­est news to hear and the hard­est to im­part; I know, be­cause I had to tell him.

I didn’t want him to be told by a doc­tor with only a few min­utes to spare – he needed some­one to tell him and then hold him. It took a while for the news to sink in, through the mor­phine and other drugs, but when it did, he sim­ply nod­ded. Over the next six weeks I watched him de­te­ri­o­rate. The proud, stoic fa­ther of three bat­tled bravely, with dig­nity and even hu­mour.

One day, not long be­fore the end, while sat in the hos­pi­tal café, dad asked me what I would do with my in­her­i­tance. I didn’t want to think about the sub­ject, but I could see that he wanted to know. I sug­gested that I could clear some debts and maybe take the fam­ily on hol­i­day, be­fore adding; “I’d like to do some­thing for the Big C too.”

Dad had no idea what the Big C was, so I ex­plained to him that it is a can­cer char­ity which sup­ports peo­ple with the dis­ease and those who aid suf­fer­ers. “Sounds good, son,” he said.

I had un­der­taken vol­un­tary work with The Big C and was in­spired by To­nia and her team at the King’s Lynn branch. I was struck by their kind­ness and com­pas­sion; it was real and prag­matic, never pa­tro­n­is­ing or con­de­scend­ing. I couldn’t wait to work with them again.

I had planned to trek the Sa­hara ten years pre­vi­ously, but felt that in or­der to raise some real money the ven­ture needed to have more scope. So I de­cided to walk 100km on five deserts, on five con­ti­nents – that should do it!

Sur­rounded by his close fam­ily, dad died in Oc­to­ber last year. I held his hand as he passed away. Af­ter­wards, I sat with him for a while, still hold­ing his hand as it cooled and once again told him that I would un­der­take a trek in his mem­ory. Over the next eight months I planned my treks to the Ata­cama in Chile, the Sa­hara in Morocco, the lit­tle-known Rangipo Desert in New Zealand, the Wadi Rum in Jor­dan and the Mo­jave Desert in Cal­i­for­nia. Why deserts? As well as need­ing a phys­i­cal chal­lenge, the desert is a per­fect place for in­tro­spec­tion.

When all you see is sand and sun, you’re forced to look in­side. So, I’m us­ing that time and space to think about my dad, to come to terms with my grief and con­tem­plate the fu­ture without him.

My first trek was in Chile’s Ata­cama, my se­cond in the Sa­hara. You can find out about the treks on my Face­book page. In the mean­time, those of you who are lucky enough to still have your fa­ther, prom­ise me one thing; next time you see him, give him a hug. just­giv­­ing/ iwould­walk500k face­ jon­lawrencewrit­ing

‘When all you see is sand and sun, you’re forced to look in­side’

ABOVE:Jon Lawrence in the Ata­cama Desert

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