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
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.com/fundraising/ iwouldwalk500k facebook.com/ jonlawrencewriting
‘When all you see is sand and sun, you’re forced to look inside’
ABOVE:Jon Lawrence in the Atacama Desert