10ks, half-marathons and everything in between: Joanne’s race to the London Marathon - Barts Charity
Beryl and Family

10ks, half-marathons and everything in between: Joanne’s race to the London Marathon

Joanne Selby is running the London Marathon in memory of her mother Beryl, who was treated for bone and spine cancer at St Bartholomew’s Hospital for two years.

  • Date: April 13, 2023

An extended stay

When Beryl Levenberg Selby was admitted as an inpatient to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in June 2020, she was only supposed to be treated for two weeks, which then became two years under their care for regular tests, scans, chemotherapy and monitoring.

Joanne was highly positive about the treatment Beryl received during her time at the hospital. “The hospital was really good in the pandemic. The oncologists kept in touch by phone and always kept their word. If they said they were going call me, they would, and [they] updated me on mum’s cancer status, test results and the treatments they were offering. They always used easy to understand language and allowed me to come into the hospital with my mum to get her biopsy results, at a time when it was strictly patients only. The amazing occupational therapist and physiotherapist also allowed me to come and see mum once and showed me how to put her back brace on for her return home.”

Beryl with grandchild Micah

Following her biopsy, Beryl underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy procedures. These crucial courses were running at the height of the pandemic, which presented challenges for Joanne to be close with her Mum. Joanne often felt the pain of helplessness, only being able to speak with mum on her mobile.

However, the hospital staff worked so well as a team and were able to accommodate, providing Joanne with regular calls about Beryl’s progress, text messages from the wonderful cancer nurses and transport for Beryl to and from the hospital once a week.

“I was very happy that they were able to call me regularly and keep me updated with results. Their care, attention and communication throughout the global pandemic was outstanding and my mum not only felt confident as a recipient of their services, but also really trusted the oncologists, cancer nurses, physiotherapists and transport team.”
Joanne- Fundraiser

Giving back to the staff

When Beryl passed away in July 2022, both her and Joanne had formed a special connection with the hospital staff that had so loyally treated her for two years. Even following her passing, the staff stood by Joanne’s side and kept in close contact, with members of the team calling Joanne to let her know in what high regard they held Beryl. Joanne felt it was imperative to give something back to the staff for their efforts and compassion.

Joanne remarked, “I felt that, in my mum’s way of living life by always making something positive out of a negative, I just thought I’d see if there were any charity places to run the 2023 London marathon, because I know how happy she would be knowing that I could fundraise and give something back to Barts.”

“She praised each and every one of them throughout her cancer journey. Mum often said that it felt like she was receiving private treatment. She wasn't just a number, she was Beryl Levenberg, always treated with dignity and respect.”
Joanne- Fundraiser

The road to race day

The physical commitments of training and finding the time to commit to such a full-on training schedule have been Joanne’s biggest challenges for marathon preparation. As a non-runner, preparing in under 4 months has been tough, especially during the cold, dark winter months.

“I work, have two teenage sons and help my disabled father, who my mum used to look after. So now, as a family we're caring for him as well. Outside of working for a charity, I’m a counsellor too and I volunteer at a local hospice, providing bereavement counselling to families."
Joanne- Fundraiser

In relation to the hectic training schedule, “Some days you absolutely don’t feel like it. But you push yourself. My kids are great, because they’re teenage boys and they keep me active. They both play football and are very into going to the gym and fitness, so help me with dynamic warm ups and stretching.” My husband Glenn has been hugely supportive in stepping up to enable me to have time to train. My family encouragement has kept me motivated.”

Joanne has also undertaken other races as part of her training. She has embarked on a marathon workshop organised by Runner Retreats at the London community track, in addition to a 10k race at the Olympic park in Stratford and a half marathon at Victoria Park.

Beryl and grandchild Theo

Joanne also told us at the time of writing, “I’ve booked a half marathon for Mother’s Day of all days. But I thought that’s quite poignant for my mum. I just thought, let me do it. I’m just meant to do this.”

Despite these tests, Joanne is looking forward to the atmosphere of the day and she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of donations she has received. Friends and family have been incredibly generous. She has also received donations from neighbours for walking their dogs. Joanne commented, “I’m confident I will reach the target and probably exceed it. I think I have a big circle of family and friends, and my mum obviously was very, really, really well thought of in our family and her friendship circles. And so everybody knows I’m doing it for Mum and lots of her friends have donated as well.”

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