In the May edition of Tomorrow we wrote an article about A Pilgrimage undertaken by Ricardo, Donna and Marco for Leukaemia charities. Rebecca Simpson accompanied them on their mission and interviewed the trio about their experience.
Over the course of eight days, the three musketeers walked 366 km over sand, gravel, tarmac, dual carriageways and grass to reach the religious destination of Fátima. The team were relatively injury-free after having physio-based treatment every evening. The problem arose when the blisters started! Unfortunately, even with the best footwear possible, the number of kilometres covered and the resulting stress to their bodies meant something had to give!
Donna tells me how she felt during the walk: “I knew that we were taking on a massive task. Some said it was impossible to complete that many kilometres in a day then do it all again the next day and the next. We weren’t athletes. I prepared myself mentally as best I could but it was so hard. When the blisters came on the third day, I was tested on every level. I felt every step I made. Sometimes I cried as I walked because the pain made me feel sick.”
Donna kept going with the thought of the children they were trying to help that needed their parents to be able to stay by their side during their chemotherapy treatments. “I thought about if it was my child and how desperate I’d be and the financial strain it would be for me if this facility wasn’t in place. It became my driving force. I focused on the end and seeing my son’s little face and my parents who had driven all that way and waited for us.”
The last day was relentless. For Donna, it never seemed to end. Ricardo told her when she was walking to look at the mountain in front and she thought she couldn’t get there. To which Ricardo replied, “no, we need to get over the other side of it and Fátima will be there!”
Thirteen hours later, they made their final steps on the white path at the sanctuary. With Donna’s son holding her hand they completed their journey. “I couldn’t feel my body by the end. I was so relieved it was over. I learnt something about myself during this journey. That I had a strength and determination I never thought possible. I wanted to give up so many times but something kept me going. I look back now and think WOW, what a distance we did. We had so much love and support along the way. I will never forget what we achieved but I never ever want to repeat it again!”
Ricardo concludes: “After 16 years I have finally closed a chapter of my life. What I promised has finally been fulfilled and the next chapter is to help those families in need of a space to be whilst their loved ones are in treatment. Thank you for everyone’s support in this long walk!”
Their pilgrimage was an incredible and unprecedented achievement. Having averaged 45 km a day, 45 km per day it’s true to say the trio are real-life superheroes. The fundraising still continues with any donations hugely welcomed and appreciated.