Marie Curie Healthcare Assistant Marion Pentney has just completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge at the age of 60. What makes this all the more remarkable is that four years ago she was told that she wouldn’t be able to walk long distances. Here she explains how she couldn’t have done it without the support of her son, Deane
By the age of 35, Marion Pentney had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis with a prognosis of being in a wheelchair by the age of 60. But Marion, who has turned 60 and isn’t in a wheelchair, has clearly had other ideas. So much so, she has just completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge with her son Deane, raising much-needed funds for Marie Curie in the process.
It has involved 25 miles of walking and the challenge of going up the three peaks themselves – all in the space of 12 hours. And all the while Deane kept her going, carrying her rucksack and literally pushing her up some of the rocks!
And yet there was a time when Marion’s arthritis was so bad she had to stop working and be cared for constantly. She needed help getting dressed, couldn’t lift a saucepan and lost all of her independence. By the time she was 43 Marion had started to lose her sight in one eye due to the arthritis – which can also cause dry eyes. The hospital asked her if she’d like to try a new drug to help the condition, she said yes and hasn’t looked back since. She still uses the drug – called Infliximab – and visits the hospital every eight weeks for her Infliximab Infusion. She also has another medication – Methotrexate – which also helps with her condition. Marion has been on these medications for 17 years now and they have effectively given her, her life back.
A Healthcare Assistant with Marie Curie for six years, she was inspired to nurse after her father, who lived a few doors away from her in Freethorpe, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had visits from Marie Curie nurses during his last days. That was 21 years ago not long before her 40th birthday. Marion was already working in the care sector providing care for people in their own homes but after she saw the Marie Curie nurse she decided to ask if she could work for Marie Curie. At the time there were no vacancies, but she kept asking year after year and eventually succeeded in getting her dream job with the charity.
As a result of the pandemic, she spent quite a bit of 2020 shielding due to her illness and unable to carry out her care duties for Marie Curie and this was part of the reason why she wanted to do the challenge: to pay the charity back for that time when she wasn’t able to work. Also, Marion would have also been out and about helping with the Great Daffodil Appeal and collecting money, but Covid-19 put a stop to that, as all collections were cancelled due to the lockdown.
This challenge came about when Marion received a phone call on Mother’s Day from Deane, who lives in Oldham and talked about doing the challenge himself but by the end of that phone call Marion was also willingly signing up to do it too. She is always keen to prove the specialists wrong, as four years ago she was told she wouldn’t be able to walk or run long distances.
Marion says: ‘It’s very important for me to thank a few key people who have helped to make this all possible and who have believed in me from day one that I can do this. Firstly, myself and Deane want to say how grateful we are to all our friends and family for donating to the charity and our event. I would also like to thank Jules Wilson from Norfolk Bowen Therapy who has helped me with my rheumatoid arthritis who works magic and encouraged me to join a gym. I joined Fitness at the Street in Lingwood owned and run by Kim and Stephen Snowling and I must thank them for writing a three-month nutrition, fitness and strengthening programme to help me with my balance, strength and fitness.’
Jules from Bowen Therapy says: ‘When I first met Marion her prognosis was to be in a wheelchair by the time she was 60. With her determination (and a little help from Bowen Therapy) within a matter of months she was walking, running and even joined the gym. I am so pleased that I an now able to support Marion during her training and in her post event recovery. She is simply inspirational and shows that anything is possible!’
Helen Chapman, Fundraiser for Norfolk says: ‘Marion is one amazing lady to have been through so much but we are incredibly grateful to her and son Deane for taking on this momentous challenge to help those who are dying.’
So how did they get on? Marion admits: ‘It was a lot harder than I thought, even though Deane kept telling me how hard it was going to be. At times, my walking poles were no use to me as we were literally climbing up rocks using our hands.
‘We were on time to reach the finish in 12 hours when we reached the top of the third peak. By this time, I had hurt my back and Deane was having to carry my rucksack. There were times going up the last peak that Deane did wonder if I would be able to make it, but he knew I wouldn’t give up. He was also concerned because I couldn’t stand up straight – he was worried I would damage my spine permanently if I kept walking.
‘The last mile took about an hour because I was only able to walk about 10 steps then have to stop because of pain. I did enjoy it although at times I did have a few doubts especially at the difficult places, and at the end when I was in a lot of pain.
‘I would not have been able to complete the challenge without Deane. He carried my rucksack and literally pushed me up some rocks because my legs were too short to reach.’
She adds: ‘I am proud I managed to do as are my family and friends we had so many good luck messages and support to keep us going. Deane and I are very grateful for all the donations that we have received, we weren’t expecting to be able to raise so much for Marie Curie.’
The mother and son team have raised in the region of £3,000 with online and offline donations which is a huge amount and could fund a Marie Cure nurse or healthcare assistant for just over two weeks.