Meet Susan Gascoine, the grandma walking 450km from Murray Bridge to Peace Park via Victor Harbour and the Fleurieu Peninsula to raise money for her granddaughter who has cystic fibrosis.
This marks the second walk the 70-year-old grandmother has done in order to raise awareness and funds for the disease.
Her nine and a half-year-old granddaughter, Tehya-Rose, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was just a few weeks old.
Throughout Tehya-Rose’s life, Susan contemplated what she could do to make some measure of difference for the cystic fibrosis. She had initially dismissed the idea of the walks as she didn’t believe she could accomplish it. That is, until her late mother inspired her.
When Susan’s mother was sick in hospital, someone commented how strong her legs were for a 90-year-old lady.
“I was sitting there holding her hand when this happened, and I said, ‘That’s just because she loved to walk.’ Then, the very next thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘I’m going to do a walk for cystic fibrosis.’ It was almost as though she put that thought into my head. It started from there and that was almost two years ago,” Susan told Over60.
Last year Susan’s walk from Renmark to Adelaide raised $15,000 for Cystic Fibrosis South Australia and the Cure for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Susan’s granddaughter was delighted once she told her the idea for the walk.
“‘Oh, wow Nana’, that’s what she said. She’s been very enthusiastic saying ‘I’ll walk with you’ and she did walk with us. She walked down the hill and then got in the car to go up the hill. She will walk again this year as best as she can,” said Susan.
The impact of cystic fibrosis
Although currently Tehya-Rose’s condition is not as bad as some cystic fibrosis sufferers, her condition is worsening.
Susan rattled off the names of medications that her granddaughter is required to take daily. Some cystic fibrosis sufferers are required to take up to 50-60 tablets a day.
“It’s always hard to watch a child struggle with something. It’s hard to watch family struggling,” said Susan.
Cystic fibrosis impacts her granddaughter in all facets of her life, even the “little things like day to day things”.
“She runs out of breath more easily than other kids so she does sport but it is a little bit more of a struggle for her, but she will keep doing it,” explained Susan, continuing, “And the fact that she has to go to hospital every so often to have very powerful antibiotics drugs pumped into her for two weeks. When she goes it’s a minimum of two weeks, never just a couple of days.”
Susan’s aim is to make cystic fibrosis as well-known as cardiac problems and cancer.
“Something people think ‘I can’t catch it so it’s not important’ and I don’t want them to feel that way. These kids deserve to have a cure found for them as well,” said Susan.
The support of the walk
Although Susan underwent surgery just before Christmas, she is not letting anything stop her from completing her walk. Susan’s family walks with her for as much as they can but Susan also has strangers join her.
These strangers – families and individuals – are usually people who also have a loved one suffering from cystic fibrosis. Sometimes they are even sufferers themselves.
“It happened to me just the other day someone just came up to me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘Thank you so much for doing this for my child’,” Susan recalled.
“That just brings tears to my eyes and makes it worthwhile. People feel like I’m doing something to help them, that’s what it’s all about helping other people isn’t it.”
Susan started the walk on March 25 and will arrive at Peace Park in Adelaide on April 30.
“My goal is to have as many people become aware of cystic fibrosis as I can touch and make them aware. I’d love to beat last year’s amount, that would be fantastic but I’ve still set my goal at $15, 000 and if I get there, I’ll just keep on going.”