A marathon effort in aid of Team Verrico

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Team Verrico founder Paul Verrico took on his biggest challenge to date to raise nearly £7,000 for the charity which he set up following the tragic death of his wife, Anna, 4 years ago.

Paul said: “A few weeks before she died, Anna posted on social media about wanting to regain her health sufficiently to run a marathon. We’d talked about it previously - the romantic story of Philippides in 500 BC, the Athenian herald who was sent to request help from the warriors of Sparta when the Persians landed at Marathon, Greece.

“Philippides is said to have run about 150 miles in two days. He then ran the 25 miles from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) with the words “hail, we are the winners” and then collapsed and died. Since Anna died, I’ve survived but not thrived. I hit rock bottom in April 2017. My mental health had deteriorated and the grief was winning. I was sinking.

“But the Verricos love challenges. And so I spent May talking to my friends and trying to find some solid ground. Training for the events gave me a challenge that I could face down and win. I trained alone and with local running club ‘We Can Run’ - winning the most miles covered in a month trophy for July and October as I tried to improve my fitness. The pain felt from the miles pounded was nothing compared to the pain faced by cancer patients fighting the bogey man which assails all that is right and good, assaulting, marauding and indiscriminately killing parents, leaving devastation and heartache in its wake. I’ve watched our charity support families with second opinions, medical tests not available on the NHS, picking up the pieces when households are left fractured by grief and loss.

“So on Sunday 12 November, I became a marathon runner. I’d picked the hardest Olympic distance course in the world - but that’s what made it a suitable challenge. The course was uphill for the first 20 miles, with 1,565 feet of elevation gain. The temperature peaked at 25 degrees Celsius.

“November is a particularly difficult month for me - Anna took her last breath just after 23:17 on the evening of 19 November 2013, killed by a blood clot caused by the chemotherapy regime she was receiving; the death certificate records 20 November, being past midnight by the time the crash team medics stopped working on her to try and bring her back.

“Having the marathon to train for this year has given me a focus to get through the early part of this month as that ‘sadiversary’ event looms large at the end of this week. I draw further encouragement when I total up and reflect on what we’ve achieved since Anna’s death - how 4 Eversheds (as the firm then was) lawyers and one family friend formed the volunteer charity Team Verrico. In those 4 years, over £400,000 has been raised to fight back against the invidious enemy called cancer which ruins so many lives. Dozens of families have received second opinions in London; hundreds of hours of counselling have been extended to those suffering from cancer or bereaved to it. People are still alive today as a direct result of the charity giving them an opportunity to meet the best medical professionals in the world, introducing trial drugs or receiving ‘impossible’ surgical interventions.

“A further 7 research projects have been directly funded by the charity to push the envelope of science to try and find incremental improvements to treatment options to improve survival rates. What started out as a poorly girl’s desire to raise a modest amount to fund one doctoral student has evolved into a movement which serves as a vector to allow good people to help others.

“Anna would be proud.

“If you know of anyone who could directly benefit from what we do, please put them in touch, either directly or through our website, www.teamverrico.org.”

By way of reminder, Team Verrico is aimed at families with children under the age of 18 where the family is facing a cancer diagnosis.

We provide and pay for:

1. access to a private health care second opinion on Harley Street to either confirm an NHS course of treatment or to suggest amendments; many of those we send to London either embark on a clinical trial or have their care flipped into the capital’s NHS system;

2. counselling for a cancer patient and their family or to a bereaved family if the worst eventuates. We source a counsellor from Counselling Directory and then fund face to face sessions; and

3. practical support to the family - this could be as simple as childcare on chemotherapy days; taxi or rail fares to hospital; a domestic cleaner for someone with a terminal illness; reflexology; medical supplies, wheelchairs or adjustments to a patient’s home.