The brother of a woman who inspired hundreds during her brave fight with cancer is set to complete a 350-mile Pilgrimage in a bid to spread her message.
Maria Slater was 39 when she died in September last year, however, her spirit, kindness to others and determination to get people to check themselves has inspired family, friends and strangers to carry on in her memory.
Maria ran an online blog on Facebook called ‘My name is Maria I am 35, I have grade 2 Breast and stage 3 Ovarian cancer’ in which she detailed her four year battle with the illness and reached hundreds of thousands of people with a simple message - ‘check your bits’.
The blog has since been carried on by mum Theresa and sister Suzanne.
Now, brother Martin Lynch, 36, is aiming to complete Maria’s Pilgrimage - a 350-plus mile bike-ride from ‘where Maria took her first breath (in Plymouth) to where she took her last (in Boston)’ – in only 24 hours.
Martin is looking to raise awareness along the route of cancer and promote Maria’s message to #checkyourbits for any sign of the illness and to get to a doctor if anything is wrong.
He told The Standard: “Maria got a lot from helping others. It made her feel good to help.”
Maria was a healthcare worker, and prior to being diagnosed was offered the opportunity to be a midwife - something she never got to do because of her treatments.
“She knew a lot of the staff at Pilgrim,” said Martin, from Coningsby. “In her last days, everytime there was a shift end, the nurses would come in and kiss her good bye. She was well thought of and much loved by everyone there.
“I can’t say how much she inspired the family. When you have got someone in your life who is that strong and that inspirational you get swept up in it. I didn’t want the message to fade away. I didn’t want it to end with her.”
Martin, a flight lieutenant in the RAF at Briars Norton, plans to set off on June 31.
In a statement published online Martin opened up about his experience of Maria’s death.
He said: “I am in the RAF and in August 2016 I was deployed to the Middle East and kept in touch with her progress via Skype.
“By now we had become accustomed to a series of doctors examinations and visits to the hospital and life with cancer was part of our routine.
“On Saturday September 10 I Skyped my parents who told me that Maria had gone into Pilgrim Hospital struggling to breath.
“There were no signs of real concern as this had happened a few times over the last few months and I heard the usual draining of her lungs procedure explained and expected her to rest up before returning home.
“Less than two hours later, as I was passing the Admin Office the Deployment Admin Officer called me over and invited me into his office.
“I had no idea what he wanted and half expected it to be something about work… He then told me that my parents had contacted the RAF and I was being sent home as a Compassionate. He told me it was my sister and that I needed to get home as soon as possible.
“I was in disbelief and told him that I’d only spoken to them a couple of hours prior.
“Shock set in and I felt numb; I didn’t know what to do.
“I said goodbye to the people in my section and headed home, well looked after by everybody involved who I will never be able to thank enough.
“I got home in time to spend precious time with my sister and family, saying goodbye as she took her last breath with myself, Mother, Father and younger sister in the room with her.
“She now looks over her daughters Mackenzie, Madison and Mazie who make us all so proud every day.
“Maria was born in Devon Port, Plymouth and died in Pilgrim Hospital, Boston (the term pilgrim being synonymous with both places).
“I will be cycling the 350-plus mile journey from where she took her first breath to the place she took her last in 24 hours.
“My aim is to have as many people as possible share, like, tweet, retweet and hashtag about the event and spread the words ‘check your bits’.
“The more people I reach, the more lives that can potentially be saved.
He will be mainly cycling solo, although several people have said they would be joining him for sections of the journey.
Martin completed a similar ride seven years ago with three others, raising money for Cancer Research and Macmillan in memory of his grandfather.
This time he won’t be raising money himself, but asks anyone who wishes to donate to do so to Macmillan, Pilgrim Hospital or the Butterfly Hospice.
People will also be able to follow his journey on social media by following @greenlynchy on Twitter, Maria’s Pilgrimage on Facebook or searching #mariaspilgrimage #checkyourbits #cancersucks