My Story

You all know that I lost my mom to cancer when I was 24 and later a very good mate of mine, lost his 6-year old son to this terrible disease.  It is what has driven me to do the Pacific Crest Trail.  All the time that I’ve spent on this trail, alone with my thoughts, have made me realise that it’s the small kindnesses that matter.

We left Zimbabwe in 2002, one of thousands of families that had the carpet pulled out from under them during the crisis in the country.  We had to leave our farm and our way of life behind and start anew in a different country.

My Dad, a fiercely proud man, dusted himself off and started again and I can’t imagine it was easy.  Not long after, in 2005 – I was 19 and my sister was 15 – we were dealt another blow when my Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a tennis ball.  It was malignant and none of us could have guessed that it would cause as much damage as it did.

The four-year story began with my Mom preparing for the biggest fight of her life, and my Dad, the fierce and proud man that he is, was about to fight just as hard.  The little bit of money my Dad could get together, was used to put us through school and put food on the table.  The rest of the money was spent on my Mom.  I never knew what a desperate situation we were in, which is a testament to my Dad and how strong a person he is.

Fast forward a few years and I just arrived back from the UK.  I was told that I had to come back.  Time was running out.  I picked my sister up from school and brought her home and one of our family friends were over, visiting my mom.  My Dad asked me to pick up a few things from the local Spar in Nelspruit; milk, bread, the basics.  He gave me R150, it was all my Dad could afford at the time.  There wasn’t any money for luxuries.

The friend asked if she could come along with myself and my sister, and at the time I didn’t think anything of it.   We got out the car and the friend walked up behind me with a trolley and she said:  They’ve put together an envelope of money from friends, we can put a few things we like in the trolley, little treats like sandwich spread and Nesquick.

My pride took a massive hit and I had a meltdown in the Spar.  I wanted to support my Dad.  I felt that we were not a charity, we never needed anything from anyone.  We were fine.  The friend paid for the groceries and I carried everything to the car, very begrudgingly.

I never told my Dad about my experience, until recently.  I don’t get to see him that often as he’s farming in Uganda, but he stopped dead in his tracks.  This fierce, proud man, that I have idolised my entire life, suddenly looked vulnerable as he admitted that if it wasn’t for the family friend that showed them that little kindness that day in the Spar, he would have broken.  My Dad was so close to throwing in the rope, giving up… and she gave him the strength to carry on… one more day.

It’s the little kindnesses of strangers that matter.  Giving anonymously, is giving in the real sense of the word.  That is what drove me to do the Pacific Crest Trail.  That is my aim with this project, to give a little kindness to someone who needs it desperately:  The children and their families who are fighting the battle of their lives.  You can help to make a difference in someone’s life.

Don’t forget to support my 6 million steps campaign for CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA by making a donation. Also, make sure you know what the signs are of early childhood cancer.

Peter Dunn at the start of the Pacific Crest Trail