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Steve Eckersall getting in shape for the Camino de Santiago. SUR
The retired British doctor raising awareness of ovarian cancer with 780km pilgrimage in Spain
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The retired British doctor raising awareness of ovarian cancer with 780km pilgrimage in Spain

Steve Eckersall, who has lived on the Costa del Sol for four years, will walk the Camino de Santiago in memory of his wife, who died in February aged 58

Tony Bryant

Alhaurín el Grande

Friday, 3 May 2024, 10:43

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A retired British doctor who has lived on the Costa del Sol for four years is to attempt to walk the Camino de Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port in France in memory of his wife, Siobhan, 58, who died of ovarian cancer in February. Originally from North Hertfordshire, Steve Eckersall and his schoolteacher wife arrived on the coast in 2020 and bought a house in Alhaurín el Grande, where they planned to spend their retirement years. In 2023, Siobhan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which shows no or only vague symptoms, and she died just twelve months later, despite undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.

Eckersall will be doing the 780 kilometre walk with John Apps, who he refers to as "a mountain goat", an old friend from medical school who is travelling from New Zealand especially to support the cause. The two retired doctors will leave St Jean Pied de Port on 30 May, heading across the Pyrenees and on to Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain.

"I am raising funds in loving memory of my wife who died of ovarian cancer in February. I am calling this a walk of hope because I hope that all the many women who get ovarian cancer can be cured and not suffer as my Siobhan and I did. I also hope that all the bereaved partners who have lost loved ones can emerge from the long dark tunnel that I am in and find the light," the 65-year-old told SUR in English.

Siobhan spent the last three weeks of her life in the Cudeca hospice in Benalmádena, a charity which Eckersall said he "can't speak highly enough of".

"We held a collection for Cudeca at Siobhan's funeral, because they were just so wonderful, brilliant, and so kind. My wife had lots of lovely clothes and shoes, so we are donating them all to the Cudeca shops," he explained.

"Bob Geldof approach"

He is doing the challenge to raise money for Ovacome (the main UK ovarian cancer charity) and Cruise (a charity that supports bereaved families), and he has set up a GoFundMe page (Walk of Hope for Siobhan). By adopting what he calls the "Bob Geldof approach", the campaign has received support from numerous friends and associates in the UK, as well as from the locals of Alhaurín el Grande.

The widower, who admits that he is currently a little "overweight", has never undertaken a task of this magnitude, so he is now training for the momentous hike.

"I am not an athletic type of person, certainly not. What I am doing now is practising walking around ten kilometres a day, most of which is uphill. This is going to be a demanding physical challenge," he said.

Along with raising funds, he is also hoping to make more people aware of this disease, which he says is "not symptomatic until it is too late".

"Unlike breast cancer, which has a fabulous screening programme, there is nothing for ovarian cancer. It's an absolute killer. My wife had to have her gallbladder removed, which was no problem, but doctors discovered that her ovaries were cancerous. By the time it was discovered it was too late, as it had spread too far," he concluded.

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