The Early Years...
Frances, know to everyone as Fran, was born in Erdington, Birmingham in 1942 moving to Sale, Cheshire in 1949 with her parents. She has since lived in and around the area and now lives in Hale near Altrincham.
Aged 9 Fran took dance lessons in ballet, followed by stage dance and ballroom. At the age of 14 she joined the ‘dancers’ at a local amateur operatic society, later joining the chorus. She eventually played supporting roles finally becoming ‘leading lady’ in musicals such as ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘The Dancing Years’, ‘The Merry Widow’ and many more.
As well as her involvement in the theatre Fran played tennis for many years for pleasure, club matches and tournaments. At the age of 17, Fran had also discovered the ‘fells’ and fell in love with walking in the Lake District after she went to work one Christmas at a guest house in Keswick.
In 1968 Fran was married to Ian. They had met in 1967 when he joined Fran’s local operatic society to help in the chorus. They both had a love of the theatre and were active members for 55 years. Fortunately they also both loved the Lake District and walking passing on their enjoyment to their two sons.
After standing back from theatre work a few years ago Fran involved herself with choral singing and under the Musical Directorship of her eldest son became a founding member of Cantores Oecumenica, an ecumenical choir, and she is still an active member today; well as much as she can be given the Coronavirus outbreak. Here she discovered a new passion for choral music especially that sung in Cathedrals and Churches.
On Friday 13th December 2019, Fran had a major stroke which almost cost her her life. The onset of the stroke was spotted straight away by her husband Ian. Fran was rushed to the major trauma centre at Salford Royal Hospital by the North West Ambulance Service. Salford Royal is the regional centre for Neurosciences providing specialist care to major trauma patients who have severe head or spinal injuries as well as being the base for the North West's Local Research Network for strokes.
By the time Fran arrived at the hospital she was completely paralysed down one side, was suffering from loss of speech and many other issues associated with such a severe stroke. A CT scan revealed a blood clot in the brain. Clot busting drugs were administered but had very limited effect. The paramedics had already identified Fran as suitable for the ‘Surgical Pathway’ stroke treatment; confirmed by consultants a procedure called a Thrombectomy was used to remove the clot. This was very successful and almost immediately a significant level of movement and speech returned. Consultants later identified the clot was most likely caused by a blocked Carotid artery. Fran was transferred to a specialist vascular team at Manchester Royal Infirmary for a Carotid Endarterectomy. This too was successful and allowed her to return home just in time for Christmas.
Since returning home Fran has begun the slow process of rehabilitation which includes work on improving speech, singing, walking, dexterity and general physical strength. These have all slowly improved but there is one thing which could remain with her for some time; extreme fatigue. Whilst this is a common issue following a stroke it is very restricting.
“So could what I am doing in my garden help?” thought Fran. The answer was “Yes, I could set up a fund raising target”. So Fran decided to walk a Marathon and quickly this became “Let's make it a bigger challenge and go for 2 Marathons”.
Fran’s husband measured one lap of their garden and worked out how many laps she would need to do to complete the length of a marathon (26 miles & 385 yards). The target was 2396 laps Fran decided that she would attempt it by walking in units of 5 laps, some in the morning and again in early evening, every day whatever the weather. Sometimes Fran can only do 5 laps in a day, but on a good day she has done many more with a record of 40 laps. Fatigue is the biggest problem as even a small amount of exercise can mean long rest periods.
The ultimate plan was to gain sponsorship for doing this and raise funds for Southwell Minster Choir Association (of which Fran is a member) which, although independent, provides financial support to the Southwell Minster Music Foundation and that was how PROJECT 2020: came about.