Skip Content

‘Mustn’t grumble’ grandmother takes on 32 mile challenge in husband’s memory

4 July 2012

Diana Heimann is determined to overcome her own health issues to walk the 32 miles from her home in Coleshill, Bucks, to Oxford, raising money to help fight the cancer that killed her beloved husband.

David Heimann, a successful entrepreneur and businessman, died of pancreatic cancer in January 2011, aged 73. All sponsorship donations raised by Diana’s walk will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF), helping researchers understand the disease and develop new treatments.

The walk, which Diana (67) will begin on Monday 9 July, will end at Christchurch College, University of Oxford, where David studied. “It was a place he loved dearly,” says Diana. “I had originally thought of walking to Annabel’s, the club in Mayfair that we frequented in our younger days, but one of my sons suggested that I’d be better off walking through the beautiful English countryside to a place that was so special to both of us.”

“David was a man with a massive zest for life,” continues Diana. “He was passionate about his family and his cars - he once came second at Monte Carlo. He also loved all sport - especially cricket - as well as music. In fact, his love of jazz was so abiding that he even wanted a jazz funeral – a request that I was more than happy to comply with.”

After his retirement, David and Diana spent many happy years together pursuing their interests and Diana also ran her business supplying traditional remedy, Pommade Divine, from their farm home. With such a full and varied life, it came as a terrible shock when David, who had been in good health, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2010. “We were joined at the hip, so to speak – the ‘old firm’,” says Diana. “So when we realised the implications of pancreatic cancer – that there’s no cure – it was a devastating blow that took a while to sink in.”

“Research is the only way forward to help beat this disease,” says Diana. “There’s no ‘early warning system’, so it’s often too late for the patient by the time the disease is diagnosed. We need an early diagnosis test to give people a chance to be treated – it’s a silent killer.”

It will be a real challenge for Diana to complete the walk. She overcame polio in childhood and has also broken her back three times in total, leaving her with severe rheumatoid arthritis. From an illustrious political family, Diana’s father was the Conservative MP and Cabinet Minister, the Right Honourable Iain Macleod, and her mother was a member of the House of Lords.

The couple’s dedication to each other, and Diana’s care for David as his illness progressed, was credited by his doctors with giving David an extra four months of life. “David had looked after me with immense patience and compassion when I was ill and I was happy to reciprocate. We made sure that we did something important every single day to make the most of our time together,” says Diana.

Although the walk will be difficult for Diana, she’s determined to see it through. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is rather weak,” she laughs. “David would be so proud of me for doing something like this to help others, plus of course he’ll be helping me along as he’s always by my side. I just hope that he makes the rain hold off! My parents, who were both disabled, had the motto ‘mustn’t grumble’ and that’s what I always say too!”

Diana has already raised almost £8,000 for PCRF. Further donations can be made at http://www.justgiving.com/Diana-Heimann

< Back