Gillian takes on The Virtual MoonWalk Scotland in memory of her mum

There are so many wonderful places I can complete my marathon near to where I live

Gillian's Story:

“My mum Jo died of breast cancer back in 2001, at the age of just 48. She would have celebrated her 70th birthday this September, so I’m taking on the Virtual Full Moon (26.2 miles) at The MoonWalk Scotland this year in her memory. It’ll be such a fitting way to celebrate her life.

I was just 12 years old when my mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer and I was still 16 and in my final year at school, when she sadly died. The last 12 months before she passed away were incredibly tough. It was mainly just the two of us, although family and friends helped, of course. My parents were divorced and my elder brother had already left home. Mum gradually needed more and more treatment and as a result, I increasingly went to stay with friends of hers during the week as she wanted my schoolwork to be disrupted as little as possible. Mum’s resilience was incredible and even during her second round of chemotherapy, she was still working as a teacher for the visually impaired – I remember her being so strong and determined.

Gillian’s favourite photo of her mum, taken in Lindos, Greece in 1999

Even though Mum was so ill, I try not to look back on this time in a negative way. She spent her last four months in the hospice, but I actually got to spend pretty much every day with her during that time. I look back on all those days with Mum as a blessing - I’d get myself in such a tizzy, if I thought about it in any other way. After Mum died, I stayed with one of Mum’s friends for about nine months, then left school and went to university.

Just like my mum, I am now an Additional Support for Learning teacher, as I want to be able to help others. Mum’s outlook on life, even when she was very ill, continues to inspire me to this day. I feel like I now live my life for Mum, planning all the adventures that she never had the chance to go on. Every year on the anniversary of Mum’s passing – and also on her birthday – we go for an ice cream, or do something fun, as that’s what she would have wanted us to do. My young nephew never met Mum, but we always talk to him about Granny Jo and often do activities together that she would have enjoyed.

I first signed up for The MoonWalk Scotland back in 2010 with a group of Scouts – we wanted to do a challenge together, but we also thought it would be a lot of fun. With what would have been Mum’s 70th birthday approaching this September, I decided it was the right time to sign up for The MoonWalk again.

It’s quite a trek to Edinburgh from where I live in Newburgh by Ellon, so I signed up for the Virtual MoonWalk Scotland this time, as it works much better for me. There are so many wonderful places I can complete my marathon near to where I live – I can go along the local former railway line, or even along the estuary which has the biggest Eider duck colony in the UK, as well as a large seal haul site. That was my lockdown walk and is roughly a six-mile loop, so I feel very lucky!

Gillian with her husband Ewan

My husband Ewan is going to be my “wingman” on the day of my Virtual MoonWalk. He’s going to meet me with supplies, so I won’t have to carry anything but water (and maybe waterproofs just in case!). Some of my friends have volunteered to keep me company on the walk which is a great support.

There’s been no other history of breast cancer in our family, but one really important legacy of mum’s illness is that I do check my own breasts regularly for lumps and I’d encourage everyone else to do that too. Although research and treatment into breast cancer has progressed a lot since Mum died more than 20 years ago, we all still need to remain aware of how our breasts normally feel, so that we notice as soon as possible if anything feels different. I lost my mum, but there are good news stories too - my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer and came through treatment successfully.

I may have only known her for 16 years, but I had an amazing Mum and not everyone can say that so I’ll always be grateful. As I take on my Virtual MoonWalk this September I’ll be celebrating her life, raising awareness about breast cancer and of course raising money. I’m hoping that people will understand why I’m asking for their sponsorship and support, once they know why I’m doing The MoonWalk. Every pound I raise will make such a difference”.

Gillian on the former railway line

Thank you for sharing your story Gillian. There’s still time to sign up for The MoonWalk Scotland 2023 LIVE and VIRTUAL.

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