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Moonwalk Scotland 2014… Marion, this one’s for you.

Marion’s daughter Carol believes that events such as the Moonwalk ‘mean the world to fighters and their families’. That’s enough encouragement for me.

November 2010 and a bitterly cold winters’ day in rural Perthshire, Scotland. Quite the contrast when, only a few days before, I was enjoying the warm sun of Portugal whilst there to play the bagpipes at a St. Andrews’ Day Ball.

Having served as a Police Officer for a number of years, death and I had become reasonably well acquainted. I expected the call that day in Portugal but the realisation that the battle had been lost was still hard to accept.

So I made the journey back to Scotland, with a very heavy heart, to play the pipes at another memorable event; my very dear friend’s funeral.

Marion had lost her battle with cancer only a matter of months after her initial diagnosis. Her deterioration had been rapid and, naturally, incredibly difficult for her family.

Generous, thoughtful, and very direct with a wicked sense of humour and mischievous streak, time spent in Marion’s company was often full of hilarity. I remember one occasion particularly well when, following our arrival at a local fine dining restaurant, she reminded me not to spill any food down my top (as I had a reputation for doing) and then produced a bright pink latex Tommee Tippee bib from her handbag to assist me with this. She insisted that the bib was worn throughout the starter and well into the main course, causing quite a stir amongst the other diners… and quite a few giggles at our table.

To later find myself playing the pipes in a cold crematorium on that winters’ day with Marion’s coffin laid out in front of me, memories such as this were the last thing on my mind. As I played a lament to reflect how we all felt, I watched her grieving family, distraught and inconsolable.

Initially, I felt nothing but sadness but, in the days that followed, I began to feel angry. Angry that this could happen to Marion and to the family and friends left behind.
Along with the anger, I also felt quite helpless that I couldn’t do more to support her family and make the situation any easier for them.

After some thought, and as a mark of respect for Marion, I decided to set myself annual challenges to raise money for local cancer charities. The challenges started small but soon built up to a 24 mile walk overnight on the old Highland Railway from Grantown to Forres, raising over £600 in sponsorship in 2013.

But this year marks the big one with the Full Moon at the Moonwalk Scotland in Edinburgh. Marion’s daughter Carol, also a very dear friend, completed this event in 2010, shortly before Marion’s initial diagnosis. I asked Carol about her experience and she explained, “It was probably the most humbling life experience to date. I remember thinking how lucky I was that cancer had not played a major part in my life. Only a few weeks later, Mum received the devastating diagnosis.”

I knew I’d already asked a lot of my friends and family in terms of sponsorship so wanted to do things slightly differently this year. As an experienced piper, naturally, I thought I could use the instrument to help with sponsorship. Having had surgery on my wrist last year, and complications since, this did not prove to be as easy as expected so, rather than performing to raise sponsorship, I took to teaching others to play the pipes instead, with the money raised going into my Moonwalk fund.

I also bought some lovely sparkly pins from WalktheWalk and, so far, these have been a raving success with an entire box sold already.

Although I entered the challenge as an individual walker, an old school friend (Amanda Hutchison) contacted me and asked if I wanted to join the team she would be walking with, known as Thistles Sting. With the exception of Amanda and I, the team is constructed of staff and board members from Netball Scotland – Sally, Geri, Elena, Courtney, and Linda. We have all been touched by cancer in some way and wanted to give something back.

Marion’s daughter Carol believes that events such as the Moonwalk ‘mean the world to fighters and their families’. That’s enough encouragement for me.

Moonwalk Scotland 2014… Marion, this one’s for you.

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