As part of the third feature in our ‘Inspirational Women’ series, we had the opportunity to speak with mother and daughter, Anne Anderson and Gillian Smith. These ladies have been through the toughest of times, yet still remain strong, resilient and inspiring.
Losing sister and daughter Nicola to a stage 4 brain tumour in 2017 was one of the most devastating things that they have had to face. Many people would crumble under the weight of grief and would struggle to carry on. However, Gillian and Anne used their sorrow as a means to help and support other families who were facing a similar trauma. This is when they began to fundraise for the Marie Curie hospice in Edinburgh. To date, they have raised a staggering £137,000 through hosting ladies prosecco nights, bake sales and memorial balls. They hope to continue fundraising and raise even more money in support of research and help for other families.
We think that they are a truly awe-inspiring and so incredibly strong. Our heart goes out to them for all that they have gone through.
We wanted to find out how they stay motivated especially during Covid-times and how they manage to cope with loss. We also find out how they celebrate their wins and who inspires them. It is definitely worth the read – make sure to have tissues at the ready!
Q – Could you please tell us about some of the amazing fundraising activities that you have done for Marie Curie?
A - Sadly we lost my gorgeous, inspirational sister in July 2017 to a stage 4 brain tumour. She was only 39 years old when she passed away and left behind her husband and two beautiful young boys. Since then, our family have hosted a variety of events to fundraise for the Marie Curie hospice in Edinburgh where Nicola spent her last 11 weeks. To date, we have raised approximately £137,000 in her memory and we hope this money will help other families in the same way ours was helped back in 2017 when we were at a point of crisis.
Since November 2017, my mum and I have been hosting ladies prosecco nights twice a year in the Juniper Green Village Hall for 100 local ladies and friends. We have hosted 6 of these pre-Covid and hope to continue to host more in safer times. More recently we have hosted a bake sale and a Christmas table sale from our garden which raised approximately £6000 in total.
Nicola’s husband, Grant, organised a memorial ball at The Sheraton Hotel, Edinburgh 6 months after she passed away which raised £49,000 and a second ball a year later raising £42,000.
There are now 2 plaques displayed in Marie Curie, Edinburgh with Nicola’s name because of the money that has been raised for the hospice.
We are forever grateful to our family, friends and local community for their support time and time again with our functions. Without the unbelievable kindness of raffle donations, baking, décor and the amazing support at our events it would not have been possible to raise this incredible amount of money. We are truly thankful to each and every one for their support.
Our next venture is for my mum, my 8 year old son and I along with some close friends to walk 300,000 steps in the month of March for Marie Curie.
Q - How do you celebrate your wins in life?
A - My main win is having a wonderful family and we love spending time together. I feel it is the simple things which are the most important such as day trips, baking together, playing games and movie nights through to going on holiday. It can be easy to forget when you are spinning so many plates, but every day with your family is precious and should be celebrated.
I am also fortunate to have wonderful friends who have been there for me through the toughest of times but are also there to celebrate the happier times too.
Q - How do you deal with the losses?
A - The most significant losses I have experienced are, like most people, bereavement. For a relatively small family we have lost a few close relations long before we should have. I lost my Auntie to breast cancer in 2005, my father in law to Motor Neuron Disease in 2008 and my precious sister to a Glioblastoma brain tumour in 2017. These were extremely challenging times for our family. I found that the most difficult part is watching somebody you love deteriorate daily, being told there are no longer any treatment options and feeling completely helpless as it is out-with your control. Again, being part of such a close-knit family was the only way to get through these times and after my sister passed away, I was fortunate to have 2 young children by then who could give me plenty of cuddles and make me smile every day. When you are dealing with devastating situations, they are the reason you wake up, get ready, put makeup on and continue on with your day as best you can.
Q - What are your personal stories? How have you gotten to where you are today?
A - In terms of the fundraising we do for Marie Curie Edinburgh, my Mum and I are very passionate about it. It is a way to keep my sister’s memory alive and to do something positive. My sister, Nicola, made such an incredible success of her 39 years in her studies, employment and in her life. It is incredibly important to our family that the fundraising in her memory continues to let her shine and be successful.
Q - What do you love most about your jobs?
A - I made the decision to become a teacher to support children and help them to reach their full potential. I wanted to make a real difference to the lives of young people and to see them develop and flourish. Teaching is such a rewarding career; I always aspire to make positive changes to make a difference in their life and inspire them to be the best they can be. Having strong partnerships with parents, the wider community and local businesses is vital and I love that every day is different! I cannot imagine a career out-with education and young people.
Q - How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
A - Well I’m still trying to work that out! Some days and weeks work better than others and it is not always possible to predict which ones that will be. In an ever changing job where flexibility and commitment is a key priority, you just need to adapt to where you are needed most. I work 4 consecutive days and I try my best to reduce my work commitments in the other 3 days. My priority is to focus on my family on these days and give them the attention they deserve. I have learned to improve my time management, multitasking and prioritising skills which definitely helps! When I am at home and the children are awake, I try to minimise how much they see me working.
Q - How are you coping with lockdown?
A - I feel lucky that we’ve been relatively fortunate during the pandemic in terms of job security. When my husband and I we were both working from home we could juggle the children between us with some help from my parents for our youngest. Now that I am back in school this complicates our childcare set-up but we have a plan which will be exhausting but will hopefully work! We are fortunate our family all live locally so we can see them all regularly outdoors while following the rules of course! Lockdown in some ways has been a really positive experience for us as we have spent more time with family (without us spending so many hours commuting to work) and have discovered so many new walks/cycle routes to explore. We are very fortunate with the scenic routes we have on our doorstep and, like many other people, we accept we need to go out in all-weather as it’s the only way the children can socialise at the moment.
Q - How do you motivate yourself?
A - We feel that with charity work it is all about giving something back. The support we were given, both for Nicola and our family from Marie Curie, will never be forgotten and we will continue to fundraise in whatever way we can, no price can be put on that.
Q - Which incredible women inspire you?
A - I think the most amazing women are those who are kind, and always there whenever you need them. I also admire women who are clear about their goals either in life or employment and persevere until they achieve them.
Here is a link to the Marie Curie Hospice if you wish to donate to this incredible charity and support this amazing mother and daughter in their 300000 steps in the month of March challenge for Marie Curie.