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Champagne and Blisters!

Monday, 17 July, 2017 -- Helen Wilson

If you’d have told me three years ago that I would be getting married in my Old Elthamians tracksuit bottoms, that I’d be on the BBC and that Ex-Arsenal and Scotland Goalkeeper Bob Wilson would throw a party in my honour, then I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

But then life has a way of not quite going according to plan, as I discovered when my girlfriend, Jackie Scully, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer just three weeks after I proposed.

As engagements go, it was pretty hard to be talking about surgery and chemotherapy at a time when we should have been visiting venues and planning guest lists. But, thanks to two incredible charities, the Willow Foundation (the UK’s only charity to offer special days to young adults with a serious illness) and Breast Cancer Care (a Breast Cancer support charity), Jackie found a way to smile through treatment.

Running and giving back meant a lot to us while she was undergoing chemotherapy. Jackie had her leg rebuilt in her twenties and ran her first 10k race a week before her last chemo; she has been running since.

So, when Jackie finished treatment and our thoughts turned to wedding planning, we decided we wanted our wedding to give back to the charities that supported us. That’s why, at 7.30am on 23 April 2017, we got married on the Cutty Sark, before running the London Marathon. There was nothing traditional about our wedding celebrations. Out went line-ups and three-course meals and in came press conferences, interviews, photo shoots, running trainers and a dress made for Jackie by David Seaman’s wife, Frankie (a professional ice skater).

But, when I look back, I really wouldn’t change a thing. It has truly been a unique experience and Jackie’s illness reminds me that life is short and we should make the most of every day. In addition, knowing this has raised £29,000 for charity makes it even more worthwhile.

After the marathon (and after a “mini-moon” in Manchester watching Old Elthamians RFC win their playoff to get promoted National 1) we headed to China to trek some of the Great Wall for our honeymoon. While hot and nervy in parts (with steep ascents, vertical drops – and I don’t like heights!) it was a great end to a journey that started three years ago in a hospital consultation room.

We are so grateful to everyone - including the students and teachers at the School and the wider Eltham College community – for their support, messages and donations. In particular, the school held an own clothes day and raised an incredible £1500 for the charity and invited us to 6th form assembly to be presented with the cheque. These donations will make a big difference to others going through extremely challenging situations.

Duncan Sloan (2000)  

Jackie and Duncan are pictured on the Cutty Sark on their wedding day - copywright Natasha Hurley.

Vic Broncz, Jackie Sloan, Peter Swaffield, Duncan Sloan (2000), Paul Wren and Jamie Owen (2000) are pictured in the Chapel for the cheque presentation. 

If you would like to donate to Jackie and Duncan's Willow Foundation Fund, please visit the website.