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Sunflower field brightens Gillian's day ahead of Moroccan charity trek

Shauna Loughran

Reporter:

Shauna Loughran

A TRIP to the now famous sunflower field was just the tonic Gillian Beattie needed as she prepares for her October charity trek to Morocco, in memory of her late husband Davy.

On November 9, 2017, her husband Davy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer.

He sadly passed away at 3am on November 24, just two weeks later - 354 hours from his initial diagnosis.

The Guardian previously covered the story of how Gillian went on to set herself a 354 hour walking challenge in memory of her husband, and to raise vital funds for Cancer Research and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Gillian walks to beauty spots that Davy and her spent time in as well as places Davy would have loved to venture to.

She has been all over the North and South of Ireland, from the top of Slemish to the waterfalls of Glenariffe, to majestic Malahide and the seaside village of Howth, just outside Dublin.

She has also walked to Davy's place of work at Hayburn's in Ahoghill as well as walking from Magherafelt to Desertmartin where their son used to Motocross.

Her latest walking trip saw her set off to the sensational Sunflower Field at Gortgole Road, Porglenone.

The field of 175,000 sunflowers has seen people from all over the Province flock to the colourful attraction.

Gillian said: "My niece sent me some photos of these giant sunflowers and I asked her where they were.

"So, I parked my car in Portglenone village and walked the 2.5 miles to the sunflowers and back again.

"I thought it was absolutely amazing, so lovely and colourful and the way I am feeling, it just really brightened my day.

"There was one part of the path where it looked as if the sunflowers were bowing down to me to say hello!

"Davy would have loved the sunflower field - they were one of his favourite flowers.

"He loved bright colours and bright flowers and it was one of the reasons I went to the field.

"It was as if I was meant to go that day. I wouldn't have known about it had my niece not sent me those pictures.

"It was an emotional day but the sunflowers really did brighten me up.

"I was able to buy one of the sunflowers and I brought it home and put it on Davy's grave."

Gillian explained that she has 163 hours left to go of her challenge which will end at 3am on November 24, the anniversary of Davy's passing.

She said: "The final four hours will be the most challenging as I will walk to the Macmillan Cancer Unit in Antrim for 3am on November 24, where Davy passed away peacefully the year before."

However, as one challenge ends, another one is set to begin as Gillian and her sister Gloria are due to jet off to Morocco in October to trek to the top of Mount Toubkal's 4167m. high summit.

The duo previously completed a charity trek in Nepal in 2012 in memory of their late sister Jennifer, who sadly also passed away from cancer.

Gillian signed up for the Moroccan adventure in June 2017, totally unaware that cancer was about to strike her family again.

And now the Moroccan trek is all the more poignant for Gillian as she hopes to raise as much money as possible in memory of her late husband.

You can follow Gillian's journey by visiting her facebook page and you can also help Gillian raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research by donating to her JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/teams /gillianbeattie354

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