Best friends from South Shields who both lost their husbands to cancer overcome grief to raise over £50,000 for Macmillan

Two best friends from South Shields who both lost their husbands to cancer have gone on to raise over £50,000 for Macmillan following their shared tragedy.

Linda Gordon, 56, lost her husband Paul to oesophageal cancer in 2016, aged 51, and Julie Cunningham, 57, lost her husband Tony, two years later in 2018, aged 55, to small cell carcinoma - a type of lung cancer.

The foursome met in South Shields in the 1990’s and remained best friends for over 20 years, with Linda and Julie grieving the loss of their husbands together.

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After their losses, Linda, who has two children and Julie, who has three children and six grandchildren, launched the South Tyneside and Sunderland Macmillan Fundraising Group, which, through various events since 2018, has now raised over £50,000 for Macmillan.

Linda Gordon (left) and Julie Cunningham

Since May last year, Linda has been volunteering at the South Tyneside and Sunderland Macmillan Information and Support Centre, offering advice to those dealing with the impact of cancer and has worked a civil servant since the 1980’s.

Julie has been an auxiliary nurse in cardiology, palliative and end of life care at South Tyneside Hospital for over 20 years and, in addition to her duties, volunteers for Macmillan offering support to those affected by cancer on the wards.

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Linda said: “Julie and I supported each other through the darkest times and we now volunteer and fundraise for Macmillan because we recognise the great support the charity offers to family and friends as well as those living with cancer.”

Linda and Julie with husbands Paul (bottom) and Tony

Included in their fundraisers is an annual performance of a ‘Real Full Monty’ inspired show at Whiteleas Social Club, in South Shields, where those taking part are all mams affected by cancer, calling themselves the ‘Monty Mammas’.

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Linda added: “In 2019 I’d seen ‘The Real Full Monty’ TV show and thought this would be a wonderful way for Julie and me and our circle of friends affected by cancer to raise money and have a brilliant experience.

"I rang Julie and she already knew what was on my mind as she’d had the same idea for our next charity night - so that was that.

“We never take people’s generosity for granted, especially now with so many families enduring soaring energy bills and everything else that’s going on.

South Tyneside and Sunderland Monty Mammas 2022
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“Julie and I campaign throughout the year to raise money and provide great raffle prizes, working with local businesses to raise money that we then invest in quality prizes such as expensive watches and a £500 cash prize.

“We do this because we recognise we live in an area that is not affluent and we have a loyal base of supporters who consistently come to our events and take part in our bonus ball and other raffles so the least we can do is provide well-rehearsed, professionally run events with the opportunity for those supporting us to go home with great raffle prizes.”

Jane Curry fundraising manager for Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We are so grateful to the support that these ladies have given to us, not only as amazing fundraisers but also volunteering. They have created a force for good after both enduring such a terrible experience. So many people affected by cancer have already benefited.”

Monty Mamas on stage at Whiteleas Social Club, South Shields