South Shields best friends who both lost husbands to cancer help raise £35,000 after founding Macmillan group

Two best friends who were united in grief after both losing their husbands to cancer have raised £35,000 after founding a Macmillan group.

Monday, 20th June 2022, 3:29 pm

Linda Gordon and Julie Cunningham, both from South Shields, lost their husbands Paul Gordon and Tony Cunningham to cancer in recent years.

The four had been friends since the 1990s, where they were regular visitors to the The Lake Pub, in South Shields.

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Linda (left), Julie (middle) and another founding member of the group Allison Watson

In 2015, Paul was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer that had spread to his liver. Then, just 18 months later, Tony was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Sadly the illness claimed the lives of both men, leaving Linda, a civil service worker and Julie, a nurse, devastated.

However, despite their grief, the pair went on to throw themselves into fundraising for Macmillan, going on to become founding members of the South Tyneside and Sunderland Macmillan Fundraising Group that has raised £35,000.

Linda, who is chair of the group, said: "I know that my life experience puts me in a good position to understand others going through something similar. Macmillan nurses helped me by supporting Paul with his care. But it was the emotional support for the whole family dealing with the trauma of losing Paul at only 51.

Linda and Julie with husbands Paul and Tony

“Macmillan provided psychotherapy to help me cope with anxiety and depression. I don’t know what I would’ve done without help, supporting the boys grieving for their dad and looking after myself. It’s a lot to take on and Julie was there for me too.

Julie,treasurer of the group, said: “Linda was an amazing support to me, especially considering she had just been through a similar experience herself with Paul, but she didn’t let the recent trauma of that experience stop her from helping me.

“It was a very hard time. Tony died at 56 in November 2018. During that time as ever, Linda was an incredible support. My colleagues at the hospital and my family and close friends were also amazing, it's been such a lot to deal with.”

Fundraising efforts by the pair include a Full Monty show in 2019 with smaller regular weekly bonus balls, pub quizzes, raffles and even going on trek through the Havasupai Native American reservation.

10 members of the fundraising group including Linda (right of centre) and Julie (left of centre) with Macmillan relationship fundraising manager Jane Curry (centre)