Paul Livingstone is about to undertake one of the greatest challenges of his life - trekking through the Smoky Mountains.
Paul is undergoing the daunting task for a great cause, to raise money and awareness for Marie Curie which provides expert care, guidance and support to people living with a terminal illness and their families.
Paul, who lives in Newtownabbey and works as a solicitor in Ballymena, signed up to the trek in honour of his late mother Doris, who sadly passed away in December 2006 from oesophageal cancer.
He said: “I was thinking of doing something in memory of my mum as this year marks her tenth anniversary,
“In many ways I can’t believe it’s been so long since she passed away, and as I approach the tenth anniversary, I have been reflecting on what I remember about her, what I miss about her and what I’m thankful for.
“As you can imagine, many of my memories are happy, funny and heart-warming.
“However, when I think about the time near the end of her life, I am greatly comforted by the specialist cancer care that she received.
“Cancer care is the sort of thing that you hope you will never need - but you’re so glad that this special level of care, treatment and support is there for those who do.
“This is why I want to help.
“I want to mark this anniversary by doing something special, to remember my mum and, also, to raise money for Marie Curie in their amazing work helping other people with cancer, and their families.
“Whilst my mum’s story didn’t involve Marie Curie as she spent her last few months in the City Hospital, we knew that there was support available and it was just good to know that it was there if we needed it.
“So whilst we may not have been directly cared for by Marie Curie, we definitely know that any support given to people and their families going through a terminal illness can only be a good thing.”
And it seems that fate may have played a hand in getting Paul involved in the campaign, which will involve four days of trekking, crossing 14 states.
Paul explained: “I was thinking of doing something to celebrate my mum’s memory, but I hadn’t decided what yet.
“When suddenly, I was walking along and noticed a sign for the Smoky Mountains trek in the US on a bus shelter which instantly grabbed my attention.
“I went home and immediately looked it up and thought it was a fantastic idea, and such a great way to carry on my mum’s memory.”
Paul needs to raise a minimum of £4K through a series of fundraising events in order to contribute a sizeable donaion which will go directly to the charity, as well as covering the costs of participating in the trek.
Any excess money raised will go straight to Marie Curie, where nurses work night and day, in people’s homes across Northern Ireland, providing hands-on care and vital emotional support.
The charity is busier than ever, as our ageing population means more and more people are living with a terminal illness.
But whether it’s terminal cancer or any other illness, Marie Curie works to ensure people ‘get the most from the time they have left.’
And whilst the trek will not take place until September 2017, Paul has already begun training for the physically gruelling trek.
He said: “As I work such long hours, I’ve actually started walking on my lunch hour,
“It might seem like a long way away, but I’m not the fittest person in the world, so I need to start building it up now!
“The trek will be tough, as it entails 24 miles of trekking through difficult terrain, which obviously I’m not used to.
“I’ve started walking through forrests for example, which will be more like the conditions of the famous Appalachian Trail.
“People have been so supportive, which really helps.
“Whilst I may not be a fundraiser, I am very excited to get creative and think of fun ways to raise the money, from coffee mornings to dinners and auctions.
“It will all be worth it when I know I have made a difference, providing for families going through terminal illnesses in memory of my mum.”
You can help support Paul’s cause by going to his Just Giving page online, at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Paul-Livingstone.