Hearts, minds and driving licences!!??

This has to be the most difficult blog I have written thus far. I am not a person that takes themselves too seriously and I like to laugh my way through life. Yet this isn’t a subject that is particularly comical, so please don’t take any offence to this piece, it is an attempt to make it as light-hearted as possible.

I have written umpteen blogs in the last three weeks, yet on reading them back, none of them have been worthy of publication. It seems I may have been a shaken up can of carbonated oestrogen whilst I have been tackling the gargantuan task of choosing a charity to support with my Great North Run attempt.

Ok, many of you likely have the one special charity that you would choose in a heartbeat and are wondering what on earth the big problem is.

We usually decide upon our favourite charity during difficult times, when a loved one becomes sick, be it human or animal and it often gives us some comfort that we are helping them in some way. For many of us, there have likely been several charities that have been close to our hearts at some point in our lives, which perhaps have since been accompanied by another and another. This is where I found my problem. I think other competitors must enrol in several events, choosing a different charity for each race, therefor not to leave anyone out. However I am certain that we have established by now that I am most definitely not an athlete or even sporty for that matter and although I can dream of future races, we have to be realistic and console ourselves to the possibility that this may be my only ever race.

Leaving me with an unwanted decision.

My little brother Garry’s 34th birthday has just passed, on the 27th February. My brother will always be the greatest man I have ever had privilege of knowing.

Tragically we only had a short 26 years with him, as he died October 2007.

He was the kindest person you could ever wish to meet and believe me, that is not just my biased opinion being related to him ;). It is the opinion of all who knew him. Nobody can recall a single instance of him uttering a bad word about anyone, he loved everyone he met and the feeling was reciprocated.

Garry was the person you needed to invite to any party, especially if you had karaoke. He would always be the first one on stage and what he lacked in vocal ability, he more than made up for in effort. He could give a performance that rivalled Freddie Mercury and if he had been born with even a slightly more tuneful voice, he would have been just as big a star.

Garry lived an incredibly full, very clean life, never smoked and didn’t drink. His only vice being a very large plate of fish and chips once a week, I bet we all wish we could say that.

Unbeknown to any of us, he developed a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy, causing his heart to enlarge. He collapsed from a huge stroke and died the following day. We like to think Gaz made the choice to leave us, rather than spend his life utterly dependent and wheelchair bound.

In honour of my brother, I would like to raise money for Heart Research UK, a Leeds based charity to whom we gave his funeral donations.

Garry comes with me on every run, with his favourite songs thumping in my ears and spurring me on. Thankfully his taste consists of motivational music such as Meatloaf and Queen, encouraging me to run faster and keep going. But I’m saving “Bat out of Hell” for the last mile and not forgetting “We are the Champions” as we cross the finish line, even if I crawl over it. Might even sing a line or too for him, if I have anything breath left to do so!

As if my emotions weren’t on high alert already last week for Garry’s birthday but I also received something in the post that I had been waiting over two years for.

No…….. Royal Mail hadn’t buggered up!! 😉

It was my driving licence!!

Yet I didn’t feel how I thought I would about it. I imagined I would be ecstatic and jump immediately behind the wheel for the longest road trip that I could possibly fit in between school runs.

But I didn’t………………………………………..I went for a run!

Before 2013, I was a busy mother of four who relied on my car daily. So much so that my husband cycled a 12 mile round trip to work most days in order for me to have the car for after school activities for the busy offspring. I also did voluntary work which required a vehicle two days a week. I was genuinely dependent upon my car and also rather lazy to boot. I was even reluctant to give it up on days when it wasn’t necessary, especially if the weather was bad. The school run appeared so much further than it was when looking through a torrent of rain.

Then in January 2013 I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. It was so out of the blue having convinced myself it was migraines and I certainly wasn’t anticipating epilepsy. My doctor informed me that I was no longer safe to drive and that I would have to surrender my licence when she informed the DVLA.

That drive home from the hospital was my very last and it was the scariest drive of my life.

Now if you don’t drive yourself, this will seem of little inconvenience but drivers amongst you may be able to sympathise. I found it terribly hard. People tried their best to help me out, taking the children to their clubs but I felt so dependent on others. School holiday trips out suffered, due to extortionate bus prices for us all, so places within walking distance soon became overused and unappreciated. Our local walks may be beautiful and scenic but to my kids, a lake is just a lake and even the five year old voiced that we were starting to overfeed the ducks!!

It sounds abhorrent to me now but I think you could go so far as to say that I went through the five stages of grief for the loss of my driver’s licence! Now I realise it wasn’t actually for the entitlement itself but it resembled the loss of my independence and my life as I had known it but more so for the sacrifices I felt my children and husband had to make for it too. It has been a difficult adjustment and my medication makes me even more of a pain in the arse to live with but I have the most patient family and friends.

Gaining my licence back is a symbol, a certificate if you like, that we are over the worst and I am back under control and manageable once more (well that’s if I ever were!) I bet the local obese game are thrilled!

Would I have taken up running had I still been driving this last 2 years? I doubt it very much. I owe epilepsy for introducing me to running! I have been given a lot of support and knowledge about my condition, which has been crucial. Therefor I need to support the Epilepsy Action charity too.

Being on an emotional rollercoaster that week brought back all the memories of what we had been through as a family. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. Bringing me to my final charity choice. Mind.

When the doctors first discovered my condition, I needed more support at home. My seizures were causing me to have household accidents. I regularly forgot to switch pans off or forget to collect the children from school. My husband left a job where he was perfectly happy and began permanent nights, in order to be home to care for me and the children.

Surviving on very little sleep and worrying about everyone else except himself, took its toll on him. My exceptionally brave husband had a mental breakdown. He had been too strong for too long that he finally broke. The man I married disappeared. He hardly ate and slept all the time. The times when he was awake, he couldn’t speak, he just physically shook and stared vacantly. Waiting lists to see specialists were long and we could see nowhere to turn. I found the Mind website and read all I could about depression, so I could at least try to help him. We were lucky and he finally got the help he needed. He is still having therapy and is now recovering well but we are fully aware that many people do not. Especially men. This must change!

Hopefully you now understand why I cannot choose just the one charity. They are each equally important to me and my family. This was extremely difficult to write but I hope you support my decision. Please show your support and sponsor me in the Great North Run for three Great Charities.

Donate at:


Many thanks xx


5 thoughts on “Hearts, minds and driving licences!!??

  1. Oh Gemma I had no idea about any of these problems you and your family have endured. I am embarrassed to think I haven’t kept in touch more…I am so sorry! I can understand why you have chosen these 3 charities and I hope you do well in raising money, I will certainly be donating.
    Once again a fantastic blog.
    Lots of love
    Auntie Janet xx


    1. It’s no problem Auntie Janet, they’re not things you would ordinarily talk about anyway. Few people knew till I wrote this. Thank you for your support as always.
      Lots of love xx


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