From strength to strength
Fundraiser Kathleen looks back on a great year for fund to help tragic couples
A tireless Bellsmyre campaigner dedicated to helping couples facing an impossible hurdle after her family was hit by tragedy has marked her most successful fundraising year yet.
Kathleen MacGregor, 68, has now helped gather a milestone £50,000 for the Joan MacGregor Matrimonial Fund which helps couples marry before terminal cancer tears them apart.
This £50,000 – £10,131 of which was raised this year alone – has helped a total of 43 tragic couples.
Kathleen’s daughter-in-law Joan was just 42 when she was given 10 days to live after a chest infection quickly led to a crushing cancer diagnosis in a dizzying turn of events that left the close family reeling.
She had been with her partner Charles, Kathleen’s first son, for nine years but their busy lives took over and they never got round to tyng the knot. Realising their wishes, the couple’s families rallied around and organised their wedding – in one day.
Joan and Charles, who had shared a home in Castlegreen Street, made it down an ‘aisle’ in the day room at the Beatson Cancer Centre, where Joan was being cared for, in a poignant ceremony which had everyone in tears.
But tragically, two days later Joan slipped into a coma she didn’t wake from. She died the following week, on May 16, 2009.
Money collected from Joan’s funeral was used to set up the fund.
Initially, under the guidance of Joan’s consultant Dr Allison Mitchell, it was planned to use it to help pay for marriage licences – but it snowballed from there.
And reaching the massive £50,000 fundraising target has been the latest milestone.
Kathleen said: “When we first started up, this was a target way in the distance – I am so delighted we have managed to achieve it.
“The fundraising total now sits at £50,256.71. Last year alone we raised a total of £10,130.63. This was our most successful year yet.”
Kathleen credits the support from great friends and the local community for helping reach the fantastic tally – but she has worked tirelessly to make this happen.
From her home in St Andrew’s Brae, she makes raffle prizes, organises major fundraising events and creates bags of Reindeer Dust which she sold in 11 local shops this festive season – with every penny raised going straight to the fund.
Kathleen said: “I think there has been a lot of positive awareness this year, more people know about us and the generosity has been wonderful.
“When you have been plugging away for so long, something like this really spurs you on.
“I always say ‘every penny counts’ and I really mean it. We are so grateful for all the donations big and small.”
For those couples who turn to the fund, the only two requirements are that one person has a terminal prognosis and that this person is being
treated through the Beatson. Couples are assessed by the Beatson staff and given grants of £1000.
The family don’t have any involvement with the couples but they cover the running costs so that all cash raised goes straight into the pot.
A group of suppliers offer their services in partnership with the fund, and local businesses have been thanked for their continued support.
But with the Beatson the place of treatment for cancer patients from Forth Valley, Argyll and Bute and Ayrshire – as well as West Dunbartonshire and Glasgow – Kathleen hopes to expand this list soon.
Kathleen said: “We have a book of suppliers and the couple can look through and pick what they want.
“It gives them control of their day – this is probably the last thing they have control over. “
For many people who are floored by a sudden terminal cancer diagnosis, a marriage and the legal rights and benefits that come with it are top priority for practical as well as emotional reasons. In Joan’s case, her devastating terminal diagnosis came out of the blue.
Joan, who worked at the BP petrol station in Milton, first fell ill with what she thought was a chest infection.
Kathleen told the Lennox Herald previously: “Her lungs were filling up with fluid.
“She was in the Vale for a few days and then she was home for a week, then sent to Gartnavel to get her lungs drained.
“They drained them and within a few days they were full again.
“So they sent her for full body scans and results showed she had cancer.”
In April 2009, doctors found cancerous lesions in Joan’s lung, cancer in her leg and also in her pancreas.
They sent her home for the May weekend to return on the Tuesday for chemotherapy. But then Charles got a call on the Wednesday to say she had 10 days left to live.
Kathleen said: “They said chemo would have been a waste of time.”
The couple decided they wanted to get married and Dr Mitchell arranged for Charles to go to Park Circus in Glasgow on the Thursday morning to do the marriage paperwork – she gave them a letter to say it was an emergency.
The family were told on that day that the wedding was taking place at 1.30pm the following day, a Friday.
Sadly, a week after the ceremony, Joan passed away with Charles, Kathleen, husband Charlie, Charles and Joan’s sister Bernadette at her bedside.
Kathleen said: “We were up visiting her and chatting away, because they tell you hearing is the last thing to go.
“I was blethering and the nurses asked us to step out for a minute.
“Then they came running along the corridor saying that she was going.
“We ran back. We were only there for a couple of minutes before she died.
“We might have known she was dying but it doesn’t make it any easier.
“Sadly I had been in this position before and I have been since.
“You either sit down and give up or you get up and you get on.
“I am ‘roll your sleeves up and get in there girl’ and I think that’s the way you have to be if you want to get through it.”
She added: “I want to thank everyone who has supported the fund so far and we will continue to raise as much as possible for couples who find themselves in this position.”
●Kathleen runs auctions on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/ Joan MacGregor Matrimonial Fund/ where you can also keep up to date with the latest fundraisers.
You can donate to the fund by visiting www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/Kathleen-MacGregor.
You can also give money by texting 70070 using JMMF99 £ plus the amount you wish to donate.
Kathleen is also appealing for any unwanted Christmas gifts as donations which she can auction or use as raffle or tombola prizes to raise funds.
Contact her via the Facebook page if you can help or call her on 07531 441 060. Any businesses who wish to join the list of suppliers are also urged to get in touch.
More people know about us and the generosity has been wonderful Kathleen MacGregor
Celebration Joan and Charles on their wedding day
Superman’s help Kathleen shares a joke with son Charles
Special Joan MacGregor on her wedding day in 2009
Happy Joan, from Dumbarton, and her family were floored by her terminal diagnosis
Unsung heroes Kathleen and son Charles with their Great Scot Award