SHE faced the loss of her father during lockdown and coped with grief during a time when people were cut off from family and friends.
Gaby Williamson, 20, was left devastated when her Kevin was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2018. It spread to his lungs, liver and stomach and he died last June at the age of 49. Last year more than 10,000 people were diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in the UK and sadly 8,500 lost their lives.
Along with her two siblings, Findlay, 18, and Poppy, nine, and mother Victoria, 51 who has tackled her own cancer battles, the family said their final farewells to the former rugby player when died last June as the country was emerging from the first national lockdown. However, restrictions were still in place when Mr Williamson was laid to rest.
Now the Glasgow Caledonian University student is raising money to help a charity find cures for the killer disease. She is raising funds for a legacy in her father’s name with the Worldwide Cancer Research which they have called the Kevin Williamson Fund.
“It would have been my dad’s 50th birthday this year and we wanted to do something in his memory,” said Ms Williamson. “Our is aim is to raise £200,000 which does seem like an ambitious target but it is important for us to do something. The money will go towards research into oesophageal cancer which is one of the most aggressive and we hope it will help with treatment and finding a cure. I think dad would be quite overwhelmed by what we are doing.
“We have had so much support from family and friends. We thought he was the greatest person ever and with the way people have come together for us it has shown us others thought so much of him as well.”
Two events will be held on Friday, but they have already raised £5000 through generous donations. The first is a charity lunch at Turnberry Hotel, near Girvan, where former Scotland rugby captain David Sole and now chairman of Worldwide Cancer Research’s board of trustee, will be involved. It will be followed by a rugby game in the evening with Mr Williams’ old club and former teammates at Ayr Rugby Club.
Ms Williamson added: “We are hosting a lunch at Turnberry Hotel with former Scotland and British Lions player David Sole who will be doing a question and answer session. After this we have organised for a tournament at our local rugby club, Ayr RFC, and we are having my brother’s current teammates play my dad’s former teammates for the Kevin Williamson cup.
“My dad played for Ayr and now Findlay is following in his footsteps. My dad had such a funny and light-hearted personality and the game is in his honour. There is a bit of an age gap between the teams with my dad’s former teammates in one and Findlay playing for the other, but I’m sure the game will be in good spirits and we want to make the night more of a family event for everyone to enjoy.”
Laura McLachlan, Director of Fundraising at Worldwide Cancer Research said they have been blown away by the passion, determination and drive shown by Gaby and the Williamson family to make a difference to the lives of people with cancer in honour of their father.
Ms McLachlan said: “We believe that starting cancer cures is the only way to end cancer. However, this type of research funding has been in decline for the last 15 years – which means fewer new opportunities to find better, kinder cancer treatments that could save lives.
“Curestarters like Gaby are making a difference for people with cancer now, and in the future – without them we’d be losing vital research that could unlock new cancer cures.
“We are honoured that the Williamson family chose Worldwide Cancer Research. Although I didn’t have the privilege of meeting Kevin in person, I’m sure he would have been incredibly proud of Gaby, and all of the Williamson family, for this incredible fundraising challenge.”
During lockdown she started the Let’s Blether campaign to help young people cope with grief. It started out as a blog in lockdown and was followed up with virtual support groups.
“It was about a month before my father Kevin died that I started writing a blog. It was during the first lockdown and I thought there might be a lot of young people out there struggling perhaps with anxiety or young carers and I found that writing down how I was feeling was helping,” she said: “I wanted to be able to reach out to other people and for them to be able to talk. We had lost our dad and then we were hit with mum’s cancer returning. We were distraught.”
To get involved with the Kevin Williamson Fund events go to https://fb.me/e/XSuNNsnN