Gillian’s story: Remembering my sister Fiona

In May, our incredible supporter Gillian and four of her friends participated in the Dorney Triathlon in memory of someone special, Gillian’s sister Fiona. Following her challenge, we caught up with Gillian to chat some more about what compelled her to take on such an incredible challenge in memory of her sister and to see how it went.

My wonderful sister, Fiona was cared for by St John’s for the last 7 months of her life. Last September she passed away from bile duct cancer, she was 59 years old. Fiona was a wife to Tim and mother to Poppy, Freddie, and Millie. She was a beautiful, feisty, funny, sporty lady.

In March 2021 Fiona was discharged from ICU and sent home on end-of-life care, we were expecting her to pass away within two to three weeks at home surrounded by her family and dogs. It was into this world of grief and despair that the wonderful St John’s Hospice came to help us.

Fiona who had not read the chapter on “end-of-life or palliative care” immediately asked the hospice nurse Karen for some physio to help build up her strength. To cut a long story short Fiona lived for seven more months during which time we were supported every step of the way by the incredible hospice team.

Following Fiona’s funeral, I was very keen to do something to thank the hospice, particularly as they thought they were going to help us for a couple of weeks, not seven months! My childhood friend Alison suggested a triathlon, it seemed the right event as Fiona had competed in several but for Alison and me it was a new challenge.

Gillian and her friend Alison smile to the camera wearing their St john's running vests and sporting their finisher's medals.

“Coping with grief is incredibly challenging and different for everyone. My life suddenly became far less colourful without Fiona but once I had a target to raise money in her name and to honour her, the training became a means to an end and to my surprise I enjoyed being fit and was even sleeping better which had been a huge struggle when Fiona was ill.‍"

I would recommend taking on a challenge as a team, we were a team of five and it was great fun comparing training notes and hilarious when we started to swim in freezing cold lakes in early Spring. On the day we were each other’s biggest supporters. We are all so proud to have achieved this challenge for Fiona and the wonderful St John’s Hospice. Having five slightly fitter people in the world must be a bonus too!

Gillian and her friends, Alison, Amelia, Matt and Charlie collectively raised an amazing £10,000 to support our hospice, which will help us to reach, connect and support even more patients and their families.

If you’re feeling inspired to take on a challenge to support our hospice you can browse our calendar of upcoming events here. Alternatively, you can get in touch with our team by email at or by phone on 020 7806 4093.

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