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Breast cancer survivor sets sights on Himalayan challenge to raise awareness of early diagnosis

By Niall Harkiss

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Gemma McMullan was 36 years old when she diagnosed with aggressive triple negative breast cancer in June 2022.

Now 38, she has made a full recovery and is preparing to embark on a challenging five-day trek across the Indian Himalayas to increase awareness of the disease.

Gemma McMullan, originally from Inverness, will embark on a five-day trek of the Indian Himalayas this November to raise funds for breast cancer awareness.
Gemma McMullan, originally from Inverness, will embark on a five-day trek of the Indian Himalayas this November to raise funds for breast cancer awareness.


Gemma will be raising funds for breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!, who, spearheaded by celebrity Gi Fletcher and other famous faces, will lead 120 successful candidates across the gruelling terrain of the Asian mountain region this November.

Gemma hopes that by raising funds for the charity she can help to raise awareness of breast cancer symptoms, and encourage more young people to get checked early.

She said: "When I first found the lump, I wasn't immediately worried. It was only a tiny lump, but thankfully I did get it checked out as it had already spread. Even a matter of weeks could have made the difference to me. This is why I feel so passionate about this charity, as they are all about raising awareness in younger women and also trying to encourage people to get checked early as this is what made all the difference to me.

"Early diagnosis quite literally saved my life. Following seven gruelling months of treatment, a lumpectomy, full lymph node clearance after the cancer had spread, six rounds of chemotherapy and 15 sessions of radiotherapy, I finished my active treatment in February 2023 and thankfully I am now doing really well.

"Having cancer has encouraged me to grab every opportunity in life and shown me that I have the positive mindset, resilience and determination to take on this challenge. I am so excited and proud to have been selected for this extraordinary, life-changing experience and to support this amazing charity, which is close to my heart."

Gemma, who now lives in Northern Ireland with her husband Russell and daughter Mara, now faces ten months of preparation as she gets ready to trade home comforts for camping in sub zero conditions, with very basic facilities.

The gruelling trek, which will see participants guided through remote areas for up to nine hours per day and climbing rugged mountain paths with steep inclines – to altitudes of up to 3000 metres – will last for five days.

She added: "I will need to train hard, building up my strength and fitness, as well as swapping my daily walks around town for my first ever proper hikes.

"We are lucky to have a few hills and mountains around where we live, so I will need to get out and about, don the hiking boots and get up some hills."

Secondary school teacher Gemma has already raised over £2000 via her JustGiving page, on her way to reaching a target of £3600.

In support of her campaign, a quiz night is being held at the Smithton Hotel on Saturday, March 9, organised by her friend James Macleod.

CoppaFeel! is the first UK breast cancer charity to create awareness amongst young people, with the aim of instilling habits that could one day save a life. They are striving to ensure breast cancer is diagnosed early and correctly by encouraging the nation to check their chests regularly.

The charity's mission is incredibly important because early diagnosis leads to more effective treatments and higher survival rates.

To find out more about Coppafeel! visit coppafeel.org. People can donate to Gemma's Himalayan Trek fundraising campaign at justgiving.com/page/gemma-mcmullan-1705015770612.

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