Ringleader Julie is all set to make history with towering achievement

Andrew and Julie McDonnell on their wedding day with  Fr John Lee SUS-160614-124324001
Andrew and Julie McDonnell on their wedding day with Fr John Lee SUS-160614-124324001

A terminally ill Hastings resident is set to make history with an international bell ringing event that will help fund vital research to give other blood cancer sufferers a chance of life.

Inspirational Julie McDonnell, a local mum, grandmother and bell ringer, is the driving force behind the worldwide bell-ringing event that’s set to make history next week. Julie hopes that cash raised from the event will help fund invaluable research to eradicate all blood cancers after she was given the devastating news that she had Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) last summer. Despite the diagnosis Julie says she has never given up hope. “I was told late June 2015 that I had CML and I married my husband Andrew just two weeks later on the advice of my Consultant,” she said. “We married on Friday July 17 and had an amazing wedding. The following Monday I started aggressive chemotherapy - which didn’t work. Unfortunately, in December 2015 I was told I was terminally ill and only had weeks to live, which came as a huge shock.

“Then, a week before Christmas I was matched to a stem cell donor and given a transplant. This has already given me an extra six months and I now want other blood cancer sufferers to get the same telephone call that I received to say that a match had been found.

“Although unfortunately I now have secondary cancer - a brain tumour - I am still hopeful and want to help others who are waiting for a potentially, lifesaving transplant.”

Next week, on June 25, bell ringers and walkers around the world are taking part in the sponsored event which Julie says will help fund vital research and give other blood cancer sufferers a chance of life. Julie will join bell ringers from Kent and Sussex as they walk and ring along the historic Pilgrims Way from Wye Church (Kent) to Canterbury Cathedral, ringing at all the churches at Chilham, Chartham, St Dunstan’s and St Stephen’s. Julie says the aim is to raise £100,000 and to add 1000 potential stem cell donors to the Anthony Nolan and associated registers. “At Canterbury Cathedral an especially composed method Quarter Peal will be rung - including me! As I am only a novice change ringer of just under two years, this is a huge challenge physically and mentally for me to ring on 12 bells and reach the high standard of the ringing at this world famous venue. Although I am currently undergoing Radiotherapy on my brain tumour I am determined to complete the walk and ring the Quarter at Canterbury Cathedral.”

On the same day, Cathedrals, Churches and Temples are uniting across the world, ringing in support of the sponsored walk. Wellington, New Zealand will be the first to ring and St Andrews, Honolulu will be the last. This is the first time in history that bell ringers have united together in such a cause across the world.

Julie said: “This is not a religious event but one of unity.” To support the event visit: http://juliedmcdonnell.wix.com/strikeback