Matt and Gilly's Kilimanjaro trek for BASE

Matt and Gilly's Kilimanjaro trek for BASE

The owner and Chief Executive of Millwood Servicing, Matt Wood, is planning a sponsored walk in aid of BASE. Matt spoke at our 2019 conference and is a commited supporter of our aims. In 2021 he plans to to trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro; an adventure that will see Matt trek with a publicly nominated volunteer with a disability. 

This is part of Matt's self-funded 3 Mountains in three years - Challenge for 3 amazing charities and so every donation will be split equally three ways as each charity has a close connection with his family. 

  • The Pyrenees - Freedom Trail in 2020 for MIND
  • Kilimanjaro for BASE in 2021
  • Mont Blanc for Missing People in 2022

Matt is to be accompanied on his Kilimanjaro trek by Gill Haran, a registered nurse from Durham. Here, Gilly introduces herself:

"Hi. I’m Gill I’m 46 and for the most of my adult life I’ve been battling Crohns Disease, major operations, post complications, other surgical operations that literally nearly finished me. The impact this has had on my life has been huge, and certainly prematurely ended my Nursing Career. 

"In May 2020 Matt Wood, selected me from a vast number of online applicants to accompany him to trek to Mount Kilimanjaro Sept 2021. We’re hoping to raise vital funds and awareness for BASE charity which supports disabled people getting into employment. As the disabled component of the trip I’ve taken on this challenge ( with help from Matt and Brian the PT) to prove that personally I’m still able to contribute helpfully to Society and have a goal in life to focus.

"Obviously I’m no athlete, but enjoy fitness and achieving this challenge will create a much needed boost to my confidence. Proving to future companies that being ill and/or disabled shouldn’t be a barrier to employment as we are very determined, resourceful, peer group. I look forward to the upcoming training and challenge and would very much appreciate any donations that you would like to add after reading this to support me. Thank you."

Gilly will be writing about her preparations for the trek in the blog below. Her story is remarkable and she is facing many challenges in her battle for fitness.

Matt has secured kit sponsorship from Lowe Alpine and Rab Equipment. Gill has set up a fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving and donations are welcomed.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving



Gilly's Blog

November 2020 update:


Who else is struggling through the daylight saving time change? Dark mornings ugh! Bring the sunshine back, it wasn’t too hot and humid at all! Although it’s making the workout/ exercise temperatures easier, the numb hands and feet on my cycle ride last week was a bit much.I do hope everyone is adjusting to the new season well. I know it’s been a bit of a struggle but with most things I eventually find a way around it, usually adjusting timings of exercise or meals etc - all things which are easier to do as I don’t work. 

As I was still really socially isolating and haven’t been able to return to any normal meet ups with my walking netball gang, this second lockdown that we’ve entered hasn’t really impacted as much as the first one did for all of us. I don’t usually say this but roll on December! I know for most people this is incredibly frustrating and too isolating. So how have I and do I cope with the isolation of no work normally…..  since retiring from nursing I’ve had a couple of hobbies that have provided much needed distraction, but even that’s a bust as the two I did most (sewing night class and attending a choir) would still be out of bounds. I’m lucky that I live in an apartment block and although the residents don’t socialise as much now , we have a communal caretaker and landlord on site making sure more vulnerable tenants are looked after. Saying that it’s always hiya at 2 meters mainly at the car park as we come and go and the smokers have their cigarettes in the car park.They’ve all noticed that I’m being more active and probably looking more tired than usual… they know I’ve got health matters that are ongoing, whilst taking on this challenge. I heard a knock on my door and 2 cream cakes delivered this afternoon. They’re certain I'm in need of the calories and I’m being too healthy. I was very touched by the gesture as most things in moderation is my motto, and there’s fruit on the strawberry tart - yummy!

Other things get me through the day when I’m not blogging or journaling or researching health related issues. I get certain magazines with crossword/word search competitions and enter them. I listen to music lots, the one band that I think helped direct me away from the anger of retiring from my much loved career is Thirty Seconds to Mars. I’ve been very lucky to make a few awesome friends through the band on social media, met up at concerts with them and still in touch with one who lives in The Netherlands, a few in USA, Australia, Ireland and the U.K.   As hard as life gets or indeed can seem bleak, their message is to continue your path as a dreamer and have faith. Sometimes harder to do when you can’t foresee or think of purpose in your life and I have been there many times. Thankfully this trek has provided ample focus.

Ultimately we’ve had to put back the plan of first Altitude training session due to lockdown which is a shame as I was really looking forward to meeting Matt in real life. However there's plenty of time to rearrange and certainly make use of the facilities and training aspects they provide. 

I thought I would take the kit that’s been provided to me for it’s first proper test last month. I  hiked from Nunthorpe to Roseberry Topping and then went to the top of Roseberry Topping. I didn’t think it would take me 2 hours to walk to the actual car park lol but this is all about building my self confidence and getting out and about off concrete paths and on moorland and uneven surfaces and, more importantly, inclines. It was tiring but I loved it and really look forward to doing more walks after lockdown. 

How to  incline train in lockdown I hear you say? Find a moderate hill that’s on your walkabout ( in local nature park) then, with hiking poles, traverse and descend said hill repeatedly , I did ten repeats. Slow pace, we certainly won’t be rushing it on Kilimanjaro. It certainly gave my feet something to complain about so now I know what part of a day on Kili will be like – brutal! There’s time to toughen up I whisper to myself under my breath, praying I’m not the slowest on the trek. I also saw some awesome dogs and their owners so I got to fuss a still puppy springer spaniel, and a golden retriever which are my new favourites as they so freaking friendly and loveable, I think I need photographic documents of the friendly dogs I meet, obviously with owners agreement. Watch this space.

I had excruciatingly sore skin around my stoma still, and managed to complete the hill walk whilst my stoma bag leaked underneath the sticky baseplate and on the sore skin. I can only describe this as an itch that goes to a burning acidic hot pain. I managed to get home and deal with it. Sore skin but no messy clothes. 

To know me is to know my daily health quirks as it does cause some cussing and grimacing at times. Time for a cuppa and cream cake I think! 



October 2020 update:

After a busy week having an MRI scan, Pre procedure Covid swab test, then a Gastroscope at the end of the week, I have to say that week pretty much took it out of me, physically and emotionally.  MRI scans  for bowel involves drinking a litre of fluid that tastes disgusting….luckily they’ve fed back this information to the companies, and now it just tastes of sugar water the relief was immense. I was nervous for the scope it’s not the first one I’ve had I didn’t think I would get as upset as I did! It’s all over now but the happy place I can usually resort to and keep calm had completely disappeared. 

I also had a visit from my Community Stoma Nurse who is going to help me with a change of bag system as I’ve been struggling over the summer with more leaks, and having to change my bag more frequently during the day and skin excoriation. I’m assured this can improve with the right system, I just need to get samples and try them out, which is where the nurse comes in to organise. I’m intrigued, finally after 15 years of sleepless nights of multiple visits to empty my stoma bag, there’s a new system  that allows you to drain the contents rather than keep getting up! This is awesome news for me, I don’t have the easiest Ileostomy it’s always been high output, and I’ve never been aware of developments for this until 2 years ago. 

Usually people get there stoma and get set up on a system of bags and luckily they move on with there life and get back to some kind of routine. After my first 2 operations I had this granted that was 5 years of almost normality with a Crohn’s flare up.

Why do I struggle? My Ileostomy retracted post operatively so it’s harder to keep the seal around it in contact with the skin so it leaks easier. There’s no point panicking , trust me I used to when I first had to start looking after my stoma. If I feel the all too familiar itching when it starts leaking I don’t ignore it, I  change the bag STAT!, hopefully avoiding spoilt clothes etc. Tricky at night if I have dozed off.  I would still rather have my bag than how I was trying to cope before my first surgery! It was that bad. 

This will be something I’m going to utilise on the trek as we are in humid hot weather, drinking approx 4-5 litres/day , that’s a lot even for me, I will need to be on top of replacing my electrolytes, but the overnight drainage will stop me getting up so many times so my body can rest. This is such a relief! I was worried about this, I can easily conceal the tubing and bag. The things you have to think of are a bit mad sometimes when dealing with chronic ill health but I’m lucky such products have been developed. Anything that doesn’t flush away, I will be double wrapping and carrying in a separate dry sack, my environmentally friendly conscience wouldn’t let me entertain leaving any stoma bags or supplies on such a beautiful mountain. Everything can be drained and rinsed (sterilising tablets) so it’s clean but not sterile.

As this had interrupted my training somewhat I decided not to focus on the loss of exercise sessions and just get through the best I could then start back up and listen to my body. I’m having to ease up on abdominal work as it could cause an hernia where my Ileostomy is located, I wear a support belt to prevent this happening, but some twinges around my stoma lately have made me think I need to see what the MRI is showing in terms of inflammation or bowel loops near the stoma entrance. I had been told a enlarged lymph gland was what had blocked the stoma entrance and caused my bowel blockage after the CT scan a few weeks back, wether this is still complicating things I don’t know? Safe to say my insides are a mess, and my doctors agree it’s all higgledy piggledy in there with all the bowel scar tissue! 

I’ve found a new app that helps you plan hiking / walking routes so I’m getting ready to do a short hike but a hilly one, since my knee is getting stronger and with the assistance of my hiking poles I’ve had my eye on Roseberry Topping near Pinchenthorpe, so in the next couple of weeks I will complete that. Now I have some very decent hiking gear provided by a generous sponsor, In case of any inclement weather up here in the North East – never! Being originally from Hartlepool I’m used to the North Sea bitter cold gale force breezes. If lockdown doesn’t progress further , I won’t hold my breath, hopefully I can visit my cousin in Yorkshire and go for a hike or two with him. 

A couple of other things are happening in the background, slowly building self confidence with Nikki Windsors help with positive affirmations that I’m currently working on improving, I’ve started basic yoga, and listening to some meditation podcasts and my Fitbit app has included them now so trying to fit it all in. I think I need a weekly wall planner, my calendar in the kitchen doesn’t have enough room to fit in all my activities. My memory is rubbish, brain fog! I need to have things written down or I forget or quite often skip a week ahead of myself. 

It was World Ostomy Day 3rd October so I bravely posted on Instagram a picture of me and my ostomy bag. I don’t do it often it’s just not how I am, even though it helps raise awareness I guess my scar down the middle of my tummy does make me feel rather self conscious at times. I’m not perfect, but I’m happier feeling fitter than I have before and that’s what counts. 

All this time spent working on me feels very self indulgent, I’m not used to positive focus, maybe all my ill health had me in just a very reactionary place in life as at times there were multiple things going wrong. It’s no way to live yet lots of people do. I really hope I can be part of something to help change this.