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Zena's story: remembering George with every step

Zena smiling as she takes on the One Million Step Challenge

Zena Gough

Walking in memory of her son, George

One Million Steps is a lot, and I did that for my boy. Walking makes me feel close to George.

In her story, Zena remembers her son, George, who passed away at the age of 18. She talks about how he struggled to come to terms with his type 1 diagnosis, and how the One Million Step Challenge helped her to work through her grief. 

Journey with diabetes

Learning to cope with my son's diagnosis

I’ve raised my kids on my own since my twins were 8 months old. When George was 4 I knew something wasn’t right. He was thirsty and tired all the time, so I took him to the doctors and asked if he had diabetes. The doctor said ‘well done mum’ and diagnosed him with type 1. At the time I was quite pleased with myself because I spotted it - I thought ‘we’ll get this sorted now.’ But I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. 

We spent 4 days in hospital learning about blood sugars, needles and more. It was a lot to take in. But I’d do anything now to go back to those days when I was in charge of his treatment. I worked full-time but I had my mum and dad to help, and between us we made sure that George’s condition was kept steady.

Losing George to type 1 diabetes

As George got older, his diabetes became difficult for him to accept. He got bullied at school for needing special treatment, and he had a lot of jealousy about his sister not having it. He was a very angry little boy, and he somehow thought that his dad had left because he had diabetes. I took him to rugby every week, just as a way to manage his anger. 

As a teenager it was clear school wasn’t for him, but he got a good placement as an apprentice. He did well and at 18 he had a car and a bit of money in his pocket. He got a new girlfriend, but he didn’t tell her about his condition. 

One night, he said he was taking her out to dinner and staying at her house. I was really uncomfortable about him going, but he was 18 and there wasn’t much I could do. I never saw him again after that night. 

I know they went out, and I don’t know what he ate and drank, but he became ill. He went to sleep at the girl’s house and he never woke up. 


Taking one million steps in honour of George

That was two years ago, and then last summer I bumped into one of the mums from rugby and she told me about the One Million Step Challenge.

She said she was doing it and that she thought of George all the time. I decided there and then I was going to do One Million Steps for George. I’m not a super fit person but I needed a reason to get up every day. 

It was a real challenge as I was only doing one or two thousand steps a day at that point. I was carrying weight, and I know I was at risk of diabetes too. So the challenge was good for my head, but also good for my health. 

I found a little route that was 10,000 steps and I did it every day for two weeks. Then as I got more confident, I started going to new places.

I walked by the coast and in the woods, one day I did 20,000 steps! I went on my own to start with but then I invited friends.

I talked a lot while I was walking, mostly about George. I worked through a lot of my feelings on those walks, I cried a lot and some days I would sit on a tree stump and just let out all that anger and sadness.

Raising awareness

I set up my profile on the Steps platform, and I made little videos talking about George and why I was doing the challenge. I wanted to raise awareness as well as money, so that maybe someone will learn from what happened to George. I had a lot of support and I raised £1021. I am very proud of what I achieved there.

One Million Steps is a lot, and I did that for my boy. I’ll do it again, I’ve already signed up, and this time I plan to do 1.7 million steps. Walking makes me feel close to George.

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