A Lanark mum-of-three, who has incurable Huntington’s disease, is on cloud nine after ticking off the most daring challenge on her bold bucket list so far.

After conquering every rollercoaster in the UK, braving fire walks and skydiving from 10,000 feet, the gutsy 51-year-old hospice nurse has taken to the skies again – this time with the intention of doing a double wing walk, complete with an adrenaline-fueled nose-dive from 500ft and a loop the loop at 6000ft on an airborne 1940s Boeing Stearman Biplane.

But Gillian McNab, who dedicated her high-flying fundraiser to Scottish Huntington’s Association and Strathcarron Hospice, got more than she bargained for when her pilot offered to take her latest adventure to new heights.

Although Gillian’s mum Myra died in 2001 from an underlying heart condition, she had two years previously been diagnosed as being in advanced stages of Huntington’s disease.

Adventurer Gillian

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Until that diagnosis, Gillian knew nothing about the disease or that there was a chance she could have it, too.

Huntington’s is caused by a faulty gene that damages the brain and causes severe physical and mental symptoms.

These include a decline in movement control which affects mobility, balance and coordination. For many people, it leads to the loss of the ability to walk, talk, eat and swallow.

Thinking processes are damaged, impairing ability to process information, make decisions, solve problems, plan and organise, while associated mental illness includes depression, apathy, anxiety, obsessive compulsions and, for some people, psychosis.

Gillian on her wing walk

The devastating toll on families is compounded further by the reality that each child of someone with Huntington’s is at 50 per cent risk of inheriting it.

When Gillian’s test came back positive for Huntington’s, she made an immediate decision to live life to the full.

For as long as she remains symptom-free, the busy mum is working her way through a bucket list of adventures while helping other families as a volunteer fundraiser and speaker for Scottish Huntington’s Association (SHA).

Despite the uncertain weather conditions, Gillian and daughters Gemma, Kerry and Emily made the trip to an airfield in Yorkshire earlier this month in the hope that her fundraiser wouldn’t be called off.

“The weather wasn’t good and we didn’t know whether or not the wing-walk would go ahead,” explained Gillian.

“I had travelled all the way to Yorkshire with my daughters and, when it was cancelled, the organisers managed to squeeze us in for the next day. The uncertainty just fuelled my enthusiasm even more.

“While we were waiting for the plane to arrive, my daughters showed me the fundraising total going up and up. This inspired me to ask if I could possibly do two loops, one for Scottish Huntington’s Association and one for Strathcarron Hospice, so I could surprise my amazing supporters and give them more for their money as a thank you.”

Gillian with daughters Gemma, Kerry and Emily on their bucket list trip to NYC

Gillian continued: “My wonderful pilot, Martyn, took things a step further by suggesting we double it up again to four loops and add in a couple of barrel-rolls. He also said I could do a more adventurous rollercoaster-style first wing-walk. I gulped, then said yes – I wanted to make the most of the experience.”

Gillian found the adventure more exhilarating than she could have imagined.

“I felt so alive up there and I loved every second,” she said.

“I had a poignant moment amongst the clouds when I thought about everyone I was doing it for. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I’ve been totally blown away by the support I’ve had. I hoped to raise £2000 but so far we’ve raised more than £7300.

“Thank you to every single person who donated, including those who gave anonymously. Their amazing kindness will go a long way to support Scottish Huntington’s Association and Strathcarron Hospice, two organisations that are so close to my heart.

“Scottish Huntington’s Association is a lifeline, not just for people who have Huntington’s but for their family and carers too. It’s the only charity in Scotland dedicated exclusively to supporting the Huntington’s community.

“I’ve worked at Strathcarron Hospice for the past nine years. It’s a unique and special place which supports patients and their families not only to die well, but to live well and make every moment count.”

To find out more about Huntington’s disease and ways to support the work of Scottish Huntington’s Association, please visit hdscotland.org.

To donate to Strathcarron Hospice, click here.