Inspirational Hayley Smith’s gruelling Sahara bid to raise cancer research funds

West Lothian local Hayley Smith is to take on the epic Saharan trek to raise money for cancer research.
West Lothian local Hayley Smith is to take on the epic Saharan trek to raise money for cancer research.
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Inspired by her husband’s brain tumour diagnosis and the couple’s mammoth fundraising effort, determined Hayley Smith is to undertake a gruelling trek in the Sahara desert to raise cash for cancer research.

This week, she will swap the chilly shores of Scotland’s east coast – which she used to build up her strength running on sand dunes – for the searing heat, deadly scorpions and other perils of the Sahara.

Hayley and 16 others hope to raise £18,000 for research after her husband, Matthew, was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma brain tumour in 2016 when he was just 28 years old.

Matthew, 30, had suffered headaches and vision problems for only six weeks before he was rushed to St John’s Hospital in Livingston for a CT scan.

Hayley, 28, from Fauldhouse, said: “I was inspired by Matthew’s incredibly upbeat attitude all through his surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. I didn’t even hear him complain once and he was always smiling. I am really lucky to have Matthew here with me and I really couldn’t imagine my world without him.

Taking on the Sahara is no mean feat and something that events manager Hayley has been preparing for months. She will be joined by best pal Alice and two other friends for the trip.

Hayley said: “I’ve been walking the beaches on the other side of Dundee. I’ve been travelling an hour and a half to get there because the sand is perfect, it’s so similar to the Sahara sand, apart from the temperature! It’s the heat I can’t train for. I guess we’re all going to have to adapt quickly.

“Walking in sand, you’re constantly trying to stabilise yourself and it’s really painful on your joints, on your hips – you have aches and pains in places you didn’t even realise.”

Matthew’s resilience drives them both on, says Hayley, with his passion to support all their fundraising efforts, their commitment to the charity’s work and of course to Hayley’s nerves of meeting the Sahara scorpions.

“There’s definitely scorpions and I’ve been told the smaller they are, the worse they are. Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to coming across any of those,” said Hayley.

“Matthew’s pretty impressed actually – he was the only person who didn’t laugh at me when I signed up for it.

“We both got into fitness when Matthew got ill, we decided to focus that into our lives. Once you’re there, you have to do it. You don’t have much of a choice. The energy and positive people in the group – all of whom have been personally affected – will drive us on.”

Hayley and Matthew set up The Matthew Smith Fund, together with The Brain Tumour Charity, in February 2018, and have smashed their original £10,000 target.

She added: “I know others with brain tumours have not been as fortunate as Matthew, which is why I have become a community ambassador for the Brain Tumour Charity.”

For information, see https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/