‘I got divorced and fell ill, but mum did so much to help me’

Ballymena’s Beth Wilson won our ‘mum in a million’ competition after daughter Lynda McKay revealed her star quality. The pair tell Una Bradley about their special bond, and their prize, a stay at Ten Square Hotel in Belfast

Lynda McKay (49) is a part-time counsellor with Brook Advisory Centre and a volunteer with ChildLine. She has two children, Joanne (21) and David (18). She lives in Ballymena. She says:

It’s an old cliche that when you hit a crisis, you realise who your friends are. My mum has definitely been my best friend. My marriage fell apart 17 years ago. It was a very dark time. Mum was there to hold my hand — she’d been through divorce herself, and been left widowed by her second husband.

The following year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was all very sudden. I was sent for tests in November and on December 3 I had a mastectomy. I was ill for months. I was only 33.

Mum gave up her own job and her home to move in with me and look after my children, who were only three and five at the time. I didn’t want her to give up work — she was a carer in an old people’s home, and loved it — but she insisted, and it was a lifeline.

She was there to cook for Joanne and David, pick them up from school, put them to bed. Even though I was lucky enough to make a full recovery from cancer, I had a number of other illnesses in the next couple of years — I do think the trauma of my divorce played a part, plus I was working in a stressful job as a welfare officer for the Ministry of Defence.

It was not only practical help mum offered but emotional support too. She encouraged me to broaden my horizons. In 1997 I embarked on a two-year diploma in counselling at the University of Ulster and followed this up with a degree in Combined Sciences, which I did, part-time, over four years.

Last year, I was made redundant from my job at the MOD. As always, mum was there to provide a listening ear and words of wisdom.

In recent years, however, our roles have changed. Mum has become ill and now I’m the carer and it’s probably only through that experience that I fully realise how much she did for me.

In 2006, she started having mini-strokes and a benign brain tumour was diagnosed. It was operated on, but she will never fully recover, and has epileptic fits as a result. Recently I found her passed out on the kitchen floor.

When I saw the competition in the Belfast Telegraph for a pamper weekend at Ten Square Hotel in Belfast, I saw it as an opportunity to give her a much-needed break, but more importantly to say ‘thanks’.

She’s always there for other people. Her friends all come to her for advice when they’re in trouble. Even on the bus, she’ll listen to everyone’s problems — she’s just a very caring person.

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Capricorn:

It feels like friends are few and far between. If you're not getting the help you need, ask why. It may be because you have been so preoccupied with work. Skipping special occasions and failing to return phone calls causes resentment. You have to be more engaged to sustain loving bonds. Call someone you've missed. It may take a few tries, but it's worth the effort. Be forthright about why you have been out of touch. Communication is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship.More