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Conquering Kilimanjaro felt great, but what happened next left this couple feeling truly on top of the world

Kerry McKittrick and Laura McGarrity find out what transforms one day into the very best in your life

An astonishing survey published by the University of Hull has revealed that for a fifth of the population, their special memory or magical moment has been completely made up.

Some of those surveyed could vividly recall incidents from their past and childhood which couldn't possibly have happened. One girl recalled playing hockey — something her parents say she never took part in — and one man had a distinct memory of seeing a living dinosaur.

The power of an active imagination not withstanding though, everyone has a happy memory. A wedding day, the birth of a child or something as simple as a perfect day. Happy memories and moments — fictional or otherwise — stay with us forever.

A mountain top wedding proposal

Jacqueline Stewart (30) works as a receptionist at the Queen's PE Centre, Belfast and lives with her fiance Sean McQuade. She says:

I've been with Sean for about 18 months although we've known each other for 10 years. We used to work together at Ballysillan Leisure Centre when we were both going out with other people. Sean started working here last year and that was it.

We're both active people so we did a trek last year and I decided to raise money for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. My grandad died of cancer and my aunt was diagnosed with cancer about four years ago — thankfully she's been given the all clear now.

During the trek we got chatting to a guy who told us about the UCF trek of Kilimanjaro and we found ourselves getting talked into it. I ended up having a night in with a few friends and after a few glasses of wine they all ended up signing up for it too.

The trek was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It lasted seven days. When we started to climb we were in shorts and T-shirts enjoying the warm weather but it got colder as we got higher.

The last night the temperature dropped to -30 degrees Celsius and I had to wear eight layers of clothing. The altitude sickness, which makes you really dizzy, meant that I was weaving all over the place. Sean was walking behind me to make sure I didn't fall down. He asked me if I was OK at one stage and I told him no, I thought I might have frostbite in my fingers.

I didn't have a clue that Sean was planning to propose, I don't know how he managed to keep it from me. He kept the ring at the bottom of his rucksack and I was in and out of it all week — it's amazing I didn't find it.

We all felt the effects of altitude sickness towards the end and Sean started to get worried that we wouldn't make it to the top. He took one of the other guys to one side and told him that both of us had to get up there even if we had to get carried up.

In spite of everything we all made it up — arriving at the sign and having our photograph taken was amazing. Everyone was crying and hugging each other. Sean kept asking me to step to one side with him but I was too busy crying and hugging everyone.

Eventually he managed to get me away from the group. He produced the ring and asked if I would marry him. He even apologised for not going down on one knee but he couldn't because his legs were so wrecked!

It couldn't have been a better moment. It made up for all the hard work we'd put in over the last few days — I wasn't expecting it but I was over the moon when he asked. The whole group was cheering us on. We're now hoping to get married in Italy in 2012.

The 2010 Kilimanjaro Trek raised £44,000 for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. For information on next year's trek contact Sarah Atcheson at the Ulster Cancer Foundation, tel: 028 9068 0765

Seeing my brave son Alex’s delight at a football match

Irene Galbraith (41) is the mum of Alex (10) who has suffered from severe brain damage and physical disability since he was three months old. She lives in Belfast with her husband Paul (41) and their six other children. She says:

Alex was diagnosed with severe brain damage at three months old and has been physically disabled since then.

I was approached by a member of staff in the Children's Hospice Belfast and became involved with children's charity Make-A-Wish.

Our house is football mad, so I knew Alex's wish had to involve football. Although Alex cannot play football he loves to watch it, so we thought he could go to visit a football ground. In order to decide which football team to visit we showed Alex different matches on TV. Preston North End Football Club caught his eye, I think because their jersey is yellow and this is Alex's favourite colour.

On the day we were picked up from our hotel in a limousine and were driven to the grounds. After a tour Alex had lunch in one of the executive boxes.

He then spent around an hour with the players and they couldn't have been friendlier to him. He was even brought onto the pitch by his favourite player Sean St Ledger and was the mascot for the match. Alex was then given a trophy and a Preston football top.

Since that day Alex has completely changed. He is even more interested in football and now goes to watch Seaview Crusaders play. He gets so excited about watching live sport and is full of beans after. Every day we have with Alex is so precious and thanks to Make-A-Wish I will never forget how happy he was.

Topping the bill with rock idols

Stephen Currie (25) is a web designer living in Belfast. He is also the drummer of the band Gacy’s Threads. He says:

I snuck into the Limelight when I was 16 for my first ever gig. It was for Fear Factory who I had been a fan of for a couple of years. It was really scary and intimidating to be around all the guys who were in their 20s but the gig blew me away. I can remember thinking that this was it, this was what I wanted to do.

My day job is in web design but I've been in bands in Belfast for years as a drummer. We formed Gacy's Threads three years ago and we more or less hit the ground running. All of the guys came from other bands and by our fifth gig we were playing a support gig in the Spring & Airbrake.

We applied to be the support act for Fear Factory a couple of months ago but we were only selected five days before the gig. The promoters put together a list and then the record label and ultimately the band chose who was going to support them. Once we found out we put everything into getting organised — we wanted to appear as professional as possible but I was buzzing with excitement.

It wasn't just that we were supporting Fear Factor, it was also that we would be playing to an audience of 400-500 people, which is pretty big for a local band.

I had worked on the sound desk at a local gig the Sunday before and the headliners stayed in the dressing room and didn't seem interested in meeting anyone.

I was wary that Fear Factory would be a bit like that but I needn't have worried. They were fantastic and so friendly. They had their photo taken with us and signed loads of things for us. They couldn't believe that we hadn't been signed to a record label yet and the lead singer even dedicated a track to us during their set. They were all so dead on and down to earth.

Finally having our much-wanted baby

Sharon Seymour (32) lives in Londonderry with her husband Gary and their daughter Aya (4 months). She says:

My husband and I started trying for a baby in 1997 and I had my first miscarriage in August of that year. At the time it was emotionally and physically punishing, and it only got worse from then.

I continued to have miscarriages and my doctors were not willing to provide me with a reason why. It wasn't until my seventh miscarriage that a junior doctor looked at my file and referred me to St Mary's Hospital London, which specialises in fertility. I was diagnosed with a rare blood clotting disorder that made me unlikely to be able to carry a baby to full term.

After my 10th miscarriage my body stopped ovulating, so we decided to try IVF. I was initially refused the treatment on the NHS because my husband had a child with a previous partner. I went to various newspapers and radio stations campaigning for a change in the law for IVF. This was successful and now every married couple is entitled to two rounds of funded IVF, despite stepchildren.

Just after my first course of IVF failed, legislation concerning IVF changed again in the UK. Couples were now only entitled to have one publicly funded course of IVF instead of two. I wasn't ready to give up, so I contacted my local SDLP councillor Mark Durkan and he couldn't have helped me more. Mark was able to secure funding from the Western Trust and my husband and I started our second round of IVF in May 2009.

At this point I had had 13 miscarriages.

Our second round of IVF was successful and I don't think the pregnancy would have gone so well if it hadn't been for our consultant Dr Colin Prendergest. He monitored my pregnancy very carefully, through weekly scans, and he was always there to answer any queries.

Dr Prendergest decided that it was safer for me to have a Cesarean section. The whole day before I had Aya and the immediate days after, were surreal.

As I was unconscious for the labour, I just remember waking up to my husband telling me she was here and she was lovely. This is the happiest memory of my life. I have never been more relieved.

Since Aya was born our lives have completely changed, she is just a miracle. There is no sleep or going out any more, everything is on Aya's terms and I wouldn't change a thing.

It was a long journey to get here and I would do it again in a heartbeat for our baby girl.

Sharon and Gary would like to thank Dr Colin Prendergest, Dr Heather Watson and all the staff at Bayview Medical and St Mary’s Hospital London, as well as all the staff at the neonatal intensive care unit Altnagelvin, Derry and The Infertility Network UK

Need a happiness boost ...?

  • Family and friends. Wider and deeper relationships with those around you are crucial to your mental well-being. Studies have shown that friendship can have a longer-lasting effect than wealth on a person’s happiness.
  • Exercise. Simply going for a walk or doing a yoga class can release positive endorphins which make us happy.
  • Sunshine. Limited exposure to the sun can result in lethargy, depression and general bad moods. People suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder feel this in particular.
  • Sex. A roll in the hay also produces endorphins. Common side-effects include the reduction of stress, a feeling of happiness as well as a form of natural pain relief.
  • Chocolate. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which is the same hormone your brain produces when you’re in love.

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