Petra in peak form for a Marie Curie fund-raising climb on Mount Everest

laos - petra abseiling

Abseiling off high buildings is all in a day’s fund-raising for Petra McMillan.

Petra enjoys meeting the elephants and seeing the sights in Laos.

By Bill Heaney

River deep, mountains steep, abseiling off high buildings soaring towards the sky and cycling along rough and rocky roads through steaming jungles in faraway lands.

These challenges make little difference to Dumbuck Country House hotelier Petra McMillan who is prepared to tackle any and every task to raise funds for her beloved Marie Curie Nurses.

Ecuador or Everest, Kathmandu or Kilimanjaro, it’s just another adventure for super-fit Petra.

Or it was until peripatetic Petra had a freak fall while taking her terrier, Maggie, for a walk along the banks of the Tay.

petra and maggieShe fell head over heels down a flight of steps and smashed her shoulder so badly that she had to have an operation and to have steel pins inserted in it.

And it took a long period of rest, recuperation and rehabilitation on her bike and in the gym to get her back to full fitness.

In typical Petra, pictured right,  fashion, she couldn’t wait for her next adventure which took her to Laos, a relatively unknown neighbour of Thailand and Cambodia. Think Vietnam.

It would be a dawdle for effervescent Petra, who has done all sorts of stunts to raise awareness, in her favourite charity.

And to gather large amounts of cash support for Marie Curie Nurses in memory of her mum, Renate.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

She was cycling alongside her team of supporters through the spectacular but tough terrain that is the Laos countryside when she skidded on a patch of oil and was thrown off her bike.

Petra’s face was bashed. She damaged her teeth and ripped the skin off her previously injured arms and legs.

The shoulder, which had cured magically thanks to the consultant and his ever- caring staff in the hospital where she was treated, took a terrible thump.

And, not surprisingly, Petra got the fright of her life.

She didn’t panic, although she admits there were a few tears and the shock knocked the wind out of her.

She picked herself up, dusted herself down and got on with it.

laos 10After being patched up and receiving some First Aid and sympathetic hugs from his fellow cyclists, she collapsed into a seat on the back-up bus and did the next leg of the journey fast asleep and recovering.

Her mouth was so sore that she could only take food in liquid form, but once she had a bath and a breather Petra was back on her bike and well up for the rest of the daunting challenge.

The brilliant set of photographs on this page will show you some of the places she went, things she did, meals she ate and people she met in Laos.

And how the Marie Curie group helped people – mainly children – on their way along the route.

Petra, who is now an ambassador for Marie Curie, has raised a total of £400,000 from her remarkable fund-raising exploits.

She said: “We have achieved all of this with the help of individuals, charitable trusts and companies.

“Marie Curie does fantastic work helping and supporting patients and families in Scotland and the UK following a terminal diagnosis – that means any terminal diagnosis, not only of cancer.

“The charity believes that their services should be available to everyone who needs it when they need it.

“Demand for our services increases each year. We can’t stand still. We need to continue raising money to help more patients and families at the most desperate time of their lives.”

laos 18She added: “Before Mum’s terminal diagnosis, I knew Marie Curie had something to do with dying, but I had no cause to dig deeper.

“I was 36, with two children and a busy career – death happened to other people, not us.

“The brain tumour was aggressive and my Mum was given three months to live. My dad died when I was 11 and Mum devoted her life to me, my brother and three sisters, and her 11 grandchildren, while also working as a carer for the elderly for 35 years.

“It took Mum until 60 to buy her first home and we knew she’d want to be there at the end. We devised a 24-hour care rota and all did our best, but it wasn’t enough.

“And just when we thought we might crumble, our district nurse suggested Marie Curie.”

Petra added: “This allowed us to ensure absolutely that my mother’s last days were bathed in love.”

petra everest signSo, what’s next for Petra?

She has just announced that 25 people have joined up with her and are on course to raise around £110,000 for Marie Curie this year with a team assault on Everest Base Camp in November.

Petra said: “2019 marks 10 years since I began volunteering for the charity after they cared for my mum and I couldn’t think of a better way to mark it (crawling in snow, puking and crying!) with some truly fabulous people.

“Our UK-wide team hails from Inverness to Southampton and is made up of friends I’ve cycled or climbed with in Africa, Asia and Central America, plus a couple of new friends too.

“With 11 days trekking at altitude in temperatures around minus 20, it will be my toughest challenge yet but boy, it’s going to be an unforgettable adventure. I am feeling fantastic.”


Laos – a wonderful country where Petra McMillan (right) met the people and raised money for the Marie Curie Nurses.



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