What we do / Our Stories / Gillian Charlton

Gillian Charlton

Categories: Invictus Games 2020 Athletes

When Gillian, 42, was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 it was a complete shock. She never had any health issues and was at her peak fitness when the diagnosis came.

“I had just been selected for promotion…then life stopped! Following my treatment, I expected to get back to ‘normal’ immediately."

Almost a year later, Gillian realised that achieving that ’normal’ wasn’t quite as straight forward as she had expected. Felling extremely fragile, Gillian had stopped all training and was consistently returning to the doctors harbouring fears that her cancer had returned. Gillian also found that she had to adapt to the hormone therapy she is required to take for 10 years post treatment, the side effects include fatigue and bone pain.

When Gillian heard about the Invictus Games and the concept of sports recovery she decided that this was her chance to try and change those negative thought processes.

“I had been plagued with dark thoughts, convincing myself that the cancer will return and I will have to leave my children. Becoming involved in Invictus demonstrated to me that I don’t need to go back to that ‘normal’ but that I can rewrite my script. I nearly cancelled; I nearly gave up on my recovery. I cannot explain how thankful I am that I didn’t. To be part of such a supportive community has been invaluable. I feel that I’m now ready to start moving forward thanks to Invictus.”

A novice at all three sports, Gillian has chosen to compete in powerlifting, swimming and indoor rowing to challenge herself and face her fears, particularly of swimming. At an early sports camp, with the encouragement of her Invictus teammates she faced her biggest fear of diving in the pool.

“It was incredible. Knowing that I had overcome a 40-year mental block was hugely empowering. My goal is to fully overcome that fear and dive into a pool and swim a decent length, at the Invictus Games.”

Gillian's overall goal is to utilise the support of the Invictus community to rebuild her own sense of self identity; cancer took a huge chunk of that. Gillian has found training over the past two years difficult. During lockdown Gillian bought a house and moved her family from one side of the country to another to undertake a new military assignment. Completing a part-time degree during that time also, Gillian has had to dig deep at times to keep focussed and maintain her motivation for training.

She has found that the continued support of her teammates during that time, who are always just a phone call away, has been invaluable. Access to gyms and equipment has been a challenge too, however Gillian believes that if anyone can find ways to 'adapt and overcome’, it is an Invictus competitor!