TWO friends walked 85 miles in three days to raise money for a family member who was told he had 18 months left to live.

Donna Kelly and Angie Cook, who work together at Newton Aycliffe’s Pioneering Care Centre, had planned to spend six days completing the trek for Miss Kelly's cousin.

But the pair set off from Keswick, in Cumbria, at 9am last Saturday (August 23) and arrived back in Newton Aycliffe at 9pm on Monday last week (August 25).

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Miss Kelly, of Darlington, said: “My cousin, Michelle, was in hospital giving birth, and her husband, Erlis, was in the next room being told that he only had 12 to 18 months left to live. The whole family is in shock and completely devastated.”

Father of two Erlis Gulia had a gastroscopy after a rapid weight loss and was diagnosed with incurable oesophegal cancer.

Refusing to believe that nothing could be done, Mr and Mrs Gulia began researching treatments and found a specialist surgeon in Belgium who could perform a major operation in an attempt to save his life.

Mr Gulia had the operation and is said to be recovering well, however, the family had to take out loans and credit cards to fund the £40,000 treatment and aftercare.

Miss Kelly, 32, added: “Angie was talking about doing a walk for charity, so I thought we could do it to raise money for them. The whole family is trying to do as much as they can to help.

“It took us six hours to drive to Keswick (because there had been a serious accident), which did make us slightly nervous about what was ahead of us.

“We walked about 30 miles a day, and I really struggled with my feet, they were really hurting and I had blisters after the first day. I was in the Army for six years, and I always had trouble with them then.

”It’s been a real challenge, but so worth it to help family.”

The women carried everything they needed on their backs, including tents, sleeping bags and food.

Miss Cooke, 36, of Newton Aycliffe, said: “We were absolutely freezing so we didn't sleep much, which meant we started walking early and didn’t finish till late. So we got home a lot quicker than we thought.

“Four people from our cycling group surprised us at Kinninvie on Monday afternoon which really lifted our spirits and gave us the extra motivation and support we needed.

“Getting back into Aycliffe on the Monday night was just amazing. I’d do it again next week if I could.”

Together they have raised about £1,000 and are planning on doing an extreme assault course to continue raising funds.

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