A heck o’ a Year

I haven’t attempted a “blog” before but, here I am “blogging” and reflecting on what led me to this point… well, it’s been a heck o’ a year. I’m Julie, the proprietor of Thistle Piping, I want to tell you a bit about my cancer story over the last year.

A heck o’ a Year

In March 2023 and I was thinking about the fact that my business would be 25 years old soon. I had grand plans to have some sort of party to mark this milestone. Whilst this was under planning, I still had to make a call to the doctor that I had been putting off after the discovery of a soft bump on my chest… 

A couple of weeks later, I was at the doctors surgery being told “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, but for peace of mind I will book you an appointment at the breast clinic” - it turns out this was breast cancer.

I was diagnosed just before my birthday. I went to band practice that night and the pipe band surprised me with a rendition of Happy Birthday, I struggled to keep myself composed. The consultants words “This is cancer and I am worried” went around in my head. Over the coming weeks I had to stop my mind from going into overdrive when couples were looking to book for 2025 or 2026 and I was wondering - Will I still be here? 

In April 2023 I underwent a double mastectomy to remove the grade 2 cancer. A sentinel lymph node was also taken for testing which thankfully was clear meaning no chemotherapy was needed. Instead I had intensive radiotherapy and was started on hormone therapy.

My Recovery & Return to Piping I made use of the backlog of events I was yet to put on social media and schedule posts right through the period that I was out of action. I concealed my diagnosis from my client base as I didn’t want anyone to panic, but I did reveal my news on my personal socials, I wanted to rip the plaster off tell everyone, but also I wanted to raise awareness.

It was around a month before I started playing at short events again and I took a “spare” piper with me incase I needed a rest. 

Getting back to competition piping though with my Pipe Band was a very different story. My competition pipes are much harder to blow. They were going to take months to get back to and it was hard watching the band compete without me but the UK Pipe Band Championships in June was the moment when I took the band onto the field again.

After what seems like a miracle year to get through, then the news came in that Thistle Piping was up for 3 awards, The Top Tier Awards, The Scottish Wedding Awards and the Confetti Awards. This humbled me greatly as I had chosen not to reveal my diagnosis to my client base and instead I actually received votes for outstanding service. I went on to WIN the 2024 Piper of the Year at the Scottish Wedding Awards and the 2024 Best Piper at the Scottish Confetti Awards - I am very proud of this and have since heard from couples they were gobsmacked to hear of my diagnosis and “would never have known” - A wonderful acknowledgement for me.

So - 1 year on and it’s now the 25th Birthday of Thistle Piping and I’m still here! My previous plans for a party seems unimportant now and instead I have completely shifted my focus to be about giving something back to charity / charities to mark the 25th year. 

I undertook the 2024 Kiltwalk - 18 miles! I am delighted to have raised nearly £3000 for CLAN Cancer Support - a charity whom I am directly benefitting from this year as I undergo some treatments and get advice and support from their team. 

I will also be supporting other events for Macmillan so please look out for my posts. I am also very interested to hear from event organisers who may want to add bagpipes to their event to raise money and awareness for their cancer charity - please get in touch with me. 

Above all - check you bodies regularly. Cancer affects 1 in 2 of us - Start being vigilant so that you can catch any problems early. I was lucky - very lucky.

Getting married in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire?

You’re in the right place. We’re here to help!


Your go-to-guide for wedding planning in the northeast of Scotland:

In print, online and all over social media.

Click here to read the new interactive issue – it’s free!

You might also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please enter your name.
A valid email address is required.