A BRIDE-to-be who lost her best friend to cancer is taking her hen party to this weekend’s Race For Life.

Rachel Studholme, 35, is getting married in just a few weeks time - but says one special person will be missing.

Her best friend Gillian Grayson was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of 29, and died a few years later in July 2016.

Rachel, who was Gillian’s bridesmaid exactly 10 years ago, knows she will miss her best friend on her own wedding day and wanted to do something positive to remember her.

Turning her hen do into a cancer fundraiser seemed the perfect way to include Gillian in the celebrations.

Rachel, a travel money advisor from Carlisle, said: “There’ll be someone very special missing from my wedding day, so I want to raise money to help find a cure for cancer by joining Race For Life in Carlisle.

“Gillian was my oldest and best friend. We’d known each other since we were babies.

“I have so many fond memories of Gillian – we used to drive her poor mum mad hitting tennis balls up against the side of her house.”

The pair grew up in Wigton, where they went to playschool, primary and secondary school together.

Through her friendship with Gillian, Rachel also became close to Gillian’s mum Susan, who she worked with at Wigton’s Spar store.

Sadly Susan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in December 2006, on Rachel’s 23rd birthday.

“It was a really tough time for Gillian, losing her mum at such a young age.

“Her mother was a truly lovely lady but we managed to get through it and look out for one another,” said Rachel.

The two friends grew ever closer and reached another life milestone just a few years later.

Rachel said: “In July 2009, exactly a decade ago, I was bridesmaid at Gillian’s wedding. It was such a happy day full of lovely memories.”

Gillian was thrilled to discover she was pregnant with daughter Sophie just a few years later. But unfortunately bad news was on the horizon. Just months after giving birth, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of 29.

Rachel, who will marry her fiancé, Andy, in Scotland, said: “Gillian was shocked at the diagnosis and it was especially hard after losing her mum to the same disease just a few years previously.

“But she never let it get in the way of anything. She was always so positive and stayed incredibly strong for her family and daughter.”

Gillian had major surgery to remove a kidney and chemotherapy, but was later told the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and was incurable. She was 32 when she died, with daughter Sophie only three.

Rachel and nine friends will take on the Race For Life this weekend in her memory.

She said: “July marks exactly10 years since Gillian’s wedding and three years since her death, and I’m determined to do something positive to honour her memory. I didn’t want a hen-do, but a day out raising money for such a worthwhile cause seemed the perfect alternative.”