Her boots are made for walking - and fundraising

Jennifer laces up to walk Via Francigena and raise funds for Cancer Queensland


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Jennifer Rooks pictured crossing into Spain on yet another fundraising walk for Cancer Queensland.

Jennifer Rooks pictured crossing into Spain on yet another fundraising walk for Cancer Queensland.

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Jennifer Rooks took on The Ireland Way and became hooked on walking.

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JENNIFER Rooks wasn't always a walker.

When, in 2015, someone in Ireland suggested that she walk The Ireland Way, she responded, "Me - I don't walk - I have a car."

Yet 12 months later Jennifer, now 65, and her younger sister Sue McGann, from Mackay, did the 550km walk through the centre of Ireland, raising $12,300 for Cancer Queensland.

In 2017 Jennifer, a volunteer at a North Queensland tourist information centre, strapped on her walking boots again, this time for a solo walk from Salisbury in the UK to Canterbury where she picked up the Via Francigena, the Pilgrim Walk to Rome.

She then continued across France, through the battlefields of the Somme to Besancon in eastern France, a journey of 1050km.

A year later she did another fundraising walk, travelling to Portugal and Spain to walk the Portuguese Coastal Camino.

So many sights to see on the Portuguese Camino walk.

So many sights to see on the Portuguese Camino walk.

Late last month Jennifer and Sue set out to walk what will be their biggest challenge - the Via Francigena, from Besancon across Switzerland to the Italian border.

The sisters' self-funded walks were inspired by the loss of family members to cancer. In a cruel twist of fate, Jennifer was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in March this year.

At the time she wrote in her diary: "This news is just a hiccup. I will walk with Sue in 12 weeks, I will walk in Scotland and England in 2020 and Italy in 2021, I will see my three little grandchildren grow up, leave school and get married. I will nurse my great-grandchildren, I will see my three sons grow to receive an aged pension and I definitely will celebrate many more wedding anniversaries with my husband. This 'thing' will not beat me."

Now with surgery over, Jennifer has been assured by her doctor that the thyroid and cancer is "gone for good".

"I just live with more medication and regular blood tests - no chemo or radiation," she said. "I am as fit as I can be after these last few weeks.

"I have been one of the lucky people and already I am looking at life with a new set of glasses."

Jennifer has published three books about her walking adventures and a percentage of their sales go to Cancer Queensland. The books are available at the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre, Kuranda Tourist Information Centre and the Kuranda Butterfly Cafe.

"My aim is to continue to walk, to continue publishing the walking diaries and to continue suggesting that people walk and talk about the walks they do," she said.

"There is nothing better than being out in the fresh air either solo or with a friend."

As well as keeping busy training for her walks Jennifer, who lives in Ipswich with her husband, is also a FIFO (fly in, fly out) grandmother. Every second week she travels to Cairns to help her son with the care of his children.

"My walks overseas are my way of de-stressing for a while," she quipped.

If you want to help the sisters on their way, click HERE

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