A THATCHAM woman has completed a charity pilgrimage for two causes close to her heart.
Francesca Turauskis has returned from walking 500 miles across Spain to raise funds for Epilepsy Action and Epilepsy Research.
The 27-year-old is aiming to raise at least £1,000 for each charity.
Miss Turauskis was diagnosed with epilepsy six years ago, but has been seizure-free for two years.
She is walking the Camino de Santiago, Northern Spain, an ancient pilgrims’ route from San Sebastian to Santiago.
The Camino de Santiago translates to the Way of St James, who is the patron saint of epilepsy.
The former Kennet School pupil has been walking approximately 25km to 35km a day and sleeps overnight in pilgrims’ albergues, which are set up especially for the walkers as they progress along the ancient trail.
“I wanted to do this because I’ve always liked adventuring by myself,” Miss Turauskis said.
“I’ve been seizure-free for more than two years so nothing is holding me back from travelling.
“The walking has been physically hard at times, especially walking day in day out.
“Just one day can be as tough as climbing Mount Snowdon. And I have many blisters.”
Miss Turauskis said that speaking to people of different nationalities and telling them about her epilepsy had been an interesting aspect of the trek, and it had been exciting to encounter different landscapes and cultures.
The experience hasn’t been a comfortable one as she has occasionally had to sleep on the floor of shelters, owing to limited room.
Speaking on her epilepsy, she said: “My diagnosis was good for me.
“It meant I could find the right medicine to stop my seizure.
“I still have to think about it and take precautions, I had to take enough medicine for the length of my trip.
“I had an ‘I have epilepsy’ tag on my bag that someone said made me look like Paddington Bear.
“I want people to learn that epilepsy is not something to be scared of.
“Whether I am at home or exploring Spain, I will have epilepsy, so why not explore Spain?”
Her mother, Susan Turauskis, said: “I just think she’s an amazing person.
“She’s very strong and she’s only going to be stronger at the end of it.
“I was a bit worried because she’s a young woman on her own with epilepsy, but she’s been seizure-free for two years.
“But it was the going into the unknown.
“She was 21 and started having seizures out of the blue – no one in the family has epilepsy.
“She’s determined to not let it cramp her style.”
To make a donation to the two causes visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fran-would-walk-500-miles-research or https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fran-would-walk-500-miles-action