A Tyneside widow who began to come to terms with the loss of her husband by writing poetry hopes to raise awareness about the asbestos related disease that killed him.

Gillian Nicholson, 58, from Wallsend started writing poetry in 2009 as a way to express her feelings of grief about the loss of her husband Brian in 2003.

Brian died of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, caused by being exposed to asbestos when he worked at Vickers Shipyard between 1968 and 1970.

Almost 30 years later developed the cancer. Gillian was devastated when he died aged just 52, a few months later.

Gillian, who left school at 15, wrote her first poem 'If Only' in 2009. It talks about the loss of her husband and all the things they missed together.

She wrote it as a way to put her feelings down in words but was surprised by the reaction of family and friends who said they were inspired by it. She didn't write another poem until July this year when she was asked to perform a reading at Newcastle's St Nicholas' Cathedral on Action Mesothelioma Day.

'Working Man’s Disease'

She was inspired to write the 'Working Man’s Disease' by a lady she met on the bus whose husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Gillian said it was then she realised she wanted to tell people about the huge legacy that asbestos disease had on the North East

She said: "When the lady on the bus told me her story it sounded so familiar. She could have been describing what Brian and I went through. It made me angry that so many people in the North East are suffering in this way because of asbestos. It took me just a few hours to write 'Working Man’s Disease' and then just two days later I read it in St Nicholas' Cathedral.

"I was astounded by the reaction I got from it. I wrote the poem from my heart and it has helped my grieving process but people tell me they can relate to it and it is helping them too. I left school at 15 and never enjoyed English so I find it difficult to believe that all these years later my poetry is touching people."

Now Gillian has written 10 poems and one will be read at a memorial service to remember those who have been affected by asbestos related disease on November 30, 2012 at 11am at Walkerville Community Centre. The Light Up a Life Service, is organised by the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund and children from Walkergate Primary School will be singing at the event.

Gillian's poetry is also available to view at the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund's website.

Raising awareness about mesothelioma

She said: "These poems are so important to me as they have helped me deal with the loss of Brian but I also know now that they have a role to play in raising awareness about mesothelioma. I want as many people as possible to read them so the message is out there about how devastating asbestos related disease is.

" I'm aware that some people find my poems therapeutic. If they can help anyone who is going through what Brian and I went through then I'd be honoured."

Ian McFall, patron of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund and head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors said: "Gillian's poems truly are inspiring. She speaks from the heart and her poetry underpins the anguish and turmoil which asbestos disease has inflicted on sufferers and their family. Gillian's poetry is a poignant insight into lives of so many people in the North East who have been devastated by mesothelioma.

The Light Up a Life Service, is organised by the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund and will be held at Walkerville Community Centre on November 30, 2012 at 11am. All are welcome to attend.