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Sharon Coleman : Carrying the torch for carers

Carer campaigner Sharon Coleman was one of several carers who have carried the Olympic torch on its journey across the UK. Sharon, a carer for her son Oliver, fought and won a legal victory that proved she had been discriminated against because of her caring situation. Her fight centred on the fact that although not disabled herself Sharon had suffered unfair treatment at work because she had a disabled son. Despite the obvious difficulties Sharon persevered and took her case all the way to Europe. Her fight would eventually lead to new rights for all carers.

We spoke to Sharon about her experiences and what carrying the torch meant to her.

What did it mean to you to be chosen to carry the torch?

I got a call out of the blue on a Friday night from Lloyds TSB to say that my nomination had been selected and would now go on to the final stage. Both the woman and I cried, I felt so honoured and so very proud.

How did you feel when you were carrying it?

Family, friends and colleagues who watched me and have seen the torch relay live feed have commented on how happy I looked. I couldn't believe the crowds who turned out to support the final torchbearers it was absolutely amazing. I was so excited and extremely happy to be a part of Olympic history. I loved every single second of it.

Two years on from your victory for carers, how do you feel about it now?

I can't believe I was a part of it; me who was sometimes sobbing on the kitchen floor, thinking I couldn't carry on. Lucy McLynn the solicitor from Bates Wells & Braithwaite in my case is my very own heroine, she took my case on pro-bono and believed in it. I still receive messages from people in the workplace who have been discriminated against because of their caring responsibility, and I feel great that there is protection for them. Lucy McLynn came to watch me carry the Olympic torch and I nearly cried when she told me that she was proud of me, she is amazing.

How is Oliver getting on?

Oliver is on the front of the South London Press, he is a handsome young boy who is absolutely amazing, following numerous operations, lots of pain, choking, at deaths door every single minute of the day and many years of medication, he is just fine. I am lucky and he is as strong as a little ox. He is a “normal” funloving, football-playing little boy whom, I may add, I am extremely proud of.

I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who turned out or tuned in to watch and cheer me on. I have received some wonderful cards and e-mails from people I don't even know to thank me for making a difference to their lives. That is what makes six years of pain and tears even sobbing on the kitchen floor all so worth it. That is a humbling feeling.

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