What's this all about?

A new adventure beckons, and this is once again about my personal journey to make it happen.

It might make you laugh; it might make you cry, but by 'eck lads and lasses, it will be worth a quick skeg every now and then, tha's for sure.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

It's 2am but I have to write

WARNING - THIS POST STARTS OUT HAPPY, BECOMES A LITTLE REFLECTIVE AND THEN BLOODY SERIOUS. Do not think the start of this blog entry is it's true tone and purpose; stark contrasts ensue.

What a holiday. I'll say that again .... WHAT A HOLIDAY !! Bliss, serenity, great weather, beautiful intelligent company and it reminded me what taking time out was all about. Ahhhhh.

Through the large wooden gates (right of the photo), over the bridge into reception where 2 glasses of champagne were presented .... followed by a free upgrade to a fantastic villa.

Part of the view from the terrace on our first morning

Someone clearly got settled on the day bed by the pool (and no it's not me)

Now whilst the photos of the holiday are fun to post on here, it's the feeling of relaxation that I'm trying to convey because this week (returning to work) I've purposefully kept my evenings as free as possible and it brought home JUST how much time and energy I've expended most evenings training or fundraising or just trying to get the profile of my endeavours high enough to attract more public and commercial interest.

This week I've had time to catch up on the cricket one-day internationals, to spend over three hours browsing shops (for bloody expensive outdoor wear for my Dartmoor training weekend and outdoor training aka winter tyre-pulling in the park). I have 9 books and 4 magazines that are untouched but I'll spend some of tomorrow .... sorry, today ..... starting some of those.

In the past I remember, vaguely, having the time to sit for a couple of hours when I lived at the old house just getting lost in a good book whilst sat on a settee with the sun streaming through the window and yet now ..... now .... it's a rare treat to sit down and even read the Sunday Times with a fresh home-made coffee and some breakfast. Nowadays my world seems like it's spinning, getting even faster; every minute precious which is why (despite my eyes burning a little, eager for sleep) I feel the urge to write. I simply HAVE to write.

Of course all this fleeting peace will be shattered starting next week as work, plus all the wonderful things about my family and Lucia, training, fundraising and publicising the Trek consumes almost every minute of every day. I re-tasted the frenetic pace on Thursday when it was 1am before I got into bed and 6am on Friday morning when the alarm went off to get up and drive across to Manchester. I was tired again.

Today's weather also reminded me that Autumn is approaching and the dark mornings and evenings are soon to be upon us.

The view through my kitchen roof 3 weeks ago

The view through my kitchen roof late this afternoon

What a difference a few weeks can make and what a difference a week away and a week 'off' from the Trek preparation can make as well, especially physically as today's PT training session showed. An absolute disaster! Yes it's true I'm just getting over a nasty throat infection but clearly I need to get over it soon as before I know it Christmas will be upon us all and the Trek will be so close I'll be able to feel it in my blood, anticipation coursing through my veins.

(While I'm talking about Christmas, I'd just like to say "Oi, supermarkets ..... no!!!" . My local supermarket now has a Christmas aisle for gawd's sake, complete with Selection Boxes and chocolate decorations for the Christmas tree!!!!!  It's not even the middle of bl**dy September yet).

Of course a return to the norm also means some donations have started to trickle in again, including £100 from Hermes Europe whose CSR Committee voted to support me and 3 branches of Starbucks in Manchester have been doing some fundraising; witness below a couple of photos from the best so far (£60) which was the Halle Mall branch in the Arndale Centre, but my thanks also go to the Manchester Fort branch (£40), the New Cannon branch in Arndale (£30) and not forgetting that the Hanging Ditch branch started it all off (£48). Especial thanks to the lovely Claire for baking for 3 of the events.

The lovely Claire who makes yummy buns

The other thing re-starting is of course the realisation of the reality some people face that is way beyond my woeful and pitiful gripes and moans about sweaty tortuous training sessions, work, feeling 'tired' (especially after returning from a luxury holiday) and the temporary effects of throat germs. Sometimes I can do a great job at humbling myself into a touch of self-loathing.

Reality for people like Daniel who will be writing a piece for this blog soon hopefully, to try to explain what it's like to see your brother suffer and pass away because of Muscular Dystrophy. I also have the privilege of sharing with you a link to Ellie Jeffrey's blog.

Ellie is suffering from secondary breast cancer and her description of what everyday life is like is so brutally matter-of-fact that you can feel her frustration through the written word, be humbled by her emotional strength and find yourself wanting to reach out and give her some of your good health, some of your good fortune at not having to deal with this dreadful thing called cancer. You can find yourself with tears in your eyes as she describes an experience which must drain energy, physical and emotional. and yet you also feel her energy and desire to beat it.

I have (with Ellie's permission) published a few extracts below from her blog but urge you to read some entries yourself and know you will be moved by doing so.

9th September - 'Just My Luck'

The two lumps that had appeared on my chest would need to be tested.  Professor Hope wanted to see if the cancer was still hormone receptive or if it had ‘flipped’ and was now triple negative. We were told this occurs in less than 15% of cases and I pushed the team at my current hospital to check the receptor status.

As I lay on the bed being injected with local anaesthetic I heard a snap. Something in the needle had broken and my breast care nurse and I were sprayed with the numbing fluid. I couldn’t feel my cheek. Laid on my side, naked from the waist up with a face like a stroke victim, Jeez Louise, can I not just get a fucking break here?

After four attempts the trainee doctor managed to clip enough of the tumours out to be tested. I wanted those little lumps cut out of me altogether, but what was the point when the cancer had spread so far in my body? It would be like plugging a small hole in a boat full of leaks, and the doctors had made it clear they believed my ship was sinking.

5th September - Wheatgrass and lemon juice

While Tom was away my brother John was staying with me. He’d been reading up on cancer preventative diet on the internet and after an expensive trip to Holland and Barrett the cupboards were stocked with linseeds, multi-vitamins, turmeric, green algae tablets, and of course the dreaded wheatgrass, or ‘the green shit’ as we renamed it.

Living together again we reverted back to our old relationship. We share the same sense of humour, me often trying to impress him with some quick remark, him teasing me or the pair of us ganging up on whoever is with us at the time. But in his capacity of big brother he was as stern with me as he was playful; he knew that occasionally I would conveniently forget to down my wheatgrass and every day he would prompt me, “Have you done the green shit?  Have you done the turmeric?  Have you done your chemo?”

I think John’s focus on diet was a way for him to play his part, to try to help in a situation where people ordinarily feel useless. The cancer doesn’t just ‘happen’ to me it happens to all those who are close to me. I’ve never lost someone or had the threat of losing someone very close to me so I simply don’t know what my loved ones are going through.

During the hours I felt unwell my brother would sit with me, watching TV and researching the internet. John could have left to go out and enjoy the sunshine but he never did, he just stayed with me, telling me about all the positive stories he’d been reading about.

He took a perverse pleasure in watching me drink the repulsive green shit; it was like entertainment to him. It reminded me of a time when I was about six and he would have been twelve when I’d fallen over in the street and scraped the side of my hip. With no parents around to complain to I found my brother bored in the kitchen and I showed him my bloody graze. “I know what will make it better,” he announced with authority. I remember him opening up the fridge door and reaching for something that I couldn’t quite see. 

As I stood waiting, from behind his back he produced a plastic Jif lemon and handed it to me. “Squeeze the juice over it, it’ll take the pain away.” My trusting, six-year-old self followed his advice and predictably, it was agony.

My illness had changed our relationship. Like many siblings, for us hugs were always reserved for hellos and goodbyes and even then it would be an awkward stilted embrace. A few days into John’s stay, however, I woke up feeling unwell from the radiotherapy and I must have looked particularly pathetic. He grabbed me for a hug and we stood there holding onto each other in silence, both desperately wishing that this wasn’t happening. The cancer, that is, not the hug.

And now dear reader it is 3am and I really should go to bed but, once again, writing this has given me hope that my efforts are going to help many. Not as many as I would like but enough to make me think going to the North Pole next year (and the other exciting adventures I hope to complete before the end of 2020) is a positive thing.

And I am truly blessed that in some small way I feel closer to people like Dr Jon Hastie, Aaron Pask, Daniel, James Golding and the lovely Ellie.

Ellie if you're reading this, I don't know you but I hope that over the coming months and years I get chance to know you, and Tom and John. You are amazing! You are an inspiration.

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