Last weekend, I was literally on top of the world! By climbing to the top of one mountain, I achieved so much more than just reaching the summit. Being fortunate to have a birds eye view over that little corner of the world, gave me perspective. It was a realisation of how far each of us can go, physically and mentally, despite all the dips in the road, boulders and U turns we have to face, not just in every day life but in business and in ourselves.
After speaking at a wellbeing day with The Lewis Foundation last year, I had been talking to the amazing Lucie Joels, who climbed Snowdon with one of our Samspace bracelets and agreed that to actually take on the real deal myself, would be a fantastic experience and something worth doing.
Climbing an actual real mountain, four months post hysterectomy, seemed a little punchy but six weeks after my operation in February, I met up with Sarah, one of my Safespace women, who said she was going to climb Snowdon with two mutual friends from our yoga group, for the Pituitary Foundation.
Sarah is an ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation, after being diagnosed with this more rarer cancer a few years ago, in the form of a tumour. She lives with the physical and physiological effects every day; on her hormone system and body temperature, which, in turn, affect hair loss, bone health degeneration and an increased sensitivity to stress, among other things. In Sarah’s case it cannot be operated on. After radiotherapy and chemo and a consistent ongoing maintenance treatment, alongside holistic approaches, she has continued as active a lifestyle as she can. As well as working for herself, she comes to yoga three times a week and her positivity shines. She says Samspaces has totally changed her outlook as a person and given her confidence and the unique type of support post treatment, that she was looking for.
So as the sun rose last Saturday, 23rd June, a large army of orange ants wound its way up this ‘little’ Welsh mountain, like something out of the Noahs Ark, all marching in two’s, side by side, carrying their climbing essentials in their backpacks, like little tortoise with their shells, waving the flag for Pituitary Cancer. The charity is only twenty-five years old with no official funding except all the efforts of local and national fundraising. Jay does an incredible job organising it all and trying to keep momentum going. No easy task! Yet, for this event, the sky had never looked so blue, the grass so green. Nature in all of her splendour. The path snaked away in front of us and all I wanted to do was follow it to the top.
It was beautiful. I won’t waffle on about every view and photo opportunity. Suffice to say, there were a lot of them, but as we began the ascent and followed the uneven and often rocky pathway to each meeting point, I was amazed at the magnificence of nature. I revelled in feeling so small and insignificant. A mere ant. The vastness of the sky and the expanse of the land around me, was space optimised. There was a sense of surrender and the rawness of the surroundings gave me a greater connection with what was happening right at that moment.
Reaching the top, conquering that last steep incline, was a phenomenal feeling. Heidi had nothing on me, marching up those practically vertical paths! Thankfully I saved the public my rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ but only because i was out of breath!! I felt so energised and happy. Maybe there is something in that mountain air after all? I remember thinking, everyone up here is smiling. Not one person looked sad or unhappy. It was pretty crowded but there was such a sense of achievement. The sense of space was empowering and exhilarating and never before has my Sutra quote on my home page been so apt!!
What made it even better was that Sarah’s train arrived at the same time we had. Due to a knee injury, she was sadly unable to walk and her metaphorical mountain had definitely been a huge climb emotionally in the lead up. It is never easy being told we cant do something when we had our hearts so set on it and were so determined. However, the body is a fragile and precious thing, and it was clear that the far reaching side effects of her pituitary condition were still prevalent and this needed to be respected.
It was important for Sarah to be there though, not just for the foundation, but for us and for herself. It was still a journey for every individual there; a challenge for mind and body, strength and resilience. Meeting her at the top was wonderful. It didn’t matter if you had walked, run, cycled (yup, no, I’m not kidding!) flew (see glider picture below!) or taken the train to the top. You were there, breathing in the clean air, staring at the incredible scenery, standing on a flipping mountain top, 3,560ft above sea level! Trying to stand on the summit for a photo was a separate challenge in itself! Everyone jostling for position, both for feet and selfie sticks! Oh to have had that summit to ourselves.
After a hasty cup of hot steaming tea, the best egg mayo sarnie I think I have ever tasted and a change of socks (fantastic advice from a dear friend!) the descent beckoned. It had been much cooler at the top. The sun had disappeared while we fought for photo space on the edge of precarious vistas, but as we started downward and became more sheltered again, it became warmer and the on/off fleece, stayed off!
I spoke to some amazing people that day. It was one of the most inspiring experiences I have had. I can stay true to my talks and presentations with the knowledge that walking down a mountain IS harder than walking up! Yet, walking together, listening to such courage and learning about other peoples conditions, illustrated to me that those faced with adversity can always find a way to rise again, bigger, better, stronger and even more determined and having a hand to hold helps ease that journey. Having a focus, a goal, can make a fundamental difference and generate a much greater sense of positivity. There was only equality and integrity on that mountain, every orange ant helping the other; caring, sharing and coming together to celebrate life. Not so insignificant after all.
Arriving back on tarmac was a slight shock to the lower back! I was getting strangely used to the rocks and cobbles! Thanks to Lou and a fabulous chap from our group, I didn’t have to carry my backpack for the last ten minutes as my tum was sore but boy, did it feel amazing turning to look back up to where we had just climbed. Our group raised a fabulous £4,000 for The Pituitary Foundation that day and I am so grateful to everyone who sponsored us. This money will help quicker diagnosis, more support and better treatment as well as raising much needed awareness. After a quick drink and thank you with the guides and some of the other climbers, we drifted back to our little cabin to rest, eat and nurse our aching legs.
One large bowl of macaroni cheese, chilli and Bridesmaids on Netflix viewing later, as I was wondering how to navigate the ‘child friendly’ ladder of the bunk beds I was sleeping on the top of, I moved my phone and saw I had a message.
The gorgeous Gemma, who I met last year but feel I have known forever, had gone to the MPower award ceremony in London as she had been nominated for her incredible Ways Gone By products. Due to my commitment to climb, I had been unable to go. I had been so incredibly honoured to have been a finalist and the love and support for us all had been so amazing, but as the phone beckoned with its ‘LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME NOW light’ I saw the message, ‘I won and so did you!!!’
I double and triple looked and let out some weird scream. The girls thought perhaps some kind of man eating spider had gate crashed my top bunk manoeuvring routine but I flew into the sitting area and suddenly the aching thighs, sore feet and throbbing groin miraculously disappeared and I was jumping up and down, punching the air, laughing, crying (or was that the pain and sheer fatigue?!) like a mad woman. The pride was overwhelming and thrilling.
Needless to say the eyes were wide, the mind was buzzing and the heart was thumping (not just from finally managing to heave myself into my top bunk!) and since those are such perfect conditions for deep sleep, not, there was a longer wait than I had anticipated for some rest and recuperation to wash over me that night, but as I lay there, on my cosy top bunk, I felt so grateful.
Samspaces started as my handwritten journal and scrap book, marking every metaphorical climb, descent and pot hole. Then it morphed into a blog to offer some solidarity to younger patients. Then a website to provide inspiration and practical tips for empowering our recovery. It grew from there into a support group, then came the idea of meeting for practical wellbeing workshops. A network developed and now an active community with a growing doula extension. We have come so far.
I wrote in my last blog about power and passion, why the nomination had meant so much in the first place, but to win is not just recognition, it is an acknowledgment of the awareness society need for those adjusting to life after cancer and the complexities of this, with an appreciation of the bigger picture. Sarah’s knee, my hysterectomy, these are just prime examples of the far reaching effects. Cancer doesn’t always end when the treatment does.
As I listened to those awe inspiring people, climbing that mountain after facing a life threatening diagnosis, some as recently as a couple of months ago, and fully appreciating every fear and hope they may have had, I felt so proud. Proud of them, proud of the friends I have made through Safespace and proud of who we all are after facing any adversity. Breathing that air, looking at such beauty in a view that cost nothing, I felt unbelievably respectful of human strength, nature and all its wonders.
Human nature is awesome. The kindness, support, solidarity and care that I saw that weekend warmed my heart so much and gave me faith. Winning the award gave me faith too. Faith in women, empowerment, recovery and healing and belief in a new genre of business and in myself. Cancer gave me a reason, writing gave me a purpose, climbing gave me a goal and winning gave me a dream come true.
There just aint no mountain high enough to climb up, and maybe more importantly, down, now!
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Thank you to everyone for your generosity and support.xx