After months of fundraising and weeks of training on Saturday myself and six friends finally took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. We all had to get up extremely early to ensure we were in Horton for a prompt 7 a.m. start. With smiles on our faces we immediately started the first ascent, Pen-y-Ghent (693 metres) which was tough but as we were all fresh and eager there weren’t too many hold ups, moans etc. After Pen-y-Ghent we had a very long trek to Ribbersdale for a pit stop, a brief moment to admire a stunning viaduct before starting the long and frankly hellish ascent of Whernside (736 metres) I will own up to having a few negative thoughts at times whilst walking up Whernside, along of the lines of ‘How do I get out of this bl**dy challenge?’ ‘Why did I pick this challenge?’ After a mouthful of Colin the Caterpillars negative thoughts were banished and I just trudged on and on and on until we finally reached the summit. Coming down the peak was a challenge for many but strangely enough I discovered my inner mountain goat and actually rather enjoyed the descent. The walk between Whernside and Ingleborough (723 metres) is quite short and before we had time to fully recover from Whernside we were on yet another slow steady climb. Just when I’d had enough of slow steady climbing we arrived at a dramatic vertical ascent which in my opinion looks more daunting then it is. Another 900 metres of putting one foot in front of the other we finally reached the third and final summit. The third summit is just the beginning of the end, after that we had another mountain goat descent followed by a five mile walk back to Horton. Everyone was amazing, hardly another moans and groans, in fact I recall a laugh or laugh (possibly hysteria) and a genuine team spirit.

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Not very glamorous but hugely rewarding experience

For me the challenge was a huge milestone in the journey I was forced onto with a diagnosis of AML. Treatment for acute leukaemia, two stem cell transplants have beaten and battered me mentally and physically over the last fifteen months. In fact I was only 112+ days post my second transplant when I under took the challenge. I have previously trekked large sections of the Great Wall of China and Kilimanjaro, I can honestly say the Yorkshire Three Peaks was a much more difficult challenge excluding my AML so when I take into account all I have endured I’m amazed at myself and achieving what I did at the weekend feels very much like two fingers up to cancer. I’m also incredibly pleased to have personally raised over £4500 for Anthony Nolan and I eagerly await the final group total. It’s not often I can say I’m pleased with myself, on Saturday I was proud that I powered through to complete the challenge and that there is a chance due to our blisters, aches and pain someone may have a chance at life.

It was an emotional event for one and all, for me, there were two moments when I seriously had to fight the tears the first was as I scaled the rocks approaching Pen-y-Ghent. A breeze was blowing, the view was spectacular and it hit me that I’d tolerated some horrific experiences in order to have the chance to live and at the moment I felt very much alive. The second was when our guide, Tom, told me he had guided many people over the years and that I was up there as one of the people he was most inspired by.

Challenge over, I am now looking to my next milestone in the journey towards a full and healthy life. Tomorrow I will reduce my cyclosporine to 125mg twice daily, no reactions to the weaning permitting, I should be off the cyclosporine around the 6th July. That will be a fabulous day in many ways as I do suffer a few side effects from the drug. I probably sound like a broken record, as wonderful as that milestone will be there are potential issues with coming off cyclosporine. I am at a significantly increased risk of GvHD (complication from stem cell transplant, the transplanted donor cells (Dylan) may attack the recipients (me) body) My consultant informs me that the first six weeks off the drug are the most critical and that after that the risk of GvHD drops dramatically. Therefore I’m keeping everything crossed that I can get through to mid-August with minimal complications, especially as it’s my birthday in July and I’m planning a few celebratory shindigs.

Although it’s not a milestone, I would be extremely grateful for my hair to get a wriggle on with regards growing. I do at least now have a covering of hair, that said I still very much feel that I look like a cancer patient, either that or someone who got carried away with the scissors. I’ve recently returned to work in a part time capacity, I am still wearing the turbans as I’m not entirely comfortable with walking round the busy office with my current ‘style’. Wearing a turban all day long can become quite hot so it will be a good day when I can be turban free.

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