Just over seven years ago, I was sat in the porch of my tent in Castlerigg in the glorious Lake District. It was the last week of the Summer Holidays and the weather was beautiful. It was a lovely, balmy evening and the light was perfect. We were all due to go back to work and school a week from now, so I wanted to squeeze everything I could out of the moments I had been gifted in this fantastic setting.
My daughter had been scooting around the site, full of energy, laughter and enthusiasm and looked up towards Walla Cragg and asked if we could all walk up there together. I didn’t think it would be much of a problem so we grabbed our bags and set off in earnest.
This week was special as we were celebrating my final round of six gruelling chemotherapy infusions. The side effects of chemotherapy affected me in many ways – my hair and nails went completely, but also two days after chemotherapy and usually lasting for one day, the long bones in my legs ached from the inside out and it was difficult to control.
Sat in the tent and walking on the flat was no problem – I could get through it and manage on painkillers, but walking up a hill on a bad leg day? Something that I absolutely love to do, was more of a problem.
We set off up the hill – I was wondering if I was going to be able to make it, but still smiling! It’s Walla Cragg for goodness sake! About 200m of ascent from where we were shouldn’t be an issue. But…I was struggling. I found it so hard to put one leg in front of the other and walk. I carried on for as long as I could, but eventually I had to stop and sit down while my family carried on to the summit. This was not me and the tears silently streamed down my face.
I was heartbroken. This was not supposed to happen. Chemo was over. I was supposed to be out doing what I love…walking the hills and fells – going up and getting the view!
After struggling back down to the tent I laid on the camping mat and set myself a target. Six months and I WILL go across Striding Edge to make the summit of Helvellyn. I was determined. I was worried about fitting time into train as I was going back to work and starting radiotherapy at the same time but the mountains and hills kept me sane throughout my treatment and I knew they would be vital to my full recovery. It was really good to get out on the hills of the Lake District each weekend, whatever the weather. We made a commitment as hiking and walking really helped to deal with the stresses of work and to maintain a really positive mental attitude. Not to mention the inevitable exercise it provided.
Six months later, I was approaching Striding Edge. I was frustrated with each person that passed me on the way up. I wanted to be the first, the fastest, but luckily I had my partner to slow me down and to make sure I didn’t over-do it. They all had their own reasons to be upon the mountain that day – I had mine.
Half way across Striding Edge I looked up at the gorgeous blue sky that you could almost touch and the little, white, wispy clouds scuttling by and after posing for the obligatory photos, I burst into tears.
People were looking strangely at me wondering what the matter was. The whole lot just caught up with me suddenly and it was at that point I realised that I WAS ME again. I wasn’t identified by a disease or my lack of hair and nails or anything, I was just back to being me. I had done it. Up to and across Striding Edge. No pain, no worries, no cancer. I felt so overwhelmed and lucky to be alive.
I sincerely believe that being out and about in the fells and hills made a fundamental, positive difference to the way my treatment went and subsequently, my recovery. The mountains are a massive source of inspiration to me. They kept me going and even on the bad leg days – I would set myself a target or a goal to try and meet. Just like any treatment you are going through, you HAVE to keep going, just like when you are walking up hill. Breathing the fresh air and feeling the weather on your face makes you feel ALIVE!
This website will be dedicated to nature, walking, hiking, surviving and recovering after a traumatic event. The hills are an amazing form of therapy. Even if you are inexperienced with map reading or walking up-hill, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!