Tag Archives: China trek

Challenges and reflections

29 Oct

trek 4

So I’ve been back from China for almost a week and my brain is finally beginning to feel less addled by jetlag and the hour change and it’s certainly good to be home.  My daughter is delighted by her panda bear toy so all is well and I’m almost forgiven for going!

I left my blog rather abruptly to go off to a celebration meal on completing the trek and then took to the tourist trail, spending a couple of days in both Beijing and Xi’an where I visited the Terracotta Army, Terracotta armyinspired, as I mentioned in an earlier post, by my patient friend Gail.  I’m pleased I spent the extra days as it gave me a greater insight into China and its contrasts.  It truly is a fascinating country and culture.

It’s also given me time to reflect on the trek.  I freely admit I was terrified before going – of failure I guess and my lack of time for preparation definitely didn’t help.   My lovely husband stoically put up with the tears and traumas and thankfully once I was at the airport I began to feel calmer and embraced the challenge more positively.

trek 3

That’s me in green! That was seriously steep.

I realise that must sound pretty pathetic but as I noted back in August, I’ve a had a mild phobia of physical challenges since my school days and my life is a bit mad after all, juggling a full on job, long commutes and my most important role as a Mum.  I guess taking on the trek reminded me what a fine tightrope I walk in my day to day life.  So who would have thought that today I would be able to say I loved it.  In fact, I loved every moment of it – even the really challenging bits.

pressing the limitsMy lovely bowel cancer survivor friend Fiona was a particular star in the run up, helping me to fundraise by personally donating, baking cakes to sell and doing an office collection.  She predicted the challenge I felt would make it more worthwhile in this picture she sent to me.  I held onto that thought before I went.  Thank you Fiona, you were right!

So what was so great about it?  Well it proved yet again that if I dig deep and hold my nerve I can extend my comfort zone and it does make the achievement sweeter.   I wasn’t sure I could manage the steep climbs but thanks to will power and focus I did and the views were an awesome reward.   In some places the mountains seemed to go on forever and the sheer scale and beauty of our surroundings was inspiring.  Trek 15 mountains trek 10 I’m now determined to hold onto the feeling of an endorphin fuelled buzz after a tough physical challenge and try and incorporate it into my normal life.  I’m not great at ‘me time’ but I am now hoping to join a local trekking group in the Cotswolds as I think the  benefits to my physical and mental health outweigh the downsides of time away from home.  I am even seriously thinking about doing another trek – I didn’t predict that I would catch that particular bug!

I think it was also great because whilst I didn’t raise as much money as I originally hoped (but I’m still working on that) I did raise some new funds for the charity and we’ve benefitted from some extra media coverage, which all helps to raise awareness.  I’ve also felt blessed by the tremendous support I’ve had from my friends, family, colleagues and my lovely online buddies.  So many people have been incredibly generous with their support and a few have even given multiple donations and I have found that humbling.  Thank you so much to everyone who has donated.

At a time when so many of my patient friends are having a tough time, going through  gruelling treatment, the fact that they still took time to cheer me on across the twittersphere was incredible.   I definitely carried thoughts of them and many we have lost, throughout the trek.

Of course whilst I was away there was the sad news about the death of Lynda Bellingham.  Yet another reminder that there is much to be done and why Bowel Cancer UK’ s Time for Guts campaign is so important.  People continue to die needlessly and I firmly believe its time it stopped.  I hope more than anything that my trek will encourage others to take action too and help us raise further funds and awareness because after all, no one individual or organisation can make the change we need but together we can.

solidarity

If bowel cancer has affected you or someone you love please don’t be a bystander, take action, get involved.  With focus and determination, together we really can save lives.

I hope you have enjoyed the pics and of course it’s still not too late to donate!

www.justgiving.com/deborahalsina1

or Text GUTS72 £5 or £10 to 70070.

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Why failure is not an option

18 Sep

‘The Grand Old Duke of York.  He had 10,000 men, he marched them up to the top of the hill and he marched them down again…’ Who’d have thought that I’d find anything in common with the Grand Old Duke.  Yet I’ve been thinking about him a lot as I’ve walked up and down and down and up my local Cotswold hills in preparation for China.

So the good news is that I feel more prepared than I was for my Great Wall of China trek, but the bad news is that I don’t feel anywhere near prepared enough and now it’s only three weeks away.

I have hit a deep low this last week or so and have feared that I’ve made a dreadful mistake signing up.   However much people keep telling me that I will be fine and that it will be awesome (it undoubtedly will), I’ve been really doubting my ability to take on those steps.  I mean walking up Borough tube stairs still hurts for goodness sake.  I think I would feel better physically and mentally if I could fit in more training but with a packed schedule at work, combined with my 5 hour commutes, I am finding it hard to fit it in.  On top of all of that, my left foot has started to swell up again so that hasn’t helped either!

oxfordshire wayMy darling husband has been a star, as ever, not moaning as I disappear for yet another long walk at weekends but I know that two of my three children are feeling my absence.  The youngest expresses it but the middle one just disappears with friends.  Perhaps it’s me that is missing him?  The eldest is fine thankfully – university is beckoning.    I don’t desperately want to leave my family right now.  But I am doing this for a reason: to raise awareness and to try and galvanize support for Bowel Cancer UK’s work to improve the treatment and care of people with advanced disease through our Time for Guts campaign and our interlinking Never too Young campaign.

The fundraising has been tough too – the same wonderful people support but I’ve tried reaching out to others who I know well, some of whom are financially very well placed to support and so far radio silence. Others who I thought I could rely upon for their support (moral as much as financial!) haven’t come through.  Of course, every hurdle is a challenge I will take on but if I’m honest it has felt really difficult.   It hasn’t helped that it has coincided with our annual planning and our annual frustration that there is so much more we would like to do as a charity but can’t do because of our lack of scale.

Charlotte KitleyI never need reminders about why what I/we are trying to do matters but I got them anyway, these last few weeks.  There seems to have been a lot of bad news amongst my circle of patient friends.  It’s included the terrible news about the passing of 36 year old Charlotte Kitley.  Charley and I never met but I read her blogs, chatted with her and was full of respect for her positivity and determination.   I highly recommend you read her blog “Palliative care shouldn’t mean the end of living”, it seems to sum her up really.

A couple of days ago, I sat in a park and sobbed as I read her final blog “and so there must come an end”.  It’s a tough read because as she says:

“I have so much life I still want to live, but know I won’t have that.  I want to be there for my friends as they move on with their lives, see my children grow up and become old and grumpy with Rich.  All these things are to be denied to me”

Yet it’s also full of sage advice and her trademark positivity.  She was generous, kind and determined.  Even just a few days before she died she was urging me to share her story if it would help save others.

No-one should have to write that beautiful moving goodbye because of bowel cancer.  It can be cured but early diagnosis makes that so much more possible.  Charley was diagnosed too late.

So to the radio interviewer who once asked me if bowel cancer got less support because it was less emotive, listen to the stories.  They will make your heart melt. No cancer is sexy and each cancer patient is a person first and foremost with a life, family, friends, hopes and dreams.  The site of their tumour should be immaterial to the support on offer to them.

My inner struggle made me go back to one of my favourite quotes from Barack Obama:

‘ Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.’

Well clearly I’m no Barack Obama, yet the essence of his message can be applied to so many situations.  In remembering this, I have felt a little ashamed that I have allowed myself to wallow, to feel defeated, stupid, humiliated.  This is so not about me – it never has been, never will be – it’s always about others and a desire to make positive change.

I will push through the dark fog, I will succeed, I will take on this ridiculous trek and climb those steps, I WILL do this for Charley.

The Star of Hope: an international symbol for bowel cancer

Please sponsor me either through JustGiving:   www.justgiving.com/deborahalsina1

Or TEXT GUTS72 £* to 70070.  

(* you can donate any amount up to £10 via text.)

Facing your fears: #Ihaveguts

27 Aug
Great_Wall_Of_China 19

The Great Wall of China

 

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

― Edward Everett Hale

 

 

 

It’s indelibly engrained in my memory of being 13 years old – Katie W running full pelt towards me, lacrosse stick poised to tackle. She was confident, focused and fierce and I didn’t feel any of those things, rather just rising fear and panic. I’m absolutely certain that my team mate only passed me the ball as a last resort. Of course, Katie tackled the ball away from me all too easily and charged forward and scored. Groans from my team, humiliation for me.

Of course the humiliation would have been easier to bear if I was only awful at lacrosse but no, I was dreadful at all sports. I had talent at missing rounders balls when I was batting, for serving double faults on a tennis court, for missing the netball goal pretty much every time and for being the most inflexible person ever in gymnastics. My saving grace was that I could swim well even if not particularly quickly – as my performance in my one and only swimming gala would prove – oh but with ‘such a lovely style’ (thank goodness for mothers!). My teenage years saw me use every possible trick in the book to avoid participating in any school sports whatsoever.

In fact I’ve avoided it and every other physical challenge (apart from some fell walking) ever since. I’ve cheered others on but have always claimed to myself at least, that I can’t because:
– I’ve a dodgy back and painful feet
– I get very dizzy looking up (weirdly)
– I commute far too much (5 hours a day, 4 days a week) and it wouldn’t be fair to take any more time away from my children to enable me to get fit…
– I will look totally stupid and am bound to fail anyway.

The inner dialogue is now so well-rehearsed that my doubting self has defeated me before I’ve even started.

As someone who tries to live life with a “can do” attitude taking positive action rather than being a bystander, this “can’t do”  attitude feels really out of character but it’s so deeply entrenched in my psyche that I have found it hard to overcome. Now, finally I’m going to change that.

wecandoit
I am determined to overcome my fear, step out of my comfort zone and take action to show my support for people affected by advanced bowel cancer as part of Bowel Cancer UK’s Time For Guts campaign. Because too many people are dying early and we want to change that. I know we can make an impact but first we need to find a way to fund the campaign and any new services we develop.

 

IHaveGuts

That’s why we are asking people to step outside their comfort zone and to be sponsored to do so. That doesn’t have to mean taking on the Marathon de Sables, an Everest expedition or even a tight rope walk on a high wire. Just something you need guts to do – whatever that is for you.

So I’m going to tackle my fear of physical challenges and go to China to trek on the Great Wall. It’s a couple of night flights and 7 days of trekking with 30 people I have not met before, who from the facebook group I’ve now joined all appear to be much younger and more organised than me. We will be staying in different places in rural China including some farmers houses – the fear of inadequate, or worse no, showers and loos is a leitmotif of the facebook group conversation!

Rafi and me!

Having delayed signing up, I’ve rather belatedly started to train in an attempt to get into shape and so accompanied by my dog Rafi, I am discovering hitherto unknown paths through the beautiful Cotswolds countryside as I try to build up my miles. The positive effect exercise and fresh air has on my mood and feeling of mental wellness has been duly noted.

I’ve even been cycling again, retrieved my step trainer from the garage and am walking every set of stairs I come across – yes I’ve even joined the ranks of the odd people who walk up London tube stairs! So far all this has proven to me is that I am miles and miles away from being fit enough to cope with what look like remarkably steep sections of the Great Wall. When I walk fells in the Lakes, once a year, I have my husband and sons to pull me up – I can take a break and admire the views rather regularly – but in China my support network has gone and I really can’t hold everyone up. Just the thought of it makes my stomach churn!

TimeForGuts
Yet failure is not an option. I’m doing this for a reason, people are dying needlessly, in fact during the seven days I am trekking around 310 people will die in the UK of bowel cancer. So I will carry my purpose mindfully with me through every steep step and hope that my determination to save lives will carry me through.

Please sponsor me if you can and ask your friends and family too!  I’ve paid all the costs myself, so everything I raise will go straight to the charity. www.justgiving.com/deborahalsina1.

Thank you in advance. 

 

 

 

Bowel Cancer UK is determined to save lives and improve the quality of life for all those affected by bowel cancer.  We achieve this by: 

  • Championing early diagnosis
  • Improving treatment and care
  • Enabling research to save lives

 

For more information on bowel cancer, please visit Bowel Cancer UK’s website:  www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

 

 

 

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