My story

During this journey I have never wanted to shied away from sharing my highs, lows and the parts that make you question everything. It is mental health awareness week this week, where people are openly talking and sharing their stories about mental health and their own struggles to help de stigmatise the subject.

This is my story.

When you are first hear those three words ‘you have cancer’ it is like time has stopped. Everything goes into slow motion and your mind struggles to catch up. The room suddenly fills with people and you are passed woefully inadequate tissues and you can see that the Doctors are talking to you, explaining carefully all about the treatment and how successful treatment is these days but your first thought is simply ‘what if I die…. I’m not ready to leave yet….I’ve got so much left to do in this world…. what about my family.’

My first thoughts were about my children, how it was going to affect them, what could I do to protect them…. how could this be happening…. I am a dragon, fierce and protective and there to make sure that my kids grow into remarkable humans. My mission if you like… how can I do that if I was dead. How would Mr Me-Myself-And-Eye cope with everything, without me….? He didn’t know which drawer I keep their sports kits in or which socks they like to wear to school that I wash on a daily basis to make sure that they have them, how to make ‘egg in a cup,’ a staple food that they eat when nothing else will do and the little poem that I say to F before she goes to sleep every single night. You know, really stupid stuff in the grand scheme of things, but important, and stuff that only I know and I actually didn’t want him to know as they were MY things.

I remember being in a bit of a daze as they sent me for my first scan to see if it had spread to my liver…. I don’t think I really understood the implications of it if it had. It only hit home when  Mr Me-Myself-and-Eye and I were sitting in the closed canteen of the Sheffield Hallam hospital surrounded by exhausted staff half eaten dinners and the sound of sad relatives comforting each other. Rhona (the Ocular cancer specialist nurse at Sheffield) rang and told me that no METS had been found on my liver, she said that she wanted to tell me straight away to put my mind at rest. Once I told my husband and he immediately broke down with tears of relief, it hit me like a brick in the face, that was a BIG deal. At that moment, I was going to be ok. The prognosis would have been a whole lot different if that phone call had had a different outcome.

I am not a religious person, but I do believe that there is something out there which influences your outcome, something bigger than we don’t know about that looks after us and helps us on our way through life. Some force greater than me made me go for my eye test on that particular day, helped me choose the optician that I went to and has allowed me to continue living.

So in that respect, this story does have a happy ending…I am still here…However, I have lost my eye, my sight and I still live with what feels like a traumatic event and with a ticking time bomb of when or if it might come back. 6 months, a year, 5 years from now, It will always be in the back of my mind.

Every person I know is dealing with their own shit, every single day, we all do it in our own way. I have chosen to share my thoughts and my story as it helps me. This isn’t the same for everybody and I get that. People are dealing with a lot worse in their lives and I get that too, people close to me are dealing with so much…..but everyone is different and just like I don’t compare my body to anyone, I also don’t compare my challenges or ways of dealing with things to anyone else, the way that we deal with everything is so personal.

I have plenty of days where I want to bury my head in the sand and I feel uncomfortable when people say I’m being brave. I feel a fraud because I don’t feel brave on the days I decided can’t take the kids to school because I don’t want to have another conversation about my patch or what has happened. I have many days where it feels like a dark cloud is hanging over my head that I just can’t shift and when I look at myself I see someone who is so so sad and the light that once shone from my eyes has dimmed and I know that I not coping. But up until now I haven’t really written that much about these moments…..because my grief is something still so raw and out of control that if I share it outside of my little world and head then it will blow up into something that I have no control over…..

So why share it now (I am literally in tears writing this) well…. I want people to know that for me, being brave isn’t all about ‘sucking it up’ and getting on with things. Yes that is a part of it, but to be honest, I don’t have much of a choice because the dragon side of me needs to fiercely protect my children and show up for them every day. Bravery for me is about showing vulnerability, being open to accepting all the emotions that happen which makes us human. The resilience that comes from crying, shouting, laughing and talking your way through something that has torn through every fibre of your being. Being truthful in your heart and soul about your feelings, not only to yourself but to those around you…. and so I guess this is why I am sharing this now…

This week is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health, but mental health issues are not confined to just a week, it’s everyday, every hour, every minute. It affects ALL of us from children to grandparents. If we as humans can be an ear for someone who needs to talk. Check in on each other. Smile and tell someone that ‘ it’s ok not to be ok’ then we are heading in the right direction to make sure that mental health issues are at the top of every bodies agenda and everybody’s issue.

For now, I am going to carry on and let my tears fall. To stop and reflect, take some deep breaths, pop my trainers on and welcome this glorious day into my life.

CC x

For anyone who is struggling at the moment, there IS help out there. The Samaritans offer a free help line, open 24 hours a day. For anyone who think their children need help, Young Minds offer help and advice and signposts for parents and children. #itsoknottobeok #itsoktotalk #mentalhealthawarenss

A parkrun confession…

Dear parkrun (never with a capital p)

I have a confession…. it’s been 5 weeks since I last completed parkrun…. wait, hold on, that’s not true… I have attended two in that time, one was with a most excellent Mini Mermaid where we ran, danced, skipped and shimmied our way around and the other was where I showed off my Madonna dance moves in support of another group of Mermaids at Crossflats parkrun (as an aside, I cannot tell you how uber cool I feel that Madonna has donned a patch as Madame ‘X’ although I think the intention behind wearing her patch may veer into an area that I am not 100% comfortable with…. if you catch my drift…) Anyway, I digress….

So what I actually mean is that I haven’t been down to my beloved Roundhay parkrun since the one I did with my friend Alex 2 weeks after my op (and where chiblet number 2 had an epic meltdown)

Oh parkrun, It’s not you, it’s me…. I just can’t put my finger on what is holding me back. I have had lots of awesome people coming forward saying that they would be my bodyguards (as I am obviously of the same ilk as Barbara Streisand…. or possibly a Kardashian…? Not that I would know one of the Kardashian’s if I fell over them in the street so I will stick with the Streisand example) but even those offers aren’t getting me out of my parkrun funk.

This morning was a prime example, there was nothing stopping me jogging down to the park to catch up with my awesome friends, saying thankyou for their support and enjoying a lovely run around the beautiful park that I am lucky enough to live near. I woke up, actually put on my kit but then backed out at the last minute. Why was this?

Trust me parkrun when I say I desperately want to come back to you as you are such an important part of my life but something is stopping me. I feel nervous, scared, uncomfortable with the crowds, but I know that none of this is your fault…. (I even managed to do the infamous Roundhay schools fun run this morning with chiblet number 1 so I KNOW that I CAN do it!)

So.…. in a bid to quash my fears over returning to you, parkrun, I am going to make this pledge. I WILL be back….. not next week though as I am away for a weekend of walking in the Dales and ‘A Star is Born’ film marathon…. with the obvs very talented and happens to be very beautiful Bradley Cooper…..oh and a group of friends…. So hear it now, that on the day that is the 25th May 2019, I WILL be back…. watch out Randy – pet name for Roundhay – parkrun…. as in, literally anyone who is running that day watch out as I cannot guarantee that I won’t run into you…. the bins on Lidgett Lane can testify that my long and short range perspective is still pretty s***e…. Anyone who is around on this day and fancies donning sunglasses in a bodyguard style fashion and periodically talking into their ‘wrist radio’ would be greeted with a nervous smile and some pretty poor jokes, but would be doing me and my relationship with parkrun a MASSIVE favour.

Until we meet again parkrun,

Your friend, 

CC x (parkrunner A646918)

 

Despite appearances, this is the wrist of a 38 yr old, not an 18yr old….. anyone who kept all of their festival/gig wristbands from the 90’s know what I mean….

zzzzzzz…..

Any one who has had any problems with sleep will empathise with what I am going through at the moment…. I am simply not SLEEPING!!! I thought in an attempt to try and feel a little less like I am going mad, I would explore my relationship with sleep over the years:

0-10: By all accounts I was NOT a good sleeper…. and when I say that I think that the main problem was with the actual going to sleep. My mum used to work nights as a nurse and so my dad was in charge of bed times. I remember distinctly sitting on the top of the stairs aged about 7/8 (on the navy blue carpet…it was the 80’s after all) wailing for my mum…. FOR. HOURS. From what I remember during one particularly painful evening, my dad ended up ringing my mum at work, which if you think about it would have been a right chore as there were no mobiles in those days…. or rather there were ‘carphones’ which had a handset attached to possibly the biggest battery in the world, making it virtually impossible to discreetly carry them around any where.

Just in case anyone needed reminding about these handy ‘mobile carphones’

I can’t remember the actual conversation, but I imagine that it went a bit like this:

Dad: Mary, this child just won’t shut up… she just keeps wailing for you…

Mum: Not a lot I can do about it Steve when I am 2 hours into a 12 hour shift…. maybe close the door and put some ear plugs in?*

*As I said, I don’t know that actual conversation, but this is probably what I would have said!

I think I was quite a whiny child, possibly because I didn’t sleep enough, however what goes around comes around and I am being paid back in spades with child number 2 who rarely falls asleep before 2100 and then has to be lured out of bed in the mornings with a promise that breakfast is on the table and ready and waiting for him (God forbid if it isn’t ready…)

11 – 18 – Back in the day before hair straighteners and all the things that you can get nowadays to metamorphose your hair into something it is just not designed to do, I had WILD curly hair….. I’m not talking ringlets like Violet Elizabeth in ‘Just William’…. i’m talking more like a cross between Gwendoline from Wallace and Gromit (for the style) and Slash from Guns and Roses for the curls (full disclosure, I did have an immense crush on Slash all through my teenage years and wished someone would buy me a top hat like his.) Anyway, back to the sleep issue…So the reason I am sharing this is because I used to get up ridiculously early for a teenager to tame my locks into one of the two ‘on trend’ styles of the time. Either slicked back with gel into a folded pony tail at the base of my neck with two tiny rat tails trailing down my face…. or burnt to within an inch of its life with an inherited hairdryer to make it poker straight (or in my case slightly fluffy,) only to go outside into slightly moist air to have it frizz up into a Gwendoline special again. I mean every day was a battle of wills between me and my hair… and the gel pot.

At this time I was also super keen to earn money for myself and at one point I think that I was working 3 jobs over the weekends…The early shift at the local supermarket (8am starts) and then 2 different bar jobs (12pm finishes) which very often led to going out to the crazy nightclub in Knaresborough (aptly named ‘Night out’) which meant I didn’t get home until gone two on a regular occasion. I don’t even know how I remember those teenage years because between my jobs, school work and my blooming hair, I think I barely slept at all.

20 – 23 – University….I caught up on my sleep here….. I had 8 hours of lectures a week… enough said.

23 – 30 – Working at ITV, my days started at 7am and didn’t finish until 8pm. Very often the days were topped and tailed with the gym (who can forget queuing up outside the gym at 5.55am waiting for it to open with a small team of others, most of them worked at ITV also) and a drink in the local, which meant again that very often I didn’t get home until very late, only to have the alarm to go off again at 5.15 ready to start the cycle all over again. The team at ITV became my family over the years and I still keep in contact with loads of them now. We saw more of each other than we did our families and I look back with a jaded fondness of those (tired) days on set, where after 11 hours of standing around a farm in minus 3 degrees, you could always rely on someone to crack a joke to keep our spirits up and our glasses half full.

30 – 37 1/2 – Babies, sick, poo, breast feeding, teething, illness, poo, sick, toddler, sleep regression, husband who could sleep through a nuclear bomb, sleeping on a cold 5/6/7 year olds floor to get them to sleep, nightmares, sick, poo, tantrums, being kicked in the head by whichever child crawled into my bed in the middle of the night, sweaty child falling asleep on me and giving me a dead arm…. the list is endless… oh I mustn’t forget ‘waking up with anxiety that a small child hasn’t woken me up in the night yet…’ You get the picture… they say (whoever ‘they’ are) that these years are the best years of your life and for 99.9% of the time I do agree…. I would just liked to have had a tiny bit more sleep…

38 – 38 and 4 months – And then there was sleeeeeeepppppppppp. For a blessed 4 months, I think that I slept well, I went to bed at a decent time, I fell asleep with no problems at all…. I slept through most nights waking up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the world…this was it, I had nailed the sleep thing. Yes I still got up early but it was my choice… oh how naïve I was.

38 and 4 months (ongoing) – Sleep is NOT my friend, a typical night:

  • Head to bed determined to sleep
  • Fall asleep
  • Wake up panicking about something random (not always related to ‘the eye’)
  • Toss and turn for about an hour – an hour and a half
  • Get fed up, get up, head downstairs (eat a banana, someone told me they were good for sleep) watch Netflix
  • Fall asleep around 5am
  • Alarm or small child wakes me up about 6.30…. and repeat until so exhausted, one night out of 7 I fall asleep at approx. 8pm and do not move or stir until the next morning, generally making me feel worse.

However, looking back on my sleep patterns for the last 38 years, it actually makes me feel a bit better…. I don’t think that I was designed to have that much sleep! I mean, all this nonsense about how you have to have 8 hours sleep a night…. it’s clearly never done me any harm…..

Until next time, sleep well!

CC x

Days…or weeks like this…

To be perfectly honest, I have been really out of sorts since coming back from the Lakes. I can’t really put my finger on why…It could be leaving the most beautiful place, away from everything (including my brain), getting back into the mundane school routine, which I don’t think any one likes, working pretty much full time last week despite telling myself that I would take it easy, or it could just be one of those things that is part of recovering. Anyway, I am feeling frustrated by it, which is making the ‘out of sorts’ feeling worse. That coupled with my mate ‘insomnia’ who has come back to stay like an unwelcome guest, isn’t being helped by the fact that I feel like I have almost finished everything on Netflix AND the fact that I am coming down with a cold makes everything a bit ‘meh’ at the moment… cue the violins…. Running hasn’t even been helping (tell me about it, running usually sorts me right out!) and I cried off my run on Friday and forced myself out on Saturday…. which actually was a blessing in disguise as I hadn’t had a shower for a good couple of days and I defs needed one…. I think I know where my kids get their feral tendencies from…. I have checked in with myself using all of my Mini Mermaid tools but nothing seemed to be shifting the sense of unease, anxiety and blugh… that is a technical name for a new feeling that I have just made up.

Anyway, in a bid to stop feeling sorry for myself I have done a fair bit of Facebook stalking and came across the following which has been written by an old friend I used to work with at Emmerdale. Leah was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer about 2 years ago and is an absolutely inspiration. She talks about her cancer with so much fight and bottle and has so much grace and gratitude in her actions. This piece that she has written has really resonates with me and I can only hope that I show as much fight, resolute and courage as her as I continue on my journey:

My reawakened manifesto for life:
#CancerRebel
I REBEL 
Against the fear of cancer
Against my prognosis 
Against  negative expectations 
Against being told what to do
Against pity from others and myself
Against being diminished by cancer 
Against being defined by cancer
Against restricted by cancer
Against being bullied by cancer
Against death 

I EMBRACE the strength of my spirit 
I embrace every opportunity that cancer gives me to learn, to grow, to expand
I embrace my own instincts 
I embrace the path on which I find myself 
I embrace healing
I embrace laughter
I embrace joy
I embrace hope
I embrace gratitude 
I embrace spirit
I embrace the strength of my ancestors 
I embrace magic and miracles  
I embrace love of myself and of all beings 
Above all else I embrace LIFE
For I am a CANCER REBEL with a fierce heart, an independent mind, a warrior spirit, and an ocean of desire to keep on keeping on and making a difference and making a noise as long as there is sweet breath in my body. 
To LIFE. Long and sweet may it be for us all.

Leah Bracknell 2019

So my resolution for this week is to be thankful for all that I have (yes even the shoes being left at the bottom of the stairs) to embrace this craziness that is life, an interesting, dynamic and wonderful life and to continue to fight, to be that warrior that takes no prisoners. #CancerRebel

Until next time,

CC x

The Fells are alive.

It is all very well getting back into the day to day running of everything (school runs, working, shopping, cooking, tidying up… all the time…. my kids seem to be allergic to picking anything up off the floor and look like I have asked them to s**t in their shoe every time I ask them to do it) but I think that there comes a point where you do need to get away from everything, to stop, disconnect and reflect.

It’s no secret that I like being outdoors and as a family we like being outdoors. About a week ago I realised that Mr me-myself-and-eye had the bank holiday off work. This NEVER happens and I usually spend the bank holidays being the third wheel with various friends and their families. This bank holiday was going to be different though as we headed off to the Lake District and with the promise of glorious weather all weekend we all felt the stresses and strains of the last few months being left behind. The Lakes are super special to us and we don’t nearly get there enough, in fact last time I was there in Ambleside about 4 weeks ago, I had to leave sharply after 12 hours as chiblet number one was chundering everywhere.

We specifically wanted to head to Skiddaw, a mountain that both Mr-me-myself-and-eye and I love as it was where we spent our honeymoon and it is a mountain that has lots of character and a lot of ‘secret’ paths up it so you don’t have to go along the usual motorway route.

Arriving at what can only be described as a barn with a few amenities, Mr me-myself-eye was in his element, as were the kids as the prospect of being feral for 3 days was a dream come true for them. To get to the barn we had to get Farmer James (Does everyone refer to Farmers in this way or is it just me?) to collect us on his quad bike and take us up to the barn about half a mile away. It was remote…. properly remote.…. with a stream, a tree to build a swing in, Ewes lambing, a log stove and very little signal (it took me a while it be ok with this) It was idyllic. The next 3 days were essentially spent walking up the Fells, playing in the steam, conquering Skiddaw (the kids first Munro mountain) swinging and climbing the massive Oak tree and imagining our lives there and how simple it would be (there was also a touch of D&V for the Chiblets…. there seems to be a theme between The Lakes and them being ill…)

Spot the difference between the two of us and how we treat maps.I like to think I live life on the edge…

I’m not sure if it was done on purpose but if Mr me-myself-and-eye was trying to take my mind off things he certainly succeeded with all of the walks that we did conveniently having the prospect of me plunging to my death at the shear drops on the apparent ‘paths’ that he took us on, “It says it is a path on the map” was a favoured phrase of the weekend, however I did remind him that that sentence didn’t wash with me anymore as after 10 years together I am well practiced at him taking the most remote and craziest paths to reach our destinations (Being on the Isle of Syke and having to carry our mountain bikes on our shoulders – whilst being pregnant- over huge bogs whilst he proclaimed “The map definitely says that it is this way…” is a ‘highlight’ that I remember from our first ever holiday together… yes this is the very one that I booked on a whim) The kids are both mountain goats (a trait from him not me) and they bounded up everything without a second thought of the 30ft drops or death defying paths that greeted us on every outing.

This does not do the terrifying drop to my left justice…. or the fact that I couldn’t see the bloody drop!

The weekend was the tonic that we all needed. I didn’t have to take any pain killers the whole weekend and I perfected my UNO game. We were a family again and barely referred to the last 6 weeks.

Returning home was sad and the weight of being back hit us as we arrived in the drive and unloaded about a million tons of washing, sorted out school uniforms, spellings, logged on to emails etc….. getting back to reality. I often wonder if life would really be simpler if we uprooted and headed off to live off the land in a remote barn… I then quickly slap myself around the face when I realise that the nearest gin shop may be over 12 miles away and that simply wont do!

A HUGE positive when I arrived back came from two amazing women that I have the pleasure of knowing. I have quite a few friends running the London Marathon this coming Sunday and two in particular have blown me away. Firstly Lizzie Adams who decided to run the marathon and raise money for Mini Mermaids (the not for profit I run) she has absolutely smashed her fundraising target and I am blown away by everyone’s generosity…. another amazing woman is Sarah Smith, who is usually found up a mountain running crazy distances. She is running a very different race on Sunday in London and is raising money for the amazing OcuMel charity (who are bloody awesome) I know I talk about my community a lot but I am so proud and humbled by both of these kind, strong fearless women and forever grateful for them both taking on London on behalf of the girls that we reach with the Mini Mermaid programmes and for those affected with Ocular Melanoma. There is still time to donate here for OcuMel… and here for Mini Mermaids! (insert smiley face here to encourage you all to donate!)

So this weekend, is all about the AMAZING people who are taking on their own challenges at the London marathon (at this point, I have to mention my incredible friend and colleague Colleen who is running the London Marathon in honour of her mum who suffered with dementia. She is running in memory of her incredible mum and to raise money for The Dementia Revolution and I would love it if you could read her story here as she is such an AMAZING woman and I am so thankful that she is in my life) and many other events that are going on around the country. They each have their own story to tell and reasons for taking part. I wish you all the very best of luck and when the times start to get tough, dig deep into your soul and remember why you are doing it and the people that you are helping. For me, it is going to be all about cheering myself hoarse for you all…. and dreaming about opening a gin distillery in a remote part of the Lake District…..

Laters….

CC x

Rocking the ‘model’ pose at the top of a Fell somewhere!

This is me.

Four weeks on from my operation and the reality is that this is who I am now. What I  feel about life will never be the same again.

I am absolutely comfortable with my body and all of its scars and perfect imperfections of life. It’s taken me years to feel this way but I am thankful for my body and the journey that it has gone on for me, the battle scars that it has and what it will continue to do for me. The resilience of my body astounds me and I am PROUD.

My journey now is not really about what I look like but how I feel and learn to cope with a different way of life, how I grieve, laugh, change my day to day and what I do to help others. I guess this is why I’m sharing this picture of what my reality is…. rather than having it hidden behind a patch all of the time.

These lyrics from one of my very favourite songs, ‘Grow’ by Frances are comforting and uplifting, and I have found solace in listening to them. If you can find it, give it a listen:

“Don’t put your eyes down
You’re not to blame
I know there are stories
You can’t explain
But if I should find you black and blue
And aching from crying, I’ll wait with you

Grow, grow
Oh, so you know it all
Then it’s gone
Grow, grow
You know I’m here holding on
Tying up your loose ends
And your drifting esteem
Grow, grow
If you never try, you’ll never know

I’ve left you a white page by the door
There’s no need to ask me what it’s for
I wait by the front step for your return
And hear every story of what you’ve learned

Grow, grow
Oh, so you know it all
Then it’s gone
Grow, grow
You know I’m here holding on
Tying up your loose ends
And your drifting esteem
Grow, grow
If you never try, you’ll never know”

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/grow-ep/998623845

From all of my perfect imperfections,

CC x

Walking the walk, talking the talk.

One of the main differences between me and Mr Me-myself-and-eye is that he is a planner and I am….. well…..not really a planner…. some would say ‘impulsive’…. some would say ‘an iPod shuffle brain’, others just role their eyes and say ‘ffs, not again’…. I love randomly booking things, just to see what happens…. Impulsively booking the Glencoe marathon for his 40th birthday present…. which turned out to be the year that they had the biggest storm in about 10 years….in which we were camping….. A little break in Skye when I was 6 weeks pregnant and vomming everywhere… not really realising that it would take us two days to get there and two days to get back. Anyway, I think that my impulsive nature is what he loves and hates about me, I like to think that it balances out his meticulous planning of EVERYTHING and he balances out my puppy like nature where I want to do everything and try everything RIGHT NOW!

So anyway…. back in December I was scrolling through some up and coming races, casually thinking about potentially entering a 10km or something. I had just started to run again after tearing my knee ligaments and I thought that a 10km would be a good distance to start with. All of a sudden ‘The Calderdale Hike‘ caught my eye (I had two eyes back then…) ‘An undulating 26.2 or 36 mile hike around the beautiful Calderdale Valley’.….. Click. PayPal. Entry. Done. Yep, I had entered it, only the 26 miler, I didn’t want to be too crazy and I had entered a team of 4. So within a space of around 2 minutes, I had gone from thinking about a gentle, flat 10km run to a challenging, hilly, long distance hike, with a team that I didn’t have.

It turns out though that I have friends who clearly know me and don’t really bat an eyelid (no pun intended) when I send a text along the lines of….‘What are you doing on the 13th April 2019? Fancy a little walk with me….?’ So there we were, the team, comprising of Anna Hobbs, Katie Marriott, Jacky Burton and me. legends.

Dream Team.

This however was before ‘eyegate.’… To be fair to my team mates, they did leave it a week or so after my diagnosis before they sent the hopeful text…

“Soooo.…. this walk in April….. you are not going to want to do it…. are you….?” When I responded with, “We are absolutely going to do this blooming walk and I am going to guilt you all into doing it.” the reality hit that we were actually going to be hiking 26.2 miles… over Calderdale, self navigated…. with the only person who claimed that she could read a map now only having one eye. (A claim I clearly made to ensure that the other three would enter)

So fast forward to 0630 on Saturday 13th April and there we all were, ready and waiting to set off to Sowerby Bridge to walk a heck of a long way with non of us having walked over 10 miles for a long time and the self titled ‘navigator’ compromised.

Pointing to the coffee for some unknown reason….

They give you a kit list of essentials that you need to take with you in case you get lost: Map, compass (that you must be able to use…errrrr….ok…. harking back to Geography 1996) waterproofs, bivy bag etc… and snacks. I literally do not know what I was thinking on the morning of the walk when I decided that it would be a good idea to pack some quinoa and wholegrain rice in a large Tupperware box, that was as dry as a sandy beach with no flavour. The Tupperware itself took up most of my rucksack along with the 8 dry tuna sandwiches, 4 liquorice bars, Soreen, nuts, dried mango, approximately 10 billion snack cereal bars and a packet of Pom Bears…. I mean it seemed as if I had packed for a week away, not a leisurely 8 ish hours in Calderdale! I was pleased to see that the rest of the team had also over packed on the food front, with Katie not letting on if she had water or sauvignon blanc in her camel back… (I also felt a bit daring and folded my map THE WRONG WAY – telling everyone that they were NOT allowed to tell Mr Me-myself -and-eye that I had dared to do it…

We still don’t know what was in there!

The walk started from the cricket ground at Sowerby Bridge and at 0800 sharp we all started with the lure of the bar opening at 3pm to return quickly and the only rules, 1) No running and 2) Make your way HOWEVER you wish can between check points. At that point I think that we were slightly optimistic that we had a chance of coming first team as we powered off down the road and over took a few people…. that was until we turned the first corner and saw the vertical climb that was in front of us. I like to think that I am reasonably fit, but dear lord, I was not even a third of the way up what felt like the Dawn Wall and I was wheezing and dripping in sweat… oh crumbs, this did NOT bode well for the rest of the 25.8 miles.

After the first rock hard climb…. the first down hill…. the slight panic of getting lost (thank you Mr Me-Myself-and-eye for uploading the GPX file onto a new fancy OS App on my phone as I clearly had no idea how to read an actual map) and the next 4 gradients that were ridiculously steep and unnecessarily long, we climbed up to see the most stunning views.

Utter bliss and soul food and cementing in my mind that Yorkshire really is part of my DNA and I really couldn’t think of anywhere else I would want to be.

As amazing as the views were, we still were only 6.4 miles into the hike and had a looooonnngggg way to go. Anna ‘big right’ Hobbs (she is who I box with) set the pace, striding out with no messing around, whilst us other three almost had to trot to keep up with her (actually, it is a good job she set the pace, had we left it to Jackie, we would still probably be out there meandering along, chatting, making a few daisy chains on the way…)

After skirting through Mytholmroyd (I mean you can’t fault Yorkshire on their AMAZING town names) we headed out onto the Mary Townley Loop (I don’t know who Mary Townley was/is, that’s defs a google question) with the words of a fellow hiker in our ears, “It’s a bit bleak up there” Crikey, he wasn’t bloody joking! Blowing an absolutely hoolie for over 6 miles, we all just bunkered down and cracked on, with Hobbs stopping to collect some litter, can’t fault her, it’s a terrible habit.

Bit blowy up there!

I think that the most scenic part of the route was crossing the M62 on the slightly swinging bridge and then skirting pretty much between the M62 and some sewerage works… does sarcasm come over in written form? The blisters were starting to bite and we were all getting a little bit hangary (well I was, the others seemed to be able to cope with being hungry) We had a formula one style pit stop for Katie to plaster up her blisters and to refuel. Having decided that quinoa and rice was possibly not the best decision for a marathon walk, I opted for the dry tuna sandwiches (made at 0530 that morning) and cashew nuts which was just the boost that I needed. Once blisters we sorted and food was consumed, we cracked on, nearing the 20 mile marker, keen to get back to the pub and celebrate with a pint.

Back onto the Calderdale way (or could have been the Pennine way…. I literary have no idea) we caught sight of some walkers ahead Hobbs strode off to make sure the she could see them so we didn’t have to navigate anymore.

For me this part was the most difficult part of the walk as the moorland was covered in beige grass and the light was quite flat and the ground was really uneven and so I couldn’t really make out where I was putting my feet. Cue me getting very frustrated with myself and getting annoyed at the fact that I couldn’t do something as easy as just pigging walking…. it was a good job I was on my own as I was swearing like a trooper with tears stinging my eyes, just generally being very pissed at the world. What was also really strange was that all the death defying drops and slopes seemed to always to be my left, just to make the walk a little bit more interesting for me as to whether I would fall to my death or navigate through.

After this part, we could feel the finish was in our grasp… we could taste the beer…. cracking on through Rippondon, we had collected a few other walkers and runners and we were having a lovely old chat, until we came to a hill that I am going to re name…. ‘That f***ing hill’ In my head, I thought that this was the last push for us all and so I cracked on up the hill, sweating, wheezing and swearing all of the way up (I neglect to mention that I was still wearing my artic feather and down coat -suitable for -2 degree temperatures – which I had refused to take off for nearly the entire walk because I wanted to prove to Mr Me-myself-and-eye that I really did need to take it with me because it was going to be cold. This was after he scoffed at my choice of walking attire) So sweating like a trooper, read faced but triumphant, I made it to the top and turned and watched as the others stormed up the hill. High fives all round as we glowed in the glory of conquering the hill….. then I looked at the GPX route….”Oh f*** it” I think were the exact words that came out of my mouth….. “We’ve come up too far, we needed to have turned off the path approximately 1/2 mile down the hill…” Now I didn’t hear any of the others swearing at me and I didn’t see any glowering looks (I do only have one eye remember) but I would NOT have blamed them if they were all doing that behind my back as I set off back down ‘That f***ing hill’ to where we needed to have turned off….

Once we were back on the single track road we swung down hill for about half a mile. (not before passing my absolute favourite sign post of all time)

Yes I am a child but who can resist a sign post with the word ‘bottom’ in it! tee hee!

We came out at the bottom of Sowerby Bridge recycling centre (pictureqse as you can imagine) and all we had to do was turn left and walk up the hill to the end….. obviously though we thought that going the longer way (and adding an extra mile onto the walk) was what we definitely wanted to do…. we wanted to triply make sure that we deserved the beer that we were going to have. So we turned right and went a convoluted way back up to the cricket club with Katie having pulled a muscle in her thigh and in a huge amount of pain (she is however as hard as nails and I believe she said something along the lines of, “If I’ve had three kids, I can cope with my thigh being on fire” like I said, nails.)

Finally we were back! We had bloody done it! The feeling of finishing was brilliant, relief from all of us as we had all pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones and the beer was lush.

We all had our own stories and reasons for wanting to complete it, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just because I had asked. For me, it was another thing to show that I was not going to be defined by what was happening to me. To prove to myself that I can and I will do the things that I love to do and to say ‘screw you’ to cancer and all the utter shit that it brings. It sounds silly, but I also wanted to do it for my friends and family who are going through some pretty shit and dark times at the moment. I was thinking about them all a lot whilst walking and gieving for what they are going through.

Walking and being outside is such a soul lifting experience and a basic, uncomplicated thing to do. Yes it was tough at times, but to spend 8 hours with three of the most incredible, inspirational, funny women I know was an absolute privilege and I would do it again in a heart beat….. now where are those painkillers….

Until next time, keep on moving and grooving,

CC x