I can’t imagine climbing a mountain alone. I never have! In fact, I don’t do many things alone. I am one of those people who loves working in a team! When I started running about 14 years ago, I ran in a group called the Histon Hobblers. It is a local running group set up by a friend of mine who heard the cry of local mums saying they felt so unfit. As well as getting women fit, active and healthier, it was running in a group that made it so special. It meant that women who would otherwise give up after a week or so, didn’t! Some have gone on to run 5k, 10K, half and full marathon distances. Others continue to enjoy their regular jog around the area.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of support over these last few weeks. I’ve needed it big time!! Family and friends have been amazing and I can’t thank them enough for all their words of encouragement, prayers, gifts, flowers and cards. From filling my freezer with home cooked meals, doing little shopping errands for me, taking me out for a coffee and helping with my ironing – all have directly contributed to me feeling I’m not alone.
I’ve also started going to an art therapy group run by Maggie’s Wallace, a fabulous charity that supports cancer patients and their families. As I painted, I listened to other people’s stories and their words of advice and encouragement. These are people I would never probably have met in any other circumstance than having cancer, and there they were speaking life into me! I left with a renewed sense of energy and strength, mixed with a sobriety about the journey ahead.
I had my first chemotherapy session 2 weeks ago. The support team were amazing! My daughter and son had both taken time off work to be with me and my husband. There was also a group of people praying throughout the day for which I am so grateful. My daughter Abi, had packed a chemo bag full of the things we had been advised to bring. Warm socks, blanket, scarf, snacks etc. It really did feel like we were preparing to climb our Scottish mountain, although better equipped this time!
The chemo unit was a hive of activity! There were already lots of people hooked up to drips connected to squishy bags of different drugs, all designed to heal. That’s how I look at this. The picture I have is of these bags containing a conquering army arriving in my body to kill the invading cancer cells! I was assigned a nurse and she talked me through every little step, explaining what she was doing and why. She was kind and kept reassuring me I was going to be fine. I shall always remember her name, Beth. Another nurse brought me a message from a friend of mine who’d been having chemo the day before. She’d asked this nurse to look out for me. These little things are so important when going through something as HUGE as this. They keep my heart strong!
The first task was to fit the cold cap!! They had to get the right size so it could be clamped tight to my scalp! Then they turned it on and it was FREEZING! I knew this was going to be a challenge for me as I’ve always hated being cold!! So wrapped up in blankets, socks and scarf, I aimed to last for 15 minutes! After this I was assured that the brain freeze would subside. And it did! I managed the rest of the day with a numb head but feeling comfortable.
I was then hooked up to four different bags throughout the day, two being chemotherapy drugs. The others were for counteracting the effects of chemo. Abi and I passed the time chatting to other patients, watching TV catch ups on my iPad and drinking hot chocolate! I left at the end of the day, feeling like I was still acclimatising to the whole world of cancer treatment having taken my first step into chemotherapy. I recognise I am so blessed in having so much support and am mindful of those who may be facing this with less. But even one caring person makes a huge difference!
When I was training for my first half marathon, I was running my first 8 miles with a friend called Julie. Two miles from the end, feeling exhausted, I cried out ‘I need to stop’! Her words came straight back at me ‘NO. You can do this!’ That was all I needed to mentally sharpen up and carry on for the next two miles. The power of support was vital then, and still is, whatever we are facing. We are not designed to climb mountains alone!