Sunburn, soreness & survival

Saturday 3rd May, 2 years, or rather 730 life changing not limiting days since my initial diagnosis. Pretty significant day for me, and the sun beamed beautifully on my new found energy. 

I joined the Wave Walkers, for a paddling session in preparation for Vogalonga, a 30km endurance race through  the canals and open water of Venice in early June. First time I’ve been in a dragon boat since last year, and was very excited rejoining the team at London Regatta Centre. The sun was shining on the calm waters by City airport, and as we steadily paddled the straight from one end to another clocking up the kilometres in a tough two hour session. The sun warmed up and the water splashing on our wrists and faces cooled us, and of course the sneaky sun utilised this and left me with a pink forehead and hands, like I was wearing gloves.

There is something so special about team sports, something impossible to capture in other activities, the trust you need to have of each other to stay in perfect rhythm. the unity in keeping the boat stable and balanced at all times. There is definitely no ‘i’ in this team, or you’d not get very far. It’s almost meditative the counting, the rhythmic sounds of 15 paddles propelling the boat. The concentration on the faces and hushed tones. 

Back on shore, and the jokes and laughter take over, the whole process of taking the boat to the water and back again, required listening and obeying instructions. All hands on deck. Things I especially like, the debrief, the coaches gather the team in a huddle, and feed back their the thoughts of the session with arms around each other, the team spirit is high, and you really feel part of something wonderful.

Bursting with endorphins, and energy, I sped home to get changed to meet a friend. Dashing into town to spend a sunny afternoon by more water, this time at Camden Lock. Where the canal bustled with barges and riverboats, and the pavements heaved with tourists as the sunshine brought everyone to congregate in sunny slopes or spaces. We trod the narrow canal paths, admiring the beauty of the huge residential houses backing on to the canal, the residential boats and their tiny gardens by Lisson Grove and the constant stream of brightly coloured boats, purring their way back and forward to Little Venice. 

Camden was heaving with tourists. Languages and dialects in a melting pot, brightly coloured souvenirs, over priced tea and cakes and smiling spaces. Everyone loves the sunshine. Strolling around, after my 13km paddle I felt alive and happy, what a wonderful feeling. 

Oh how time changes, where two years ago, lost in my head, I struggled to make sense of what the implications of my illness would be for my family. Distracting my continuous chain of thoughts with an afternoon in cinema, Avengers Assemble. And there came a day, a day unlike any other… when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat… to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand… on that day, the Avengers were born.” Nick Fury. This stood out to me, in my muddled fog,an answer to the confusion and so To the Left – Facebook group was born. A place where friends could post and share, and offer support to each other, a place I could update on appointments, and treatments, documenting my highs and lows. 

Two years later,  I further pushed my sore body to walk 16 miles in preparation for Moonwalk next Saturday. The sense of achievement outweighs the stiffness and muscle aches, and the sense of pride that my body is capable of such a challenge is priceless. I remember back in the early days after diagnosis being fearful what I’d be able to do, and yet steely determined it would not interfere with anything. Two years later, I can acknowledge everything is temporary, that there have been limitations, and changes. Some things have never returned, some people too, but it doesn’t matter, and there have been new hobbies, ambitions, attitudes and arrivals. 

My closing thoughts – as you recover, so do old habits, being drawn back into work feuds, or a state of comfortableness that can if you are not careful stop you trying new things. Immediately after cancer, you are so grateful to be alive, you fill your life with personal challenges and over time, they slip away and you are pulled back into the lull of life. That’s fine, but never stop learning, trying new things or challenging yourself. Life is too precious and short to be predictable. ❤ 


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