Day 82 has seen 6 miles walked, a doctor’s surgery, some blood, a new passenger on the journey, a wonderful piece of reflection on Christmas, and some moments of humour.

An initial 3 mile walk with Georgie this morning was the plan but the batteries on my head torch went. It was very dark so I was all over the place with little visual reference from which my brain could balance me other than the moving shadows created by distant car headlamps off of the A road. Moving reference points in the dark made it a bit like trying to balance on one of those moving floor side shows at a circus. Got back home with only one or two trips but must have looked very, verry, vewy dwunk as I stumbled along the track bouncing off of the sides as I fought to find and stay on the centre of the track.

Breakfast time. Both were in good spirits, Heather in particular because tonight was her year’s High School Christmas Dance. She was not coming home before hand. Instead going to a friend’s house in Callander to get ready. Just a little bit more grown up and responsible so just a little bit more exciting!! Once they had gone for the buses it was lighter and time to finish the walk. I needed some exercise. I had had a rubbish night woken with quite worrying and painful pains in the heart. Not heartburn just a combination of short lived stabbing pains and then longer lived dull, but hugely distracting and painful aches. I had never really had a problem with the heart before so was worried that perhaps it was a symptom of damage caused by the ferocity of the 18 month treatment regimen. The short walk earlier seemed to settle the heart and take away the pain so hoped the second half would do the same thing. It did but I needed to get it checked out.

Chris concentrating on our walk up the hills on Day 81
Chris concentrating on our walk up the hills on Day 81

The wonderful wee Health Centre in Doune somehow managed to find an appointment for me first thing this morning. I arrived early chatting with Mrs Courser and Phil as we sat in the Health Centre waiting room. ‘Morning Archie how are you?’ ‘I’m fine thanks Phil. How are you?’ before simultaneously bursting into laughter as we realised how silly we must have looked and sounded. I was in to see the new doctor. Dr Olivia Wolff and she was brilliant. As I walked in Dr Wolff was reading my notes and was clearly interested in what might be the problem. She took it very seriously and ran a battery of searching questions and a number of simple tests, the usual blood pressure, pulse rates, listening to the chest, airways et al as well as taking some bloods to be sent off for some tests. After a while we thought that it might just be a wee blip because as I sat there searching my heart for even the slightest suggestion that something was up it was as if there had been no pain there at all – ever. I had just had severe Surgery in the form of Brain Surgery then straight in to 30 Radiotherapy sessions over 6 weeks then straight in to 12 months of Chemotherapy. All without a break and although a treatment regimen that was brain focused can still put the body under significant strain on top of the additional strains and stresses of life. So to be safe I have been referred to a Cardiologist to be wired up and put on a running machine to have a whole battery of tests completed. Sounds like fun and I have my appointment date already for early in the New Year so am really looking forward to it. I promise that I will report back and even try and get some photos of me trying to look like the bionic man from the 80s television show. I was feeling so much better and before I could stop myself I was inviting Dr Wolff to pour a glass of wine and log on to Beat the Beast Challenge. Watch the video and then pour another glass of wine and move across to the posts………….. !! It was time to go. Another hand shaken I bade farewell and left the Health Centre a happy man but without a conclusive tick in the box. Thank you very much indeed Dr Wolff for your interest, professionalism, and agreement to come and find me in the challenge. It may have just been a ruse to get this crazy man out of your surgery but I’m sure not and very much look forward to seeing you join me on this journey and I very much hope that you enjoy it.

In the mean time I had to prove to myself that I really was okay. It was mid morning so what better way to check that the heart is working well than with a celebratory Mocha. I had a great chat with Gordon who is building my website about the exciting development of Martin joining the team and various bits and pieces we would need to think about in the future then I headed for home. A little more admin, a few emails, some Christmas presents wrapped and under the tree and then I started getting restless. There was really only one way to check the heart was okay. Go for a run. Nothing too big. The 2.3 mile route I had run the other day. A nice off road route through the woods, down by the river and up past the castle . Not too cold. Could I beat my previous time of 24 mins and 26 seconds?

Nothing for it. Got changed. Apologised to poor old Georgie as she looked sadder and sadder that she couldn’t come and went for it. Smashed it!!! 24 mins dead. I walked the warm down home seeking any sign that something might be up in my heart. Not a dicky bird. Nothing. So clearly there is nothing seriously wrong with me at the moment. Just a wee wobble. 3 overarm pull ups, 14 situps, 14 pressups and some stretching, a shower and lunch of the usual. More admin.

And then it was time to start cooking. James was planning to go climbing which would mean an early tea in order to catch the bus back to Callander and make the climbing club in time. I had picked a new recipe so wanted to give myself time to prepare it without fuss or disaster!! Seared British Beef Carpaccio from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Save with Jamie’. When I looked at the recipe I realised with horror that perhaps James would not take too kindly to virtually raw beef on his plate no matter how beautifully flattened and tenderised it might be. I had all the ingredients so was going down the beef road, loved the look of the salad so decided to cube the beef and stir fry it in the frying pan with a little olive oil and a little of the delicious salad dressing instead. I made the salad dressing. English Mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, Apple Cider Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil whisking it all up to pour over the salad of rocket,watercress and spinach, radish quarters, apple wedges and cheddar cheese shavings. I chopped the beef steak into cubes and waited for James to come home. Before he did though the doorbell went. Young Gregor from next door, a delightful boy who is a senior pupil at McLaren High School came over to collect a parcel I had received for them during the afternoon. I answered the door in my tartan apron that I always cook in and handed him the parcel. Georgie was lying prostrate by the door dozing slightly and farting the most revolting smells but Gregor, ever polite, must have got a waft of one of Georgie’s farts but seeing me in an apron with a tea towel presumed I was cooking so immediately offered, as he retreated from the green haze being left by the dog, ‘something smells good, what you cooking?!!’ He was gone before I could answer so I closed the door and chuckled gently.

View from Black Law of Leithen Hopes - Also From Day 81
View from Black Law of Leithen Hopes – Also From Day 81

James arrived home so I wacked up the heat to full. Put a little olive oil in the frying pan and once smoking hot chucked in the beef cubes. They were cooking really quickly so then added some of the salad dressing for a little added flavour. Cooked the beef to a good medium consistency and then scooped the beef cubes onto the salad I had laid out onto the plates. There were some quite mature flavours in there with the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and vinegars so was a little reticent but sat with James and waited. He was telling me about some prank or other at school and was just guzzling in to tea. ‘How’s tea James?’ ‘Good Dad. Yeah Good’ Salad, beef, all was getting shovelled in. Another hit full of good stuff. Fantastic. Then as we ate the doorbell went. I opened the door. Nobody there. I looked left and right. Checked under the hedge, stepped on to the street. Nobody to be seen. I started to smile that knowing smile when you realise you have been caught out. James was chuckling from the door behind me. ‘Can’t you see them Dad?’ ‘No James I can’t. Where are they?’ ‘There isn’t anyone Dad. It was my phone!!’ A friend had texted him and it was a doorbell alarm to let him know he had been texted. Nothing for it but to smile and give him a hug. A very tight Daddy Bear Hug just in case he forgot who the Daddy was round here!!

During tea we had checked the bus timetable and realised that James couldn’t climb and play in the pipe band this evening because I couldn’t get him back in time on the buses. He loved both activities but tonight he had to make a choice. We could have done either but not both and James made his decision. The pipe band. I was surprised that he picked that over the climbing club Christmas Party so asked him why? ‘Because it is easier for you Dad. You won’t have to wait all that time with me for the buses and at the Leisure Centre.’ I wanted to explain that I was happy to wait as he was my son and he enjoyed his climbing and Phil had told me this morning how well he was doing on his pipes and that I could write my post in the Leisure Centre while you climbed. I wanted to tell him how much I respected him for the size of heart he showed me then, for the way he weighted his decision against the needs, desires and comfort of others. But as I opened my mouth to speak he read me like a book and said, ‘Dad I don’t want to wait for the buses either tonight and this is the last band practice before the New Year.’ There was nothing to say other than to smile, say ‘okay, if you are sure’ and started to wash up before the tears became too obvious. James came alongside me and dried up without even being asked. I was bursting with pride for James but sadness at my failings as a Father being unable to get him to the Christmas Party he wanted to go to – when I reflected back to the wonderful reflection on Christmas my dear friend Allie had written years earlier and sent me a week ago when she sensed that I might have some dark moments when all about me was perhaps apparently a little counter to what I was experiencing at the time.

For me and for all those who might, like me, be approaching Christmas with some trepidation as we battle with our particular ailments or misfortune and perhaps start to question the very relevance of Christmas and therefore the very relevance of Christ, and therefore the very foundation of our faith I feel that this reflection answers all those questions before they have even been asked while settling the brewing discomfort at this time leaving instead a sense of perspective, a certainty and a smile.  I was so sure of it that I asked Allie if I might share it with you. Allie agreed wholeheartedly and I very much hope that it gives you back that wonderful smile we all have inside us as we approach Christmas:

Immanuel – God with us.
 It’s Christmas.
 All that tinsel and sparkle.
All that emotion and ‘feel good factor’.
But what if I don’t ‘feel good’?
What if the tinsel and hype seem shallow and unreal?
Where does that leave me?
I’m on the black and white edge of a world of gold and red.
Why do I celebrate Christmas?
What is it really all about?
Immanuel – God with us.
That’s what it’s about.
God with us.
God with me.
In the good times and the bad.
When I’m having fun with lots of friends.
When I’m on my own and wish I wasn’t.
Sometimes I know He’s with me – I can feel it, my spirit is light and my faith is strong.
Sometimes it isn’t so easy to believe He is with me – the evidence seems to suggests the opposite.
But He’s still there.
He’s with me when I’m lying sick in a hospital bed.
He’s with me when I’m sailing on a turquoise sea.
He’s with me when my world feels just right.
He’s with me when it doesn’t.
He’s with me when I have more questions than answers.
He’s with me when all else is gone.
That’s why I will celebrate Christmas.
However I feel.
Christmas celebrates His coming to be with me.
Look through the tinsel and on behind the fairy lights.
To see a humble stable.
That was just the beginning.
Immanuel – God with us.
Allie thank you.

I had more Christmas Cards to deliver for the church. Grabbed Georgie and knocked out a 3 mile walk around the Wood of Doune and the estate delivering the last of the cards. Back home and James shot off for Pipe Band Practice. Gary popped over to have a look at a shower that was failing in the bathroom and we had a great catch up. I was smiling again. It was a good day with lots of positives and lots to look forward to. A big walk planned tomorrow!

So the challenge in numbers total since the start:
Days completed: 82
Total Miles Cycled: 477
Total Miles Walked: 401.5
Total Miles Run: 25.6
Total Distance Swum: 300 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.904.1
Total Height Gained under own steam: 31,645 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 17
Days of Voluntary Activity: 5.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Curling Matches played in: 4
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 1
Weight Training Sessions: 8
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 3
Press Ups: 188
Pull Ups: 48
Sit Ups: 188
People Met and Hands Shaken: 286
Pots of tea shared: 18
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 2
Pills popped: 350
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 77 – £5,395.

Considering I started this challenge 12 weeks ago very quietly with no target beyond a fiver, thanks to the brilliant advice from a friend of mine, I am absolutely thrilled and again thank you all. So far that is £70.06 for each and every day that I have managed to find the will and energy to do something worthwhile and my goodness it has been worth it for my peace of mind, for my healing and for the five wonderful charities you are supporting through your generosity. Long may it continue.

Thank you all for your incredible comments and support. Please continue to spread the word.

If you see me around do please give a cheery hello and shake my hand or toot your horn and give a cheery wave to show your support and encourage me on.
Thank you

Yours aye