Day 97 has seen only 2 miles walked but 200 metres swum more encouragement received and encouragement given.

My goodness it was chilly this morning. Not that cold but at 0.5 degrees centigrade it was a severe shock after the double figure temperatures we had been having through all that atrocious rain. It was a beautiful clear morning though, crisp and clear as I took Georgie out for a 1 mile walk. I felt good like there was not a care in the world.

Doune Cricket Club AGM
Doune Cricket Club AGM

Back home, children fed and off to school I started on some admin. I had lots to do and was going swimming over lunchtime. Three Ginger tea rather than coffee to make sure I had no seizure activity while swimming and then started on my email inbox while I waited for the internet shop to arrive. As I did so a message popped up written by a friend telling me how emotional she had found yesterday’s post. It was a message of encouragement and understanding but I detected a note of sadness in her message hinged, I think, on the sadness one hears when reading the post. There were moments of frustration, moments of loneliness perhaps and maybe even sadness but also moments of contentment, moments when I felt embraced by warm companionship, even moments of laughter as the children played. Those moments may have been embracing me with their welcome and playing in my mind but when I keep my eyes, ears and mind open and engaged to the inputs it is receiving, from whatever their source, the messages and even moments are seen and heard so clearly that they become like a physical manifestation of the mind’s interpretation. In reflection I would like to think that the warm embrace was me being welcomed by Jesus in to his companionship. Certainly that is nothing to be sad about so perhaps that was the very reason for the song popping in to my head sung originally by Norman Greenbaum then sung again, this time very poorly but with great gusto by me, because one of the lines that I didn’t write down for you yesterday is ‘I’ve got a friend in Jesus.’ Either way I didn’t mean my post to be emotional. I never mean them to be emotional. I am just telling a story but tell the whole story, with all the bad or emotional bits for a very good reason.

Shopping delivered I went for a swim at lunchtime. Everything worked like clockwork and I arrived after a pleasant walk through the clear air up to McLaren Leisure Centre bang on time for the public swim at 1pm. I changed and spoke to Chris the very helpful lifeguard on duty today just to let him know that I had epilepsy. It was under control and I was feeling fine but could he keep an eye on me just in case. The pool only had two other swimmers in it doing lengths so he was more than happy for me to crack on so crack on I did. I love the feeling of weightlessness when swimming. Long underwater strokes in the breaststroke warm up blowing through my nose the bubbles bubbling reassuringly past my ear. Up for a breath and back down. All good and 2 lengths completed. 1 length backstroke and another breaststroke. Feeling good. Next length front crawl at a nice relaxed 60% effort with the intent of breathing every 3rd stroke on alternate sides. There was a problem. Suddenly I felt as if my body was full of water like ballast at the bottom of a boat and each time I tried to tilt my head to one side to breath my whole body rolled with it. It was a most unusual and very disorientating sensation. Like the day in the canoe on the river Teith when we filled with water at the stopper and had to paddle like stink to remain stable and get to the bank without tipping over I decided that I had to swim like stink to get to the end without sinking. Got there. Grabbed on to the end and as my head emerged from the water there were Chris’s feet. Right above me. I was fine. Feet down I took a moment to assess myself. I felt okay. Must have been a balance issue so I tried again. This time perfect. Another 3 lengths frontcrawl but then started to feel the first indicators that all wasn’t quite right. Tingling lips and a fuzziness in the head. 8 laps done. 200metres swum. Time to get out. I thanked Chris, showered, changed and headed down to Callander actually quite pleased as that was the furthest I had swum since before surgery. I went via the health shop to pick up some shampoo and deodorant then straight to the Deli Ecosse for a Mocha. I received a lovely welcome from Julie and Debbie who even gave me a New Years Hug and then both commented, with a hint of tears in their eyes that the post was emotional. I said that another friend had earlier messaged me to say the same thing and I was so sorry for causing them any sadness and both said that I shouldn’t apologise and that by telling the whole story it was helping many more people but also good to read. That was the very reason for telling the whole story with the good bits and the difficult bits because I now know, from all the amazing people that I have met that I was not the only person experiencing these types of days and certainly therefore anyone else suffering similar experiences may take heart that someone else is also suffering similar experiences and then take hope, inspiration and encouragement from the fact that they are not alone but that there is a way to fight back from the depths of some of the worst seizures or depressions or just rubbish disorientating days. Then Julie and Debbie reminded me that when writing such posts there were no secrets. Would I not prefer a decaf Mocha made with lactose free milk!?!? And a flapjack of course. What a brilliant idea. Finally a seizure free and tummy gas free Mocha. Pure genius. Especially when washed down with a warm egg mayonnaise sandwich and tomato, pepper and lettuce salad.

Bus back and as I continued to worry slightly about upsetting people with the emotion of the journey I was sent another message. This young lad started to speak to me as we waited for the bus and apologised for being deaf as a result of a Cholesteatoma sustained as a result of a blunt force trauma sustained to the right temporal lobe. This was uncanny. That was exactly what triggered my Cholesteatoma and Brain Tumour those 15 years ago. I asked him if he had any other symptoms and he went on to describe how he was struggling with depression, funny noises jn his head, balance problems and problems thinking. He was diagnosed with a mental illness and was having a pretty rough time of it. Clearly I had two things to recommend. Firstly when I discovered that he hadn’t been scanned to get scanned and Secondly to make himself a cup of tea, look up Beat the Beast Challenge and watch the video then make another cup of tea and move across to the posts to catch up with the journey so far from Day 1 at the bottom and up to today. This was exactly why I have to tell the story of each day as honestly as I can because at times it was as if he was describing my own symptoms and it sounded very much as if they were getting on top of him. Perhaps he can find some hope, inspiration and encouragement from the challenge. If you do come and find me please say hello I would love to hear from you.

The wonderful Dheraj from the Doune Cricket Club AGM
The wonderful Dheraj from the Doune Cricket Club AGM

Back home and it was time to take Gerogie for another short walk. Just 1 mile again. It was getting darker, chilly and very quiet. Not another sole seen so I started to reflect back on my experiences of yesterday’s wonderful walk and the story I brought back from it. You’re right it was emotional. But as I tried to understand it with a mist of tears in my eyes as I tripped over the roots along the path I got it. Yes I had been embraced by a number of different but very very deep emotions throughout the day but perhaps it was because I was being embraced by our Lord Jesus Christ. So suddenly I understood it. As I sat and admired the view and laughed at the children playing in front of me; As I sat and ate my lunch in the warm embrace of the presence that I felt at that cottage; As I burst into song in rhythm to my walk getting my bearings bang on and navigating successfully. As I walked along lost in the ambiance of all that surrounded me; I was happy. I had just been given news that was never thought possible. Yes it was a little bit and hadn’t changed the medical prognosis but the good Dr categorically confirmed that the tumour had not grown at all and even better was shrinking. Was doing exactly what they said 18 months ago wasn’t possible because of the type and diffuse nature of my tumour. Yes it has had a 15 year head start on me but we have proved that it is possible to shrink it and if it takes me 15 years to beat this beast – well that is many years more than I was supposed to have. With God’s help we can beat this beast. I was nervous, I was upset and confused by my doubting, but I was helping others, I was happy.

Then it was tea time and food being so important in the fight against the beast I made a very quick and simple tea of Pasta with a lemon and basil sauce with Parmesan cheese. Yesterday was poached eggs on toast with pan-cooked tomatoes, chestnut mushrooms, black beans and coriander. It was my version of the Jamie Oliver Mexican Pan-Cooked Brekkie Eggs that didn’t go down well with the children. Simplified the plates were left clean but I was wondering if the lemon and basil pasta might be a little too simple with wholemeal pasta. No, they loved it!! But whilst we ate I had a chat with James because he was struggling to learn a Burn’s poem that he had volunteered to perform for a charity Burn’s night at the Dunblane Centre. It was as if he had given up. It was a hard one to learn for a young boy of 12 but not beyond him by any means. Just different and he was struggling to get his head around this new language. I could understand it but didn’t like to see such a lack of belief in himself. I knew he could do it but he needed to be encouraged to find the belief in himself. James clearly hadn’t been reading each post of the challenge but had been following the journey of the amazing people I have met who had inspired and encouraged me to keep going and whose amazing stories I would often give to the children. I reminded him of these amazing people and asked him what it was that one after another after another ensured success in their particular battle? Determination. We talked about what this would mean in his circumstance with this poem. Well firstly that he had made a commitment. In effect a promise and as such should do all he could to fulfil that commitment. Secondly that if at first you do not succeed to try, try and try again. ‘James you are more than capable of learning this poem and putting in a stella performance but not if you give up.’ ‘Lets get that poem and switch off your computers. Instead sit and learn it.’

I had to go. It was the Doune cricket club AGM and they had been so supportive to me over the last months that I felt I really ought to go to support them and I was so glad when I did. As I walked in to the Red Lion I was met by the warm embrace of friendship, handshakes and Happy New Years. The meeting was excellent with some brilliant plans to improve the youth development in the club and was then followed by an amazing curry cooked by Dheraj. A Lamb Bhuna with rice and a Spinach and potato curry and a lentil sauce it was quite delightful. It was Dheraj in fact who was one of the first players I got to know at the club as we drove to a match and talked and talked about our passion for youth and our various plans to try and improve the life chances of youth. Mine was the Future Nation Foundation and Dheraj’s was many faceted as he works with significant passion as a youth worker in the local area. Quite simply I found him to be a truly inspiring individual and was one of the first people that I ran my idea of the challenge past and subsequently amended the challenge idea as a result of his excellent feedback. But today the curry was first class especially when coupled with the solid friendship and support from the club. I stood on a chair and took a photo of the AGM. Probably a little foolish after a little more than a Port Glass of Red Wine but survived and then it was time to go home. Happy.

When I got home I discovered that James had learned an entire verse of his Burn’s poem. It wasn’t perfect but a jolly good stab at it. Happy.

The challenge in numbers in total since the start:
Days completed: 97
Total Miles Cycled: 511
Total Miles Walked: 495.0
Total Miles Run: 25.6
Total Miles Paddled: 7
Total Distance Cycled, Skied, Ran and Rowed in the gym: 8.4 
Total Distance Swum: 500 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.1047.3
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: 4
Press Ups: 188
Pull Ups: 48
Sit Ups: 188
People Met and Hands Shaken: 336
Pots of tea shared: 22
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 3
Prayers joined in a Train Station: 1
Pills popped: 428
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 96 – £5,802.77.

Considering I started this challenge 20 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 £60.44 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. May I also ask however that if you are not sponsoring me to please consider it for as much or as little as you can afford. My rate of revenue raising has slowed from £70.00 a day to £60.00 a day so please sponsor me and encourage your friends to as well.

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.

Join me on my journey

Thank you for joining me on my own personal journey and encouraging me to walk, cycle, climb, paddle, sport and do good deeds each day to ‘Beat the Beast’ while helping to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people through sponsorship.

How to Sponsor Me

The Beat the Beast Challenge is self funding through my own contribution while keeping costs to a minimum with voluntary support and corporate sponsorship in kind. Therefore the entirety of every penny donated will go directly to the 5 charities I am supporting.

Please sponsor me by completing a standing order form either through your own personal internet banking or by completing a hard copy standing order form in your branch of your bank and then handing it in to the teller.

It is entirely up to you how much you would like to and are able to sponsor me for so do please give as much or as little as you can. Every penny will be very gratefully received.

While I hope you will encourage me to keep going by sponsoring me for every day I survive and am able to find the cognitive and physical capability to complete a day’s task designed to improve my chances of ‘Beating the Beast’ or improving the lives of others, 5 days a week, four weeks a month, for as long as ever I can any One off Cash contributions will be most gratefully received and distributed in exactly the same manner to the five charities as the sponsorship.

Thank you for having enough faith in me to sponsor me.

Yours aye