Day 134 has seen screens and covers constructed, 16 miles cycled, eyes tested and a dawning realisation sprung. 

Putting up the Cricket Green screen covers
Putting up the Cricket Green screen covers

Doune cricket club, as I’m sure you will remember from my welcome to the challenge video, has been a stoical supporter of my attempts to beat the beast using sports, like cricket, to retrain the left side of the brain to take on the cognitive and motor function from the right side of the brain, when the buzzer goes and the tumour tries to switch me off. In return therefore, I felt it important that I answer the cry for assistance from the skipper as the team works so hard to build the club infrastructure to support cricket in the village from the junior level up. Today was about the rain covers needed to protect the wicket and the sight screens to allow the batsman to see the ball leaving the bowler’s hand from amongst the clutter of life that surrounds any pitch, be it trees, or houses. As many hands as were available were needed to meet the contractor, coming out at 08:00 hrs, unload the kit and start building. About 8 turned up and immediately set about building the sight screens. With a laptop video on the sight screen’s construction as well as paper instructions coupled with two engineers and a couple of tradesman on top of immense enthusiasm, the activity around the sight screen soon became a parody of the joke, ‘How many cricketers does it take to build a sight screen?’ There was little that I could usefully do so withdrew myself from the melee and seeing the contractor building the rain covers with nobody helping him I thought that there might be the odd job that I could usefully do. There was. Like erecting a tent. You need the leader who knows exactly what has to happen and in what order to lead, but then you need an extra pair of hands to thread poles and peg down edges et al. I was usefully occupied for the morning and as I got to know Darren he asked me what I did. We had lots of time to talk as we worked so I told him about my previous military service, the wonderful 9 months setting up the Future Nation Foundation and then the pain of crashing to earth and dealing with the diagnosis and prognosis resultant from the Brain Tumour which was found by accident. We talked about how it was triggered by a blunt force trauma sustained 12 to 15 years ago and what might have triggered it. We talked about the treatment, how it affected me and how I had to resign my directorship within the Future Nation Foundation as I was holding back funding offers with my disease. We talked about how that sudden loss of a focus led to the plan to set up the Beat the Beast Challenge. We talked about what the challenge actually was and then Darren told me about his friend’s father and it was at this point that I realised why I had felt, well, a little shut out by the team building the screens. I was meant to come and talk to Darren.

The tour of the Erskine Home yesterday had been a very difficult experience. Not because I wasn’t well cared for by the staff at the home. In fact I was looked after beautifully by the house manager herself but it was because I realised, as I walked around with the manager trying to interact with the residents as we passed, what sort of a state I was going to be in before being admitted to the home. I also found out that I would be the youngest resident by 12 years and the 55 year old resident was currently the youngest by some margin. It was a further dose of reality telling me very clearly that, if I don’t beat the beast, I will be losing many, many years from my life. The home was immaculate, clean, comfortable and staffed by lovely, jovial and warm nurses who will do their very best to keep me comfortable until I was switched off but those years spent in the home would be lost to the greater world. There are lots of outings and activities but I wouldn’t be climbing mountains or cycling along canals. I will be sat down to be entertained or rather distracted from the realities of my steady decline. When we finished the tour we had a chat about the other bits of preparation I should be doing before it is too late. I have already made a will and appointed attorneys to make decisions on my health and finances on my behalf but now I need to make a living will. A document that lays down exactly what my wishes would be when things go wrong. In other words I need to lay down in writing, how long I want them to keep me going for. What disabilities and ailments would be acceptable before making the decision to take no further medical intervention. This guidance was another dose of reality. The production of a living will will surely be a difficult task, but one that must be taken. Allie had sensed in my earlier post that I was going to find the tour difficult and had kindly volunteered to take me in, keep me company on the tour, and be there to talk to should I need it before dropping me back off at the station to go home. After the tour we sat in the car to drive to the station. But we didn’t move. We didn’t talk. We just sat there in silence as the car rocked quietly in the wind, numb from the harsh realities of life. I looked at Allie in an attempt to be brave and ask her not to worry. To reassure her that I will beat the beast. That I won’t be coming here for many many years yet and if I have to come, I know that I’ll be well looked after. But before we knew what was going on we were both crying, laughing, blowing our noses and crying about the absurdity of the situation. I knew that I had to keep trying. That I had to beat the beast. That I just wasn’t ready to come to Erskine, Not yet. No matter how excellent a facility it is.

After my experience yesterday, my conversation with Darren was just what I needed. Darren’s friend’s father had a severe and sizeable brain tumour which left him after surgery and treatment unable to walk, talk or look after himself. His cognitive and motor functions were severely challenged. But now, he was home, looking after himself, walking and talking and improving all the time. This was fantastic news. It meant, very simply that my plan to retrain the healthy left side of the brain to take on the cognitive and motor function from the diseased right side of the brain was not pie in the sky. Here, in Darren’s friend’s father was living, walking and talking proof that the brain can be retrained. I was most definitely going to Beat the Beast with God’s help. His message was clear.

So covers finished and lunch of the usual eaten I was on my bike and setting off, in the glorious sunshine for the 8 mile and very hilly route to Bridge of Allan via the Wharry Glen. It should have been called perhaps the Worry Glen because I was off to see the wonderful Emma Drewery and one of the most highly qualified Opticians I know of. I had, over the last 6 or 7 weeks been getting some very distracting dull, but quite painful pains in my eyes, a little akin to a white hot needle being threaded into the eye only not quite as painful. It was really hard to describe but it was new and I knew that it was quite possible for a year of chemotherapy to have unintended second order effects elsewhere in the body with the eyes being one of those possible areas. My sight was probably my most precious sense so I wasn’t hanging about. I needed to investigate the pain. Emma was, as always amazing and incredibly thorough. She checked my prescription hadn’t changed then examined my eyes themselves and then behind the eyes. The great news was that there was nothing seriously wrong with the eyes. In fact she was pleased that my prescription hadn’t changed a bit. The pains were in effect as a result of a form of abrasion on the eye caused by a blocking of my ducts in my eyes that secrete mucus into the socket to lubricate the eyeball much akin to oil on a joint. My ducts were blocked up causing really quite crusty eyes and so much abrasion. The blocking is often caused by significant changes to the body’s chemical composition so coming out of the intense period of treatment I have gone through is an extremely likely cause of a change in my body’s chemical composition and so blocking of my ducts. It is treatable with wipes for the eyelids and nightly drops so all is well. The eyes are fine, will be pain free shortly and are certainly not harbouring any form of a more serious condition at the moment. And then, as I tried to pay for the examination and the array of boxes with all the wipes and drops and new contact lens solution that I had just packed into my rucksack for the cycle back, I was reminded of the conversation I had been having with another old friend Sarah Jane on the telephone over lunchtime. Emma had asked the receptionist to wave her charges. There was nothing to pay and I was quite literally speechless. Thank you Emma for your time today, your generosity today and the wonderfully good news you were able to give me.

So I cycled my way home back up through the Wharry Glen huffing and puffing but with a great big grin of satisfaction after such a good day and as I did so I reflected on the amazing and uplifting conversation I had with Sarah Jane today.

Sarah Jane is an old friend, or perhaps more accurately, first girlfriend from those many happy times spent in nappies together and bathing naked with each other in the paddling pool during those long hot Summers seemingly unaffected by climate change in which it never seemed to rain. You know those brown and white faded colour Kodak instamatic photographs our Mothers love to get out and show our friends on special occasions. Well Mum has many photos of those wonderful times spent together. I even remember “Fame” dancing together with leg warmers on in the garden one summer but I think that is enough public reminiscing over the past for now!! Today however I called Sarah Jane because she had volunteered to help me redecorate the flat and wanted to check some measurements of windows for curtains. Sarah Jane had only very recently come through a remarkably courageous bit of surgery herself and was busy bringing up 3 children and looking after her husband yet here she was offering to make me curtains and then even better she told me what a wonderful experience it was. Sarah Jane had gone to her friends and asked for help in making these curtains for an old friend of hers and in so doing has rallied the amazing Henrietta and Bex to the curtain making cause which in turn has caused a dawning realisation. So as I cycled along the back roads and tracks down through the Glen before climbing back up into the countryside around Dunblane and towards Doune being entranced by the bleating and frolicking first lambs of Spring, my first butterfly fluttering in and then out of my path again before being smacked in the face by a big fat bumblebee which tumbled away, not having stung me, but certainly left a slight smarting sensation on the face. Spring had most certainly reached as far North as Stirlingshire as I cycled past rows of daffodils and as Spring dawned in this warm sunshine I reflected on Sarah Janes dawning realisation.

Sarah Jane had been extremely surprised but pleasantly surprised by society’s capacity for demonstrating kindness. We don’t ask for help enough. Perhaps for fear of the reaction one might find fuelled by the bad news we hear daily about the failings of society. Perhaps as a result we end up shutting out society. We worry too much about what people might think and spend too much time trying to keep up with our neighbours and stay in fashion rather than taking steps to contribute towards the society in which we live. Sarah Jane said she was worried about asking for help in making curtains because it is a far bigger ask than asking a friend to come over for a dinner party in order to raise a little money for a charity. This required time and money but in asking some friends for help in making my curtains she was not only bowled over by the offers of help but by the generosity in terms of treasure and time of those offers of help and even better than that she has found that her relationship with her friends has blossomed as a result. ‘It is truly inspiring’ said Sarah Jane.

So with encouragement from Darren’s story, a clean bill of health for my eyesight, some generosity from Emma, Inspiration from Sarah Jane, Henriette and Bex and 16 miles cycled climbing 702 feet today has been a good day.

So lets us catch up with the challenge in numbers:

Days completed: 134
Total Miles Cycled: 659
Total Miles Walked: 681.7
Total Miles Run: 44.2
Total Miles Paddled: 7
Total Distance Cycled, Skied, Ran and Rowed in the gym: 28.3
Total Distance Swum: 2,420 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.1,422.6
Total Height Gained under own steam: 35,681 feet
Mountains Climbed: 5
Hills Climbed: 19
Days of Voluntary Activity: 8.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Bats Found:0!
Curling Matches played in: 8
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 3
Weight Training Sessions: 10
Weight shifted: 10kgs lifted over 102metres or 2040kgs moved over ½ a metre,
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 7
Press Ups: 380
Pull Ups: 79
Sit Ups: 465
People Met and Hands Shaken: 393
Pots of tea shared: 29
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 2
Prayers joined in the street!: 4
Prayers joined in a Train Station: 1
Prayers joined in a Café: 1
Pills popped: 764
Days until Driving Licence (lost to epilepsy) possibly Returned: 663
And most important of all – Money Raised as at Day 126 – £6,710.77

Considering I started this challenge 6 months 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. That is £53.26 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 to £53.26 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.

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. The Five Charities that I have selected to support are:

  1. Cancer Research UK – My Father Succumbed to Lung Cancer; a couple of friends are currently fighting cancer and I am fighting a brain tumour. Let’s Help to Beat Cancer Sooner.
  2. The Prince’s Trust – Inspiring and preparing disadvantaged Young Lives for success.
  3. British Red Cross – helping those in need around the UK and the world whoever and wherever they are.
  4. World Wide Fund for Nature – For a Living Planet and a Future Where People and Nature Thrive.
  5. Help for Heroes – Support for our Wounded and their Families. To learn more about my story that brought me to this point, how I plan to ‘Beat the Beast’, what activities I plan to do within the challenge and why, please see my welcome video on this page.

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 listed above.

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. Any one off donations can be made by BACS or cheque.

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

Yours aye