As I looked around my flat this morning while preparing to start the research in order to write a section of the book from my childhood that I had been meaning to write for a few weeks, while also preparing to try and finalise the website ready for launch, while also packing to walk the Rob Roy Way with a friend, I was horrified by what I saw. The kitchen was immaculate but the rest of the flat needed a jolly good spring clean. The floors needed a good hoover, the bath, sinks and loo needed a good scrub, the camp-bed needed a change of sheets and duvet and pillow case covers, and I still needed to get the flat finished. I would have been hugely embarrassed to bring the children around today to what must have looked like a doss house that has developed as I have bounced from one wonderful activity to another in order to fulfil my promise of taking on activity designed to help me to live life to beat the beast 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month. I had forgotten that the whole purpose of this challenge was to increase my chances of healing. Instead I had allowed myself to be lured into a mad dash for miles under the belt and almost felt guilty if I wasn’t climbing a mountain somewhere. I was enjoying the challenge but had forgotten that when I started this during my chemo my Mum was helping me as a carer but with the super efficiency that Mums can have. She was cooking for me, doing the washing and ironing, while cleaning the house and driving me from one mountain or walk to another. This gave me the time and the space that I so badly needed to be able to start to cobble the very idea of the challenge together into something far more tenable. I was loving it and being so jolly well looked after, but Mum couldn’t stay as my carer for ever and, as I came out of the chemo blues, really I didn’t need a carer anymore nor could I afford to pay her as I took on a new mortgage for the flat. It was sad to see her go but I was determined to keep things moving forward and managed to quite successfully but, as I roamed the flat finding more broken bits and jobs that still needed doing amongst the untidiness and mess, I realised that I needed to review dramatically what I was doing. I needed to refocus myself on the very reason for the challenge and ensure that I find a way to make the challenge and life mesh into an environment that provides the best possible chances for healing, while also trying to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people.

One thing that the last two days in the Vulture Awareness Weekend has taught me is that people were of course interested in what activities I was doing, were interested in how many miles I had done, but were far more interested in my story and how I was battling back. That reminded me that I had a book to write, and on top of everything else like planning and doing big walks or mountain walks from public transport or on the back of a bicycle ride into the start of the walk, which all takes time; as well as maintaining all my walking and cycling kit which all takes time; as well as planning my menus for the week, then conducting a food shop two or three times a week over the internet before then cooking healthy meals from scratch every day which all takes considerable amounts of time; as well as washing, ironing and cleaning; as well as keeping on top of my emails and in tray, while engaging with all the wonderful people who have taken the time to send me messages or comments of support… I also had to make more time for the cognitive and motor function training such as litter picking, organ practice and golf, or other sports such as cricket. The cricket season is nearly over but I haven’t even made it to one training session. I have only been to the Brucefields Family Golf Centre once, despite the fact that they are wanting to sponsor my practice time, and I am really struggling to find the time to learn this next quite complicated organ tune. I have learned from Cancer Research UK research that the blood-brain barrier bizarrely protects the brain from even the body’s own immune system. A key tenet of my attempt to beat the beast was building my immune system to take the fight to the tumour, but while I fully intend to keep trying, certainly until the research becomes more mature, it has also reinforced in me that perhaps beyond my faith, one of the only weapons left in my arsenal to try and beat the beast is to train the healthy left side of the brain to take over the cognitive and motor function from the diseased right side of the brain. That requires a significant amount of training which will of course take time. A significant amount of time, but as perhaps my greatest weapon it needs to be taken seriously and the time found. I recently heard of a girl functioning well with only half a brain lost to an accident. It was extremely hard work but she is now doing exceptionally well. Perhaps, in a less dramatic fashion, this is what I am trying to achieve. Switch on one half of the brain before the other half switches me off.

Clearly this is going to require a change in emphasis, but not a stop to the challenge. I was feared that should I not be stacking the miles quite as fast as I had been, or perhaps even faster now I had finished treatment, that people would no longer want to sponsor me. But people started sponsoring me on the promise of taking on activity designed to help me live life to beat the beast rather than curling up into a ball on the mattress and waiting for the lights to go out. There was no promise of climbing mountains 5 days a week and, while I would love to be doing that, it is not what I should be doing to heal myself, nor is it what I should be doing to maximise my attempt at improving the lives and life chances of so many more people. I have noticed a significant spike in interest as a result of the wonderful days spent talking about vultures in Blair Drummond and that has helped me conquer my fear of switching people off. So I now know that I need to find a balance that will give me the best chance of beating the beast, which seems to synchronise with what people will also find most interesting. I need to make the time to do lots of cognitive motor function training and get the other important jobs done to take the challenge to a wider audience: the audio posts, the cooking videos of me, an untrained dad who has self-taught himself from following recipes and reading cooking ‘how to do it’ books, actually cooking great food on a 1970s second hand cooker that came with the flat. Several who know me locally have suggested I should do this as I have already encouraged them to start eating more healthily but were not sure how to, so if I made a video of it that it might help, and I have a young chef in the village who has volunteered to help but I need to find the time to do it! I need to make time to write the book. There are already a number keen to see the finished article. It will be done, not tomorrow, certainly before the buzzer goes and tries to switch me off, so as soon as I can, but I have to make time to do so and I have to make time for the children.

I have tried changing the posts to a simple and much shorter template but the story that God was unfolding in front of me was lost in those templates. But what I have noticed over these last few days in which I wrote less posts was that my post reach increased significantly, partly because I think the story was more interesting than just another mountain climbed, but also because I hadn’t saturated the audience. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but certainly silence seems to keep people keen. This has again rid me of another fear that I had. That if I wasn’t writing my story every single day that people would turn away and walk away. Not so I think. Instead I should just focus on living life in balance to Beat the Beast and just write a post when God has given me a story to tell.

I was given this quote as I was writing this post:
‘The size of your ministry isn’t proof of the success of your ministry’

How wonderfully apt.

The number of miles I cover isn’t proof of the success of the challenge!

So the challenge continues and the good news is that while I will still be climbing mountains and writing posts, I won’t be doing as many. Instead I will find a balance for me, for my healing, for the children, for your interest and engagement and, of course, for your email in box!

And right now I need to link up with the marvellous Martin to get this website up and running.

Thank you
Yours aye