As Allie drove me to Bridge of Allan for an optician’s appointment we discussed a wonderful reflection on the importance, in the fast-paced technology, demand-driven lifestyles we all lead, of standing still, shaking off the blinkers, bridle and saddle of the immediate response demands of our communications driven existence, and getting wonderfully lost in the here and now. Finding ourselves in the peace and tranquillity of a time and space free from the demands of modern life, to boldly go to be, nothing else, but just, ‘here’, in the present, in touch with ourself.

After several difficult days that carried such great news but also saw me being pulled in the tide towards depression and that had left its mark, indelibly on Allie. I decided to try and explain why it was that I was being so beastly. That I wasn’t meaning to be beastly, in fact had no idea half the time that I was being beastly at all. Through tear shrouded eyes I explained.
As a child I was so very different from everyone else as I grew up, so avoided ‘here’ in a blur of activity as I didn’t like the thought of what I might have found. But as I grew in confidence and experience as a young soldier I discovered that ‘here’ with soldiers was a fine and strong place to be. That with the team, as a team, we could achieve anything. I was happy.

Twenty years Later, once the brain tumour and its treatment effects had taken hold, ‘here’ was suddenly a place full of pain. The only place I could truly find peace was in the countryside and on the hills. Back ‘here’ was the symptoms and unexplained physical pain and mental anguish of neurological dysfunction. It is needing to wee constantly, yet no matter how much water I drink I have a mouth dry and smelly like the bottom of a parrot’s cage, a tongue swollen by dehydration, struggling to swallow, remembering to breathe with a rush like a welling of anger and rushing of emotions until water starts to drip from my nose, from my eyes. Close, so very close to seizure, but knowing not what form it would take. Not sure if the words that are rattling around in my head, are the same as the words that would fall from my mouth, I am feared even to speak and when I do the words evaporate into nothingness. ‘Here’ is bumps, trips, drops, excruciating earache and ice pick headaches. ‘Here’ is constant questions and forgetting. ‘Here’ is a place where it is completely impossible to make a decision and stick to it so ‘here’ is a constant changing of mind. ‘Here’ is an emptiness full of torment. ‘Here’ is exhausting. ‘Here’ is the last place that I would wish you were, but here is where I need you most. Not to judge or to be knowing how I feel; that is an impossible ask, after all, I don’t even know how I feel so how can you? Just be here with me, not to advise or to guide or to reason. Just to be here with me. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing said. Just ‘Here’. That is all I ask.

At this point we had reached the opticians so I agreed to meet up with Allie in the town post the appointment. I felt terrible for Allie, for the anguish that I was causing her and as I told Emma, my optician and good friend, of my anguish I knew that I had to do something to put things right. That Allie couldn’t be expected to stay by me through all this despite her promises that she would. I was asking too much of her but couldn’t face life without her. I had to do something.

On the way home we recapped on the good news about health. The eye scan and examination was clear. My eyes were in great health. That Diabetes Insipidus, if treated promptly, should not pose a risk to my eye health. My MRI scan of the head was also clear. There was no measurable tumour to be found, anywhere. This was clearly wonderful news and to top it off my oncologist took it upon herself to refer me directly to an endocrinologist in order to get to the bottom of the diabetes insipidus and organise some treatment in order to protect my vital organs and set the conditions for me to finally be able to achieve an unbroken period of sleep longer than 90 minutes, to be able to actually sleep through the night. Life was looking increasingly positive yet these frequent and unexplainable episodes of neurological dysfunction were holding me, us back.

My medical appointment this afternoon was with the podiatrist. Allie walked with me a part of the way and then on I fought through the wind, up Great Junction Street and Leith Walk to Inchkeith House trying to understand what it was that I had to do. I just knew that I had to do something. That much was clear. I arrived early and then discovered that I and a young lady had been double booked so I waited, and as I waited, I thought. I thought hard and relentlessly, perhaps in a concerted effort to avoid finding myself ‘here’ but in that rare period of clear thought I realised what it was that I must do. My oncologist and Allie had both been telling me that I was trying to do too much. The exercise and the eating was great and excellent but that I must also learn to be gentle with myself. To learn to take a rest, to take life at a slightly gentler pace that you can manage. That I can get to a full and sustainable working capacity one day, but that it will take time, and that I need to give the brain time to heal. It was clear that I had to make some changes.

As I walked home, after the appointment and orthotic fitting, I decided to treat Allie with something small as an apology so bought her a fresh almond croissant, stuck it in my pocket and walked home through the wind and rain, thinking.

Allie loved the croissant but most importantly she loved my apology and my decision. As she cuddled me and reassured me that she was never ever going to run away, I reassured her that I have decided to stop trying to take on so very much activity in order to encourage people to sponsor me to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people through that sponsorship going to the 5 charities. I have decided instead to slowly, so very slowly, turn the challenge into a challenge to others to make the small changes to their daily lives, in the way that they eat and exercise, in order to improve their life and life chances, because I would hate for anybody else to have to go through what I and so many others have had to and continue to go through, all because of a cancerous, or respiratory or circulatory or musculoskeletal, or diabetic, or organ disease or condition, that was entirely preventable. So the focus on the challenge is going to shift and I will keep you abreast of the changes as they are to happen, and with good notice when it comes to issues of sponsorship. I am taking the immediate pressure off myself to give my brain room to breathe and to heal and, most importantly, to be able to find a ‘here’ with which I am entirely comfortable all of the time in order to deliver an Archie to the ever so deserving Allie, that can love her ,and care for her, and respond to her, and provide for her in a kind and considerate and completely unconfused, uncomplicated and untortured way. It will take time, but it will also take space, so I will be making some changes to the pace of life I set myself at the very beginning, when diagnosed, back in September 2013. The challenge will continue and there will be update posts to bring us all up to speed, but I draw strength and hope from a decision made and broadcast so that I have to keep it.

You fall, you rise, you make mistakes, you live, you learn.
You’re human, not perfect. You’ve been hurt, but you’re alive.
Think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, and to chase the things you love.
Sometimes there is sadness in our journey, but there is also lots of beauty.
We must keep putting one foot in front of the other even when we hurt, for we will never know what is waiting for us just around the bend.

Author Unknown

Yours aye