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Beat The Beast Challenge

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I know that I said that I wouldn't be writing a post until next Thursday but then I have never been for a Cardiology assessment before, so I didn’t know how interesting it was going to be and what great people I was going to meet. It all stemmed from the rough night I had one day recently in which I was woken early with chest pains that then ebbed and flowed throughout the morning and the rest of the day. A quick visit to the GP to confirm I was okay ensued followed by a Cardiology appointment which was swiftly arranged to do a more detailed assessment.

Carse Hill - Old Kilmadock Cemetery
Carse Hill - Old Kilmadock Cemetery

So this morning I gave the dog a swift 2 mile walk, trying hard to not focus on the what ifs of today's assessment, before waking the children, a quick breakfast and once I knew the children were facing in the right direction for the day, jumping on the 0804 am No 59 bus to the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert. I was nervous because even though the pains seemed to have largely gone away they were very sore and there is a whole host of underlying causes some of which could have been caused by the severity of the treatment regime I had endured. But remembering that is better to be checked than sorry I made my way through the enormous hospital and up the stairs to the Cardiology department. As I reassured myself that a good thorough examination is always a good thing to have when given the opportunity I also found myself becoming increasingly bemused and amused that the cardiology department was in the furthest corner of the hospital and up a flight of stairs. Perhaps if I can get there in good health I will have passed half the assessment!!

One of the joys of public transport from a rural location is that you often have to make a decision from the bus timetable. Arrive mega early or slightly late. I arrived mega early and found not only super comfortable seats, but tea and coffee and a delightful and very professional team. I stuck to my water. Not a day for a caffeine induced seizure. I took out my book and started to read and as I did a panic alarm sounded and the nurses rushed to a particular ward. It was clear that this was a person suffering an episode from whatever ailment with which he was suffering and we could do nothing but sit and wait. Then I remembered the conversation I had had with James one breakfast a couple of months ago in which he had been thinking about super heroes triggered by an advert on the side of a cereal packet I think but then asked me that if I could have any super power I wanted what would it be and I replied without hesitation that I wished to have the power to heal. To heal all these amazing people I keep meeting in the midst of their own battle with a particular ailment or their sons or daughters struck down with illness. Clearly I don’t have the power to heal but I do have the power to pray. So I did. I prayed that the person next door having an episode, or whatever it was, would come through okay. That God would see him or her cured.

Me on the treadmill at the cardiology asessment
Carse Hill - Old Kilmadock Cemetery

Soon enough nurse Tegan returned and took my Blood Pressure. So far so good and then I was in with Linda who stuck a load of sticky things on me, picking the few hairy bits I have left on my chest and legs on purpose I am sure and then connected a load of wires to me and then started to take my ECG which produced a graph of very clever observations. Then the leads were unclipped and with an expert flick of the wrist the sticky pads were also removed, one by one. I hardly felt a thing!! Next there was a very long list of searching and quite detailed questions to ask that I struggled to remember the answers to but with Linda’s patience and a little frantic searching through my mind I started to find the answers. Then based on my answers to the questions I was back on the examination couch and having heart, lungs and blood flow and pressures examined in great detail. As she did so my mind turned to the person who had hit the panic alarm. I asked if the person was okay. ‘He is okay’ was the response. I sensed from the expressions in Linda’s reply that it was quite a serious episode of whatever it was but it was none of my business. The important thing was that he was okay and I quietly thanked God.

Next I was in to the torture chamber for the treadmill test. It was brilliant. I was hooked up to lots more sticky hair removing pads, more trailing wires, told to hang on and then , after a safety brief which consisted of pretty much ‘Just do as your bloody well told!’ but put across in the nicest of possible ways I was off. A gentle walk up a gentle gradient on the treadmill. I was asked if I took a lot of exercise and I suddenly found myself telling them about the challenge and inviting them to enjoy a glass of wine with a video. The speed went up a bit, the gradient went up a bit. Then I found myself saying; ‘And if the video has peaked you interest’ pant ‘Pour another glass of wine,’ pant, ‘and move across to the posts.’ The speed went up a bit more and the gradient went up a bit more. ‘Go to the bottom of the posts,’ pant pant ‘To the post for Day 1,’ pant pant, ‘and catch up on the journey so far.’ The speed went up even further and the gradient went up even further. Pant pant pant, ‘It has been the most extraordinary journey,’ pant pant pant, ‘I am sure that you will love it,’ pant pant pant, ‘and if you do please like the page or share the page or do whatever you can to help, pant, me, pant, raise, pant, awareness,’ The speed went up even further and the gradient even further. I was sweating, I was breathing hard, I was running hard to keep up with the machine, I had shut up!! ‘See if you can keep this up for one more minute’ the nurse shouted over the noise of me thundering up the hill on the rolling treadmill. Thump thump thump thump thump thump trying very hard to not let myself down. Keep going, keep going, keep going. Suddenly I was back with a military physical training instructor. ‘Only 10 more seconds’ the nurse shouted ‘but Corporal it is awfully steep!’ I panted back with a cheeky grin before fixing my eyes on to the outside through the window and willing those final seconds away ‘Beep went the machine and under control but rather quickly the machine slowed to a halt. No time for congratulating myself on completing the test as it was straight on with the blood pressure monitor and more monitoring to see how my body recovered after such exertion. Glass of water in my shaky hand I was instructed to lie back and relax. Frankly I just wanted to breath as deep as I could and that was always much easier stood up but I did as I was told and lay down. The sticky pads were removed, again painlessly, and I was allowed to get dressed and taken to the original waiting room for the results. I felt great. A little sweaty but great so I asked ‘how did I do? What does it say?’ They quite rightly were not allowed to tell me but instead had to have the data analysed by Linda along with all the other results for a final briefing on the results of the tests. I thought I felt a slight uneasiness so was a little concerned about what they might have found. I sat and waited trying to cool down some more then Linda called me in. She had the look on her face that I last saw just before I was told that they had found a Brain Tumour on the scan. My heart sank as she shuffled her papers, got the folder in order and turned to me with a smile!?!. ‘I am pleased to say that your results were all excellent. Your resting heart rate was low but now we have put you on the treadmill we know that it is because you are fit. Your blood pressure and pulse all dropped quickly to resting levels after the exercise stopped…’ and so Linda went on. She went in to great detail as to how each result was able to rule out certain possible causes for the chest pain such as Angina et al but the detail was lost in the happy fog and relief of a good result. That look I saw was one of concentration that was all. Just finding the right words which were, in this case, good words. Great words!!

It was time to go but I had such fun with the team and was so happy to know that there was nothing wrong with my heart, that my chest pain might be linked to the problems I had been having with my Stomach and the Lactose intolerance that I had developed, but it was not an unhealthy heart. Quite the contrary!! I asked for a photo of Linda for the challenge post. Linda agreed and then rushed to get Tegan and Claire who had looked after me so well for the photo too. Photo taken I thanked them and then left having had more than my fair share of time with this great team. I very much hope that they come to join me on the journey and help me raise awareness further.

The wonderful Linda Tegan and Claire who attended me at the hospital
The wonderful Linda Tegan and Claire who attended me at the hospital

As I headed downstairs I had to celebrate. I was going to Starbucks for a decaf Mocha and maybe even a wee pastry if I could find one. Sure enough a chocolate twist was found and heated for me. Delightful but suddenly with a full bladder I nipped to the loo to find it engaged. So as I hopped from foot to foot in the queue my mind turned back to the poor chap who had had the turn in the cardiology department earlier. It took me back also to all those initial deep nauseous feelings of tremendous sorrow, regret and even anger about the time lost in the future when I was given a prognosis, the head spinning under the weight of the news. The same empty hollowness as I realised that I was going to have to resign as CEO and even as a director of the not for profit that I had worked so hard to help set up with Heather, and then anger at the disease for all that time lost. But then as I sat there in that deep, hollow, depressive feeling of helplessness, as I slowly descended in to that deep dark hole, like the one that I had to fight my way out of on New Years Eve on Day 92, I was saved from such a descent into depression by a very clear set of instructions that led to the development of the very idea of the challenge:

Go forth in to the world. Be of good courage; Render to no man evil for evil; Strengthen the faint hearted; Support the weak; Help the afflicted; Honour all men; Love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do all the Good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

The lesson then was as relevant then as it was as a reminder today when that poor chap had that sudden turn in the cardiology department. Don’t waste time pining over time lost in the future or even in the past. Just make the most of every day you are lucky enough to be given. Fight. Fight hard. Pray hard and who knows what might happen. For me I suddenly found I was enjoying life. I have had the odd wobble but had a solid enough foundation to drag me away from the wobbly bits. By engaging with life I was seeing incredible things, meeting incredible people and was doing the best I could to make every day count and maybe even benefit others too.

Life was good and then as I returned back to the corridor to go and catch a bus I bumped in to a friend and his wife who offered to drive me to Stirling to then catch the bus to Doune. It turned out to be one of the most encouraging journeys I have had. There was a reason for the queue at the loo. I was meant to bump in to these guys because as we drove I learnt of the fight that this incredible lady has had with leukaemia. That was why she was at the hospital today. She had been given 10 months to live. Eleven years ago!! But by fighting hard, by her friends fighting hard with her, by her family fighting hard with her and by seizing life she hasn’t yet managed to beat the disease completely but has bought back 10 good years of life with her grandchildren. I then learned of some of her grandchildren’s plights and found that what could so easily have been a sad, very sad story instead became a very beacon of hope, inspiration and encouragement for me and no doubt for her grandchildren as they battle their own ailments. This lady was like a real life rainbow. A kaleidoscope of beautiful colours that I pray is leading to a pot of healing and happiness for her and her lovely family.

We arrived in Stirling and all I wanted to do was hug her and thank her for giving me such inspiration and encouragement but we were stopped in a road that meant I had to bail quickly but I took her hand that she offered to me and as I did so in both hands I shot off a quick prayer that she be healed, and healed soon. I hope she felt it and recovers quickly. Thank you both for coming to inspire me further.

So a great day of good news and inspiration. I am in for a MRI scan tomorrow so not planning to write a post but you never know I do have to catch a bus,a train and another bus to get there and again all the way back. Who knows what might happen!!

Have a lovely evening

Yours aye

Archie