What I learned from my Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty hike experience

Wow. I realised I haven’t written for 20 days. I can’t believe it.

It’s been busy and stressful, trying to sort everything out before I leave Southampton and it took me about a week to fully recover from the Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike challenge, mainly mentally.

Although I’ve done my best I still feel terrible for only reaching mile 20 and not finishing it and I’d love to go back and try again.

I won’t get into details on what happened on the day, you can get a taste below (the whole story in the description) but I thought I’d share what I learnt to help future hikers who decide to take the challenge.

I wish I prepared better. Physically I was OK, the first half was tough but I managed, I’m not too unfit, I could have finished it but I wish I had done a walk as long as the hike just to test my shoes. Had I known my hiking boots would burn my feet when I hit the road and I’d been in pain for over two hours I would have either worn another pair or brought an extra pair of comfy trainers for the second half. I’ve changed socks once but didn’t seem to help.

I wish I’d had a look of the route beforehand. No need to explain much, but I had no idea how scary the first half would be with those steep hills.

I could have taken fewer snacks with me to reduce the weight of my backpack. It feels heavier and heavier the longer you walk.

I should have put blister pads on from the beginning and not wait until half way when me feet were already sore.

I wouldn’t have made it to 20 miles without my waterproof and walking poles. Especially the walking poles. I’d still be on the top of those hills, paralysed in fear.

Maybe if I stuck with others I would have gone further. Staying on my own, alone with my thoughts and in pain was probably the wrong decision. The only thought in my mind for those two hours I was in unbearable pain was how disappointed I was in myself I couldn’t take up this pain, when thousands of people suffering or who died from cancer, like my aunt, experience pain ten times worse every single day for months or years. How lame, you are so weak, you can’t even walk 26 miles. You are quitting??Pathetic.’

As I’m writing this a lady going through chemo wearing a cold cap to save her hair comes up on the ITV news. She looks tired but so positive. I remember reading about this infamous cap and how horrible it is, giving you headaches, as if the chemo side effects are not bad enough and half of the time it doesn’t even work. My shame for not finishing it’s still there.

Finally I wish was prepared for the mental, emotional challenge, which was at times more overwhelming than the physical. I had no idea that everything would trigger me crying for three days after the hike.

Two days later on the Monday, my feet were still a bit sore and I got my period three days early, which didn’t help with the pain but I could have gone to work. I would have been sore but I could have gone. Mentally though, I wouldn’t manage.

Partially, it is a natural reaction, your body is not used to such a physical challenge and although self induced, you are exposing your self to trauma. You are in pain but is self-inflicted. The brain does not know how to handle it.

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression and you can feel everything more intense than the average person, after such a challenge, the intensity reaches new heights.

I wish I was honest about it, I wish I’d admitted the main reason I couldn’t go to work was that I couldn’t control my feelings. Instead I let people tease me I couldn’t handle the soreness. I’m ashamed I did not ticked ‘mental health’ when I filled in my sickness absence form.

So be prepared and take a day or two off afterwards.

But what it’s done, it’s done. I can’t change what happened. All I can do is learn from it and as Mark who is fighting cancer for the second time and did the hike said:

“…don’t feel ashamed, take it from me, this happens to us all the time, you hit a barrier and you fall down. You get back up and crack on, that’s what you must do.” 

Despite my disappointment, it’s been an amazing experience I shared with lovely friends, I met incredible humans and I feel blessed I was part of the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike 2019 raising money for such an incredible cause, Macmillan Cancer Support, a day I’ll never forget.

If I’m around next September, I’ll definitely give it another go.

Eleni

Advertisement

Three years ago…

With every passing year, the memory of that day fades away… But somehow, still, there are things I can’t forget.

My cousin screaming SHE IS NOT BREATHING!! The smell, oh my God that smell. The smell of the body giving up, the smell of death… And that image, the image of what could have been my aunt. But she looked so different. I’m still amazed how different she looked a few days later at the funeral. Then she looked like herself, how I knew her.

Death is a natural part of life, we should be familiar with it, deal with it better.

But is it really? Cancer is not natural is it? The way it ruins your body and mind. Pumping your body with so many chemicals to kill it that they end up killing your internal organs is not natural is it? Feeling so exhausted and worrying you may not make it another day is not natural is it?

A couple of weeks before she died, I sent her flowers hoping to make her smile, and they did. That’s the last image I had of her alive, an image still painful to share. Living abroad when your family goes through something so horrible is immensely painful. And as tough as it is to think about it, you never know when it’ll be the last time you see them.

I’ve read somewhere that grief doesn’t really go away. It’s always there, you just learn to live with it. That’s why sometimes all those feelings come back as strong as they were that day. 

But this how we will always remember her.

I’m grateful my mum had such a great eldest sister and my cousins such a lovely mother figure. That’s what my mum said to me when I asked her earlier.

Η Μεγαλη μου Αδελφη. Σπανια Ψυχη. Ανθρωπος θυσιας και προσφορας σε ολους μας. Η γιαγια μου η Αννα, η Μαμμα μου και η Αδελφη μου η Αννα τις ειχα κ τις εχω προτυπο στη ζωη μου. Μπορει να πεθαναν αλλα για μενα ειναι ζωντανες στην καρδια μου κ στο μυαλο μου. Εζησα μαζι τους Ευλογημενες κ αξεχαστες στιγμες. 
Η αδελφη μου ηταν μαζι μου την ωρα που πονουσα οταν γεννουσα τα παιδια μου κ μου κρατουσε το χερι κ με στηριζε. Οταν πηγαιναμε σπιτι της ηταν πολυ φιλοξενη. Οτι ειχε μας κερνουσε.  Το τελος της ζωης της ηταν δυσκολο κ πονεμενο. Δεν μπορουσα να τη βλεπω να υποφερει…

 

(My eldest sister. A rare, pure soul. Always gave her heart for everyone else. My grandma Anna, my mum and my sister Anna have always been my role models in life. They may have died but for me they are alive in my mind and in my heart. I lived some unforgettable, blessed moments with them.

She (my sister) was with me, holding my hand when I was in pain, giving birth to my children. She was always so hospitable. 

The end of her life, tough and painful. I couldn’t watch her suffer so much…)

ola ta aderfia mazi

I’m grateful she brought to live and raised two of my favourite and dearest loved ones, Andrea and Georgia. My cousin, Georgia posted this beautiful poem of a famous modern poet. It’s as if she wrote it herself for her mum…

Να φωνάξω ξανά: Μάνα μου!

« Μάνα μου…κόρη μου» ήταν οι τελευταίες σου λέξεις σ’ εμένα,

όταν αισθάνθηκες ότι η ζωή σ’ εγκαταλείπει σιγά – σιγά.

Μέσα σ’ αυτές τις λέξεις φώλιασε όλη σου η αγάπη.

Δυο λέξεις – δυο ιδιότητες, εκ διαμέτρου αντίθετες κι όμως,

σε κάποιες στιγμές τόσο όμοιες, σαν τις όψεις του ίδιου νομίσματος.

Τις έχω κρατήσει μέσα μου, κερί αναμμένο στο μανουάλι της θύμησής σου,

μπροστά από τα εικονίσματα τόσων αναμνήσεων.

Ναός η ύπαρξή σου κι η καρδιά σου ένας διάφανος θόλος

που έβλεπε κατευθείαν στον Θεό.

Εκεί σε φαντάζομαι τώρα, ψηλά αλλά όχι απόμακρα.

Πανταχού παρούσα να παρακολουθείς τις πτώσεις και τις ανόδους μου,

τις θλίψεις και τις χαρές μου, τα λάθη και τις ευστοχίες μου.

Σε φαντάζομαι και σου μιλάω τις ώρες που τα πάντα σωπαίνουν.

Σε φωνάζω χωρίς στόμα, σε αγγίζω χωρίς χέρια, σε θρηνώ χωρίς λυγμούς.

Γιατί, μάνα μου, δεν είμαι πια η ίδια χωρίς εσένα.

Μεγάλωσα απότομα από τότε που σ’ έχασα.

Ξεριζώθηκα σαν το δέντρο που το θερίζει ο βοριάς.

Έμεινα άοπλος στρατιώτης στο πεδίο της μάχης,

που τον εγκατέλειψαν οι σύντροφοί του.

Ένας στρατιώτης σακατεμένος και κρυμμένος στα χαρακώματα

να περιμένει την επίθεση του εχθρού.

Τα διδάγματά σου, όμως, οι γαλουχίες σου, η αστείρευτη αγάπη

που με ανέθρεψε με ατσάλωσαν.

Μου έδωσαν τελικά θάρρος να συνεχίσω, να μην λιποψυχώ.

Να βγω έξω και να συνεχίσω να δίνω τις μάχες μου.

Έγινα εγώ η σοφή που συμβουλεύει, η αγκαλιά που παρηγορεί,

η αισιοδοξία που παροτρύνει, το άγρυπνο μάτι που περιφρουρεί.

Κι ας κρύβω μέσα μου το παιδί που ορφάνεψε.

Το παιδί που κλαίει, όταν χτυπάει στην αλάνα της ζωής

κι αποζητά το μητρικό χάδι και την ζεστή αγκαλιά.

Συνεχίζω να ζω κι ας μην έχω πια την ευλογία να φωνάξω:

«Mάνα μου» και να σε δω να εμφανίζεσαι στην πόρτα.

~Σαντίνα Δεναξά~

( To shout again: Mum! 

My daughter… your last words to me, when you felt that your life was slowly slipping away. You put your love into those few words.  

I kept those words inside me, as a candle lit in your memory. Your existence, a church and your heart a dome looking straight to God. That’s where I imagine you now. Up in the sky, but not far. 

Always here, watching my rise and fall, my happy and sad moments, my mistakes and my successes. I think of you and talk to you at the most silent moments. I talk to you with no mouth, I touch you with no arms, I grieve for you with no tears. 

Because, mum, I’m not the same without you. I grew up suddenly, the moment you died. I’m like an uprooted tree, battered in the wind. A soldier without their gun, in the battlefield, abandoned by their fellow soldiers. A wounded soldier, hidden, waiting for the enemy to attack.

But your nurture, your advice, your endless love, made me stronger. They gave me strength to keep going, to never give up. 

I was now the wise one to advise others, the one to console, the optimistic one, the watchful eye that protects. 

Although, inside, I’m still a child without a mother, a child who cries when she gets hurt and is looking for their mum’s embrace. 

I keep on living without the blessing of you showing up at the door when I shout ‘Mum’.)

theia Anna

I’m grateful my sister Stella had such a wonderful godmother. I loved the special bond they always had. I asked my sister for some words. I burst into tears when reading her reply. I’ve never heard of this before.

-Δηλαδη να γραψω που διαβαζαμε μαζι και εκαμε υπομονη ωσπου να μαθω την γ*****η την ιστορια; Και που με έπιανε κάθε φορά που ξεκινούσε η χρονιά να μου πει καλή αρχή και να διαβάζω? Και να προσεχω τον εαυτο μου γιατι αν δεν τον προσεχουμε δεν θα μας προσεχει.

Και όταν εγεννήθηκε η Ειρήνη είπε μου να προσέχω τη βαφτιστικιά μου και ειπα της πως όσο καλή νούνα είχα, τόσο καλή νούνα θα’μαι για την Ειρήνη.

Και όταν μιλούσαμε για τα φαγια της είπε μου να μου δείξει και είπα της πως όσες φορές και να μου δείξει δεν θα είναι ίδια με τα δικά της. Και λέει μου, γιατί; Και λέω της έχει ένα συστατικό που βάλει που δεν το έχει κανένας.  Και λέει μου μα τι;  Και είπα της η αγάπη που βάλει στο φαί της όταν το φτιάχνει.

(She used to sit with me and help me with my homework. She was so patient, especially when it came to f****ing history. She used to call me at the beginning of every single school year to wish me well and remind me to be a good student.

She used to say to me: Take care of yourself, because if you don’t take care of yourself, it won’t take care of you.

When Irini was born she told me to take care of my goddaughter and I told her I’ll be as good godmother as she’s been to me.

When we used to chat about her cooking, she offered to show me how to make some of her recipes and I told her, she can teach me as many times as she likes but it will never taste the same as her food. And she asked me, Why?

Because you add an ingredient that nobody else has. What’s that? She asked.

The love you put into your cooking…)

Stella mikri kai theia Anna

I’m grateful I had Anna as my aunt for 29 years, I’ll always cherish the memories of the big parties and relaxed summer evenings on her terrace, her delicious food, her love, her intelligence, her sweetness and kindness.

And although I’d rather she was still alive, I’m grateful of what I learned and how much I’ve changed because of her death. Appreciate the little things, love and care for myself, do what makes me happy. I’ve become a stronger, more resilient human.

Αιωνία σου η μνήμη θεία μου καλή μου.

Ελένη