A personal journey…

I’m still reflecting on how I finished my Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge. It certainly was a challenge, full of obstacles I needed to overcome along the way, most of which I had at some point planned for, but none of which I thought (hoped) would actually materialise. There will be far more on that to follow, for sure!

Meanwhile, I have been giving a lot of thought to some of the responses I’ve received about setting myself such a huge goal and the way in which I completed it.

Whilst the majority have been positive, there have been one or two less so, which have played on my mind, so I hope that this post will clear some of that up.

Firstly, why such a huge goal? Well, why not? Why should such achievements belong to the elite of the sporting community? My overriding thought was not, “What if I can’t?” but “What if I can actually pull this off?”

Regardless of the event I choose to participate in, this is always my thought process.

It is this attitude that has helped me get to where I am today. Believe me, it would be so easy to take the “I won’t bother trying, because I’ll probably fail anyway” approach, and I know exactly what that would look like, because I’ve been there before; miserable, overweight (yes, I’ve been that too), anxious, depressed and scared to try. My brain tumour diagnosis taught me that for all of us, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. We have only one life – so why waste it?

It has been mentioned that I shouldn’t take on such challenges, because that can make those less able feel inadequate.

Making others feel “inadequate” was never my intention. Whether it’s a 5k Race for Life, 10k trail race, half marathon, marathon 100k ultra, Land’s End to John O’Groats or possibly even a multi day mountainous hike or desert ultra marathon one day (oops, did I say that out loud?), these are MY goals. Pushing my physical limits and overcoming all those obstacles along the way, this is what I do, what I’m about and I love it. I love the problem solving that comes from endurance events. However, by no means do I expect or want to make others feel they should do the same.

Problem solving – trying to work out left and right when your brain doesn’t want to work anymore!

We all, at some point, have goals and ambitions that are personal to us. For me, it might be 40+ miles over 17 days. For others, it might be to complete a Park Run, or Race for Life. It might not even be a fitness goal, maybe a career change, or taking up a new hobby. I’ve been there too.

What is common to all of these, though, is the decision to try. That decision to take that first step (often the hardest) and that decision to put the hard work in.

Setting ourselves a goal is what gives us focus. It gives us a starting point. Some goals may feel unachievable and that’s ok. I remember putting it out there on social media that I was planning to complete LEJOG and as soon as I hit the ‘post’ button, I felt sick. Sick with nerves, and sick with excitement. I also felt incredibly focussed on doing everything I needed to do to achieve this goal.

For 18 months or more, my life has revolved around meticulous planning; not only the logistics of completing it (route planning, 5 mile checkpoints for my support crew, supplies we would need along the way and where to get them…) but also getting up early to get my body used to early starts (something my brain struggles with) and fitting training around work and trying to get it done with minimal impact on my family (who incidentally, are supportive of me taking part in things like this and who on occasion have even joined me themselves) and all the while, managing my fatigue levels, which I still have to deal with 5 years on from my surgery.

Personally, my goal-setting attitude has stemmed from a reluctance to accept the “new normal” I was told so many times that I would get used to. I think this caused some frustration to those who worked with me on my recovery; yes there are things I have to accept, hearing loss, tinnitus, continued balance issues, fatigue and so on, and yes I do still struggle with this. But, I can create a new normal that I am more accepting of, and which actually helps me cope with dealing with the unwanted aspects of my new normal every single day. This is how the rest of MY life looks. Not anyone else’s. This is very much a personal journey and not one I expect others to follow.

Me and Jamie – Jamie refused to let his post op balance issues affect his love of cycling and has adapted by using a trike!

That said, I know I am not alone with facing challenges like this in life. I experience physical and neurological limitations, but what I really hope to achieve by sharing my story is that whilst there are obstacles to be overcome, with the right mindset and with the support of like-minded people, we can still achieve.

Finally, there is no better way to discover what we are truly capable of than by getting out there and trying. If you don’t think you can run 5k, then start with 1k, then push yourself a bit further. See, you can do it.

I really do understand that there may be those reading this who are thinking, “It’s ok for you to say”, but the point is, there was once a day when my goal was to figure out what way was up, and to walk 1 and a half meters to a chair with two people supporting me… all this without throwing up all over them!

In hospital, unable to walk, write, swallow properly, and fed up with people telling me “You’ll get used to it.”

If you have goals, whatever their size, I would love to hear all about them. If you don’t know where to start with setting yourself a goal, I’d love to hear from you too… maybe I can help! If you have no plans or goals – that’s absolutely fine too. Like I said, it’s personal to each of us.

We are all on our own journey through this thing called life, so let’s make the most of it and just as importantly, support each other.

Published by Sara C

It's hugely important to raise more awareness of brain tumours and the implications they can have on patients' lives. I aim to help to create wider understanding of the effects brain surgery and a diagnosis can have on an individual and their families on a emotive level through my own experience.

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