It’s been rather a long time since my last blog, but one of the things that I did blog about earlier this year was that I was planning to face my fears in a very big way, for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, & I did just that yesterday! The event was a Zipwire challenge off Newport Transporter Bridge, & I took part with 2 good friends & a host of others who were supporting LLR or other charities including Velindre Cancer Unit. In truth, when I signed up for said event, I had just had a month off alcohol to raise money for Cancer Research & after a glass (or two) of red wine, was sufficiently bolstered to think that this was a good idea, despite my massive fear of heights. It’s very true what they say about dutch courage & it really didn’t help that July seemed so very far away that in my slightly woozy state, I didn’t realistically think it was ever going to arrive.
Unfortunately for me, this year has absolutely flown by, which is one of the reasons that I haven’t blogged much, but I have also taken part in some other activities for LLR, including a focus group about the name change to Bloodwise & the associated autumn awareness campaign. Look out for this by the way, it’s going to be amazing!!
So anyway, a couple of weeks ago, reality hit with a bang & I started to feel a bit sick about the prospect of this challenge so rather than opening an online donation page before the event, which is the usual practise, I decided to hang fire until after simply because if I bottled it, I would have felt honour bound to refund all those who had donated & I collected pledges only. As the days went on, & if I drove past the bridge, I became a bundle of nerves, & it really wasn’t helped by a work friend showing me youtube footage of someone doing exactly the same challenge last year! On Friday I asked another friend to come with me to the bridge at lunchtime so I could see exactly what I would be getting myself into & they refused, which in hindsight was a good call because nothing could have prepared me with how I felt when I stood underneath the Transporter Bridge at lunchtime yesterday. I always though it looked high but this was like something out of my worst nightmares !!!
We arrived at the field & went to the LLR stand to see both Rachael & Claire & met up with some fellow supporters who had done the zipwire earlier on. I was marginally encouraged by the fact that they said it was ok until they told me that I would have to climb over a barrier before I went off the edge because in my head, barriers are there for a reason .... The other thing that really started to get me worried was the speed of descent of each slider & after a while I started to feel sicker & sicker. Interestingly, & as I write this piece, I’m feeling nervous again, as I recall how I felt just over 24 hours ago.
At just after 1.00pm, they called us all forward, to sign an indemnity & got us kitted up. Not sure precisely how bad I must have looked at this point but I did notice that whilst they joked with everyone else about “not having dropped anyone for ages“ etc – they took one look at my face & tried to be very reassuring ! Some friends arrived to support at this stage & I was struggling to speak because I was so close to tears & my brother pointed out that breathing slowly might help (but more on that later) !
After what seemed like an age everyone was ready & we started to walk towards the bridge. I hugged my son & family & slowly walked towards the steps. I couldn’t get over how jovial & excited everyone seemed – all I could think of was how my legs felt like lead & my heart was beating so fast I honestly thought it was going to pop out of my chest & we hadn’t even started climbing yet !! The 11 flights of stairs were very hard going & I even said to my team-mates to go on past me because I’m sure I was hyperventilating. I just tried to look straight ahead because I was too terrified to look down. Did I mention the wind was very strong too? It was howling through the bridge & I had to stop several times as we climbed those never-ending stairs .....
Finally, we got to the top & I collapsed on the floor, trying to get my heart rate down & to quell the sense of panic that engulfed me. We had a briefing which included instructions about where to place our hands as we approached the bottom but it all seemed far too much to remember & I think at that point I just hoped that if I shut my eyes it would all go away. We were then called one at a time to the launch point – they checked the straps of the first person to go which seemed to take ages & they connected & re-connected the device that attached her to the wire whilst she stood on a raised platform with a barrier in front of her, looking down 150 ft to the ground. Once the safety checks were complete, she had to climb over the barrier & sit on it before she “launched” & at this point I was ready to do the “walk of shame” & leave! Finally it was my turn & I knew that if I had any opportunity to pause for breath, I would not do it, so I stepped up, holding on for dear life to the metal frame in front of me. When they asked me to put one leg over the barrier I clung to the people from the zip company & asked them not to let me go – I cannot truly describe how terrified I was as I looked across & down (but it will remain in my nightmares) especially when they asked to move myself forward a bit before I left the platform. At long last, I sat on top of the barrier, they counted down, gave me a nudge & I was off!!
I don’t remember screaming but the video shows otherwise & it was very very fast & bumpier than I thought it would be.. As I hit the brake point, my helmet tried to dislodge & all I could think was that I couldn’t remember what I had to do with my arms & suddenly I was at the tower, & I could hear cheering. My legs were like jelly & I just wanted to hug my son, who I have since discovered was very worried about me doing this, & all I could think was that I hoped he was proud of me because he knew how terrified I was.
As I climbed down from the tower, I looked back up, & the enormity of my achievement really hit me because I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it. In all honesty, the only reason that I went through with it on the day, was because I was able to relinquish control & place it entirely in the hands of the professionals who ran the event & in whom I had total trust. That’s actually quite a good analogy for my life as a cancer patient since I place an enormous amount of faith & trust in the medical professionals who look after me & who will make life-changing decisions about my health such as when I require treatment & which treatments to use, & as a control freak, for once, yesterday, it was quite reassuring to see that I could allow others to take responsibility for my wellbeing & that I was prepared to take that leap of faith.
In the meantime however, I will follow the unwritten rules of not surfing the net when I’ve had a few glasses of wine, in case I sign up to anything else, as that was a once in a lifetime challenge. I said to Rachael & Claire from LLR that I will speak at any event, any size but I will never repeat that particular challenge ...