The downside of WordPress auto-posting to Facebook (when it doesn’t go awry) is that Facebook now gives me “on this day” commentary of my blog posts since Squattergate began. I didn’t need reminding that yesterday was a year since I got the first hole in my head during my biopsy. It did make me laugh today, though, that I changed my profile photo to this the day after that op:
My head has since become a bona fide metaphorical bowling ball with a further hole in my skull and one in my brain! One ticked off the imaginary bucket list.
There have recently been and imminently will be a number of sad anniversaries within our family. I won’t regurgitate each and every one as I think I included them in my blog last year. Suffice to say that it’s a sad time of year for our family between the end of July and the start of November.
This week has mostly been about recovering from a tiring but exhilarating few days supporting and surprising Emily during the last few days of her stupendous skip across the country. Yesterday was the first day that I’ve had anywhere near as much energy as I’ve had recently. I don’t know about Emily and her three infected toes but I’ve needed so much sleep this week having just watched her! My only achievement of any note this week was on Thursday evening when I managed to finish this cross-stitch for Leo:
I had finished the letters, animals and main border the day before he was born. I sewed his name the day before his first birthday last year before a seizure put a stop to me finishing it. I then lost the threads (both literally and metaphorically). Since we moved out, my parents have been trying to regain some sort of order in their house and decorating their living room since the Great Galileo Thermometer Fireball of 2017. They found my threads the other day so I decided to strike while the iron was on. I only had to do the green, blue and purple to complete the box around his name. It took an inordinate amount of time with several mistakes along the way, including pulling out the whole of the blue and purple when I realised the angle of the stitches wasn’t the same as the stitches in the rest of the border. Maybe it’ll be framed and up on his wall by his second birthday…. Don’t hold your breath, Leo!
Graham has kept the household running. As ever. He is tired. As ever. He has, however, been out for a run. The kids both stayed at my parents’ house last night. Thankfully, we were saved from having to, you know, talk to each either by a friend coming round for a few beers and talk of, among other things, porridge!
Jennifer has enjoyed her first week of full-time school. She happily goes into school and is excited, bordering on hyper, when she comes out. Getting details from her is like getting blood out of a stone but as long as she’s happy, we are happy. My highlight of Jennifer’s week was on Sunday night when she came to say goodnight to me. After she’d started to leave, she turned, kissed her hand and then put her hand on my chest. “I’ve put a kiss in your heart,” she said. Graham and I were already emotional after seeing Emily and that just about broke us!
Leo, meanwhile, has recently been learning to count (he’s currently up to six). He continues to be as determined as I am to get his own way (as is Jennifer: I predict sibling clashes in the future!). Leo pointed out a fly to my Mam yesterday evening, gave her a book to swat it, got his step to climb on to the sofa and gestured (and shouted) to her to join him. Mam said to the Boy Wonder that she couldn’t reach it with the book and that she needed a fly swatter. Not to be defeated, Leo climbed down from the sofa, ran out of the room and came back with a pink fly swatter: he had obviously remembered where it was! He got his way as the fly was duly swatted! This was my view of the fly-swatting shenanigans:
That’s perseverance and delegation right there!
You can still sponsor Emily here. She is, without doubt, an extraordinary lady with fierce determination and grit as hard as nails (even though she’s absolutely lovely!), who has completed an extraordinary challenge and raised a massive £6,500 so far (plus gift aid of around £1,000) for the Brain Tumour Charity. Despite many tears during low points throughout the week, Emily picked herself up each day and smashed the challenge just as she’s smashed her target of raising £5,000.
I would be honoured just to know someone so awe-inspiring. The fact that she pushed her body and mind To Infinity and Beyond for our family is truly humbling. Thank you, Ms Weasley. “Thank you” doesn’t seem quite enough to say but I can’t think of anything that will suffice. You’re the wordsmith so you can come up with a quote to reflect how magnificent you are! Angela White (see below in bold, italic and underlined for extra emphasis) summed up Emily pretty well so I will endorse her description wholeheartedly.
After a late night on Friday to go to the fundraiser held in Emily’s name (ahem), an afternoon on Saturday being rolled by Graham/Laura alongside Em for the last 5.2 miles of her day, Graham, Lulu and I had colluded to surprise Em at the end. The plan was executed perfectly. Lulu set off early enough to beat the road closures along the route and picked us up on the way at the glamorous Lidl car park in Swalwell.
The journey went smoothly and we got there in good time:
We parked a stone’s throw from the finishing line and settled in for the day. It was very civilised with cuppas galore. We initially had good 4G reception so we watched BBC’s coverage of the GNR on G’s iPad. Once we started struggling for reception, we cut our losses on the streaming as the networks were being jammed by the sheer volume of people using mobiles.* I used up most of my battery tracking Em and D, but that meant we could leave the restful and warm motor home just in time to meet them.
After an emotional reunion (worthy of a Hollywood ending) and various photos taken in and out of the Brain Tumour Charity tent, Emily wanted to dip her feet into the sea (thus completing her sea to sea run having dipped her feet in the water at St Bees). Just after we started looking for the best way down to the water’s edge, I felt a seizure coming on, which turned into a Doozie seizing from top to toe (that would be cut from the Hollywood movie). It was the worst one in a good long while so G took me back to the motor home while the others went down to the sea.
Resting, Rushing and Rainbow Brite
We planned to wait for a few hours anyway as you might as well rest in a motor home with a kettle on rather than sit in stationary traffic (from the finishing line, there is basically only one road out of South Shields). The Silver Owl went to buy Emily some chicken nuggets from McDonald’s as that was the food she had most craved for a month or so!
I managed to get enough bandwidth to update Facebook. I was trying for about ten minutes, first on my phone, which was desperately running out of battery, and then, thinking it wasn’t going to work, tried to update Facebook on Graham’s phone. Both attempts pierced the bandwidth block more or less at the same time hence two slightly different updates for those on Facebook. I also managed to send a quote about Emily to the reporter who wrote this article here. I had intended to write and send my quote in advance. Of course, as is my MO, I left it until after the last minute, having completely forgotten about it until Emily had her interview by phone! Graham and I had to do it quickly and surreptitiously, frantically hoping we had enough battery and signal to send it, as Emily wasn’t aware that the reporter had contacted me.
Just before we left South Shields, a rainbow came out above the sea, a colourful end to a challenging week:
Reading and Returning
The article was published online while we were driving back. I read it out to Team Emily. When I got to my quote, Lulu asked, “where’s the reporter got that from, is that made up?!”. I admitted that I’d written and sent a quote. I then tried to re-start reading the article but choked up with tears; Graham had to finish reading it out. I’m such an emotional wreck at the minute, I need to get a grip!
All was going well on the drive home until another seizure struck just before we turned off the A1 – it was almost as bad as the first one but I don’t think it lasted as long. I had expected a seizure reaction and put them down to tiredness from the previous two days; an early start on Sunday morning; a long day (albeit resting in the comfort of the motor home); the assault on my senses being around so many people in such a small area; the emotion of the occasion; and, the motion of the motor home on the way back.
The next day, I realised that I hadn’t taken my morning cocktail of anti-seizure drugs before I set off to South Shields. D’oh! Even when checking that I had my 2pm tablet and my evening tablets in my bag before we left, it still didn’t light up a synapse to check that I’d taken my morning pills! It was comforting that my seizures weren’t just down to the weekend and, well my head is a bowling ball (see above), so there are bound to be things that fall into the holes. I think I would have had a couple of seizures anyway but perhaps they wouldn’t have been as severe. Still, it was a bargain price to pay to be there to greet Emily. As I said in the article, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
More details of Emily’s epic adventure are below. Have I mentioned how awesome she is?
*Once a year, the mobile bandwidth in South Shields is pushed to its limit! There were 43,000 people who ran it this year plus families, friends and Charity tents, most of whom would be using mobile phones.
Emily summarised Days 1 to 3 on her blog here. Angela White, who kindly escorted, navigated and chivvied Emily along from start to finish on Day 2 described the day. Keep in mind that Angela was a complete stranger who offered to guide Emily on this difficult section so it’s an independent summary of Emily’s efforts and strength of character in completing Day 2. Here goes (emphasis added):
“I had the great pleasure of sharing a few hours running with Emily Parsons during her ambitious and inspirational #headsupchallenge this week.
“After her first day covering the 29 miles from St Bees to Borrowdale in apocalyptic Cumbria weather which caused a late finish, and having a poor night’s sleep, she was perky and alert at 7am to continue her journey.
“Psychologically this second day was to be one for facing her demons of some steep ascents, alongside the potential for getting lost in a bog. Emily doesn’t consider herself a ‘runner’, indeed she doesn’t even like running, and she definitely ‘doesn’t do hills’ but that was the extent of her expressed trepidation. It also transpired that during her training she had eschewed seriously bad weather days which must have made Monday’s weather all the more overwhelming.
“The day started at Rosthwaite, very wet again and with low cloud. Winds higher up moved the clouds to provide brief and sneaky glimpses of the mountains ahead. Alongside, the roar of the water rushing down Stonethwaite Beck was testament to the heavy rainfall in recent days. The bogs and swamps ahead would be particularly wet, unpleasant and potentially hazardous to the unwary – how would Emily cope?
“The route along to the first climb passed well enough, the water crossings higher than usual but relatively easily traversed although wet feet was the continuing theme. Lining Crag loomed in the cloud and Emily paused to contemplate it. Was it the steepest of the day? No, it wasn’t.
“The climb to Lining Crag up Greenup Ghyll saw Emily learning new skills as she ably ghyll-scrambled up the waterfall (see video). At the top she was rewarded with a lovely cloud inversion in the valley from whence she had come.
Next was into the bogs and wet they were but, never one to miss an opportunity, Emily set about practising her ‘bog-hopping’. There followed the descent to ‘the swamp’, the path to which had become a mix of stream and lethally slippery grass. Crossing the swamp there are three streams which, for some of the year, are passable on small stepping stones……but not that day.The only way to cross all three was to ford them using poles to help prevent being swept from your feet by the fast moving water, much deeper than it looks. It slowed her down a bit but she got to Grasmere within the target time to meet the support vehicle.
“The next section up the Great Tongue to Grisedale Tarn and the descent to Patterdale was the only section where any time might be made up. The Fix the Fells rangers and volunteers have done a grand job of reworking and maintaining the path on the eastern side. A target time for the ascent was set at 60 minutes to the Hause receiving a somewhat startled look from Emily. However, laying down the gauntlet to this amazing lady proved rewarding. The Hause was reached in 63 minutes but five of those were spent in conversation with some lovely folks out recceing the C2C for their own attempt next year.
“Descending to Patterdale proved pleasant with the clouds lifting a little and the rain ceasing and she reached the support vehicle again in target time. A slightly longer stop was required here to attend to blisters that were increasing in number. However, suitably decompressed and with feet liberally adorned with Compeed plasters and taking a couple of painkillers, she was on her way again.
“Knowing the pain those blisters would be causing, I was impressed by the quiet fortitude of this young lady who had not once complained about them – or indeed about anything else other than mentioning a dislike of climbing hills. I recalled from one of her blogs on her challenge that she related that nothing she would experience could come close to that which her friend who has a brain tumour is enduring.
“The climb to Boredale Hause then on to Kidsty Pike, which at 780 metres is the highest point of Emily’s journey, is long and steady and takes a long time, and here she fell behind time. The brief, pleasant weather window was fast disappearing, the skies darkening, the winds getting up and rain could be seen coming in. Time to get some more layers on before getting too high.
“A while later and in a cloud with the wind whipping her with the rain, Emily paused briefly for a victory photo on Kidsty Pike before embarking on the increasingly steep, slippery and very slow descent to Haweswater. Climbing is tough enough but the descent can take its toll too, especially on tired legs after 25 miles on such terrain. As such she was about an hour behind target on reaching the reservoir and head torches would be needed for the finish.
“It’s a long slog along the reservoir and not on the level, as a few more steep but, thankfully, short climbs awaited her. It’s a great walk with fabulous views during daylight hours but fraught with rocks and submerged in ankle deep thick mud in places if you get it wrong in the dark. A full moon could be seen tantalisingly reflecting off the water through the trees but, frustratingly, it wasn’t helpful to Emily as she was the wrong side of the woods.
“But, at 9pm, only an hour later than expected, Burnbanks and the welcoming support team were reached.
“This would not be a day for the faint-hearted, but as day two of seven, already a huge achievement. 30 miles across different and challenging terrain, 7000 feet of ascent and descent for a non-runner who hates hills – that is dedication to the worthwhile cause that is the The Brain Tumour Charity.
“Emily – impressive, indefatigable, inspirational and with a quiet fortitude that will see her succeed and excel.
“It was a pleasure and a privilege to share a few hours with her.”
I think Angela summed up the astonishing Ms Parsons well.
Emily posted this message on Facebook on Monday (and later described Days 4 to 7 on her blog here):
“Greatest neighbours ever! Returned last night … inside the house was a pamper box, a homemade curry and rice and a gorgeous chocolate cake, and and healing cream from the wonderful Feathers. I enjoyed some fizz with one half of the wonderful neighbours who helped decorate my front garden and hope to celebrate with the others soon!
“Feet are a disgusting sight today, legs are achey, ankles are swollen and I’m both exhausted and starving. But I’m so grateful it’s over.
“Rach and hubby surprised me at the finish and were the icing on the cake – tears from me and the girl as it got emotional for us both.
“Thank you for every single message during and after my challenge. I may not have replied but I read every single one and they got me through my darkest moments.
“Thank you also to everyone who has donated. Such an incredible amount of money makes it worthwhile.
“That was for you Turner-Coles xxx”