Saturday, 26 February 2011

Orienteering still - Just

Why is daughter always a few steps ahead. On a very cold day in January, Sarah thought she would share the joy of walking an Orienteering course. I seem to be putting in a bit more effort than her!
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Friday, 25 February 2011

Results of Endoscopy

The oncologist had referred me for a Gastro endoscopy because of stomach pain.  My symptoms sounded like an ulcer, especially as I have been on Diclofenic for so long. I had the procedure performed today 25th February 2011.

The procedure involves putting a small flexible camera into the stomach via the throat and oesophagus.  You can opt to have a sedative or just local aesthetic spray.  I opted for the latter as I would have had to stay in longer if I had a sedative.  It really is not a pleasant procedure so anyone reading this that has to have one, go for the sedative!

Anyway thankfully nothing nasty found and the likely cause for the painful stomach when I was on holiday and for a while after, was a stomach upset or other unknown, but not nasty cause.  They did find a very small sliding hiatus hernia, which is very common and is probably not the cause of any problems.  This usually gives symptoms of heartburn or reflux, which I don't have.  It is where a little bit of stomach at the top end pokes through the diaphragm,  The sheet of muscle which separates your tummy from your chest.  There is an opening in the diaphragm for the oesophagus to pass through.  If this opening is too wide, a bit of stomach can herniate through it as well, especially if there is excess pressure in the abdomen (e.g. when you are pregnant or overeat). I am definitely not pregnant, and at the moment not over eating, so not sure why I have one.

I came off Diclofenic for a while (the anti-inflammatory drug that helps arthritic pain in knee).  So now I have ask doctor if I can start taking it again, as clearly I have not got an ulcer and knee is killing me!!!

So that is one more test out of the way.  Next one on Monday to see why I am having such difficulty with breathing - then off to Portugal.  Watch this space.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

What not to do after you have a breast removed! Tales of a mountain Marathon.

I wrote this article in 1997 - I was between primaries and secondaries at the time!

It was in April of last year, I think, that Anne Jago left a message on our answering machine, asking if I would be interested in doing the Saunders Mountain Marathon.  Three weeks or so before this telephone message, I had undergone surgery for breast cancer.  This I thought might be a slight setback to mountain marathon training. However, when Anne told me she had entered the walkers class - a mere 28 kilometres - I jumped at the chance (albeit rather lopsidedly at the time).  Although I didn't give Anne a definite yes.

I was competing in orienteering events three weeks after surgery and feeling pretty pleased with myself.  I had won a few gold times and was beginning to think I ought to recommend mastectomy as an aid to orienteering! I was feeling pretty fit, when I became aware of a lump in my neck.  I had the lump for a few weeks and thought it was a swollen gland following a sore throat.  I had it investigated and awaited the results.  The consultant rang me at home and told me the lump was unfortunately malignant.  The cancer had metastasised and I would need to start chemotherapy.  It was during this conversation, that I decided to definitely compete in the Saunders Mountain marathon.  I could store up memories on the event and it would also give me something positive to focus on.

So it was, that at the beginning of May in 1996 I rang Anne to give her my decision.  Anne of course was delighted and asked me about my walking boots. Competitors in the Saunders are required to carry their tent and provisions for a two day event on their back. It is a mixture of good navigational skills and fitness.  The competitors have to find tiny markers (or flagged control sites) on the fells or mountains.  On the map these are marked as a circle and route choice is everything. When I told her I didn't own walking boots as I had never been long distance walking before, she was horrified. (I was a runner, walking would be a doddle). I had also never walked or ran carrying anything heavier than a map and a compass - a distinct drawback, felt Anne.  I convinced my friend that these were not insurmountable problems.  I would buy the necessary kit and we would have a bit of practice on some nearby fells! (We live in Kent so they are a bit thin on the ground here).

Several weeks later, having successfully scaled a footpath up the North Downs, me feet shod in 'compede' blister protection pads and spanking new state-of-the-art walking boots, carrying lightweight packs stuffed with baked bean cans, we both agreed the Saunders in the Lake district would be a piece of cake.

I will not bore the non-orienteering readers of my blog with the middle bit of this article but will skip to the end  - but if you are interested to read the full version, Let me know and I will send it as an attachment.

Anne, who is a mountain leader and frightened of nothing, (almost 10 years my senior and weighing half my weight) had warned me about a tricky bit she was planning for us that would save us lots of time and perhaps win us the race in our age class.

We were climbing along the ridge of Crinkle crags and in the distance we could see a steep gully. As we got closer, I could see the end of the gully was blocked with two enormous chock stones.  The sides of the gully looked sheer and steep.  I assumed we would go around the gully.  Anne had other ideas. As we approached, I knew this was the 'tricky bit' Anne had mentioned .  In fell walking circles it is known as the  'difficult step'.  This is a euphemism.  As I approached the chock stones, I thought perhaps I could squeeze through. No chance. To scale the side of the gully, a sheer wall of rock about 15 feet high, Anne helpfully suggested I just find the foot holes and pull myself up.  There were no foot holes or so I thought.  Anne had done this countless times before and assured me it was child's play.  Octogenarians do it regularly, she told me.  After an enormous amount of fuss on my part, Anne finally thought that perhaps we should go the long way round. Feeling a real heel for letting her down, I decided I would close my eyes and have a go at scaling the gully.  I found one foot hole, pulled myself up and tried to find another, I couldn't.  So I decided to use knees, hands and one surviving breast.  Anne confided to me later that this unconventional way of climbing was extremely dangerous. (The climbers's rule book states that you should always have at least one foot in contact with rock!)  Perhaps she had bullied me into doing something beyond my meagre skill-level.  However I did eventually get over the top and felt so exhilarated at my success, that I almost broke into a run.  Anne scaled the thing in about three seconds.  The sun came out, the view from the top of the gully was indescribable, and I really started enjoying myself.  .......... We were now on the home leg.

Control three to four involved a lot of descent on scree.  At one point early on the first day when I was climbing up on scree somebody shouted "below".  As my hearing in not very good, I looked up and shouted back "Pardon?"  For those that understand mountain jargon, "below" means: protect your head, curl into a ball and await a load of falling rock which is about to come your way!  The thing you most definitely don't do , is put your face up towards the avalanche and politely say 'pardon'  Having survived despite my lack of mountaineering knowledge on the previous day, I decided to try out my new found intelligence en-route to the next control.  As I was sliding down the scree, I dislodged some rocks which looked as if they might do some damage to the pair below us.  I shouted "below" and was amazed to see the couple run for cover, curl up and wait for the rocks to stop.  This gave us time to catch up with them! The last section to the final control and finish was all downhill and we really started to speed up again.  The control was on a bridge on the Great Langdale Beck.  As we punched the final control, we had a short distance to go to the finish.  The feeling of elation as we finished was almost tangible.

The Saunders Mountain Marathon had taken us 11 hours and 30 minutes to complete; 6 hours and 20 minutes on day one and 5 hours and 10 minutes on day two.  As we arrived back in the event area, exhausted, thirsty and hungry, we were supplied with a free meal and drinks.  Time to compare routes and look at the results.  As we expected the other ladies, who were at least 20 years our junior had beaten us to the finish, but we were second ladies out of 30 other female competitors in our class.  We were also second veterans in the class.  Not bad for a first attempt, even if I did just tag along behind my mentor most of the way.  I might even do it again!

I did indeed do it again several times.  The other most memorable time was about 5 weeks after my 10 hour breast reconstruction - had promised plastic surgeon I would not jeopardise his lovely work by running for at least 6 months!  He never did find out though! Read what partner Anne remembers of the next time we did a little jaunt across mountains together below:

I thought I would just remind you about the start of our second Saunders Mountain Marathon together. As I recall, 5 weeks prior to the event, you had undergone surgery to be given a new breast. Your consultant, aware of your anxiety to get back to running, had issued strict instructions that you were not to run competitively for 6 months.

Well, we were in the Lakes together when I received the news that my partner Emily could not take part in the event. I needed to find a new partner urgently. “Preposterous!” said David when it was first suggested that you take part. Needless to say you did just that – I think we agreed that we would not run much of the course.

The only real problem occurred at 6am before we had even started the event. We were in a dormitory of Grasmere youth hostel; it was dark. You announced that you had lost the artificial nipple you had been given; the breast reconstruction hadn’t run to a new nipple! You were uncharacteristically adamant that we couldn’t possibly go without the said nipple. You had an appointment with the consultant on the following Monday and he would suspect you hadn’t been following instructions if you turned up without it.

You cannot switch the light on in a youth hostel while people are still asleep, so there was nothing for it but to get down on our hands and knees in the dark and try and locate the missing nipple by feeling for it. It seemed to take ages to find; I felt that any minute somebody would wake up and ask us just what we were doing on the floor!

You did brilliantly to complete the 2 day event of 36 km over mountainous terrain, carrying a heavy rucksack and camping out over night. The consultant asked how you were recovering from the operation on the Monday morning. He was very pleased with your response – you told him that you had been doing some gentle walking!

Orienteering with breast Cancer! Some early articles I wrote.

This  article was written several years ago when I not quite completed my last mountain marathon.  I had been in remission for at least 10 years by then.  The event is called the OMM hence the title

A cOMMody of Errors       by Anita Kingdon.

Finding the right partner for the OMM can be as difficult as the thing itself.  David, (husband of long standing and much suffering) vowed never to do it with me again after the last time.  Apparently – and only according to him of course – I did nothing but disagree with every navigational decision he made, dragged my feet and complained about the steepness of the hills, the weight of my bag, and where we should pitch for the night.  None of it true of course.

As neither daughter was available to pair up with either of us – Sarah (oldest daughter) now has a life long OMM partner-cum-fiancĂ©e and amazingly traded her parents in for this younger, smarter version.  Youngest daughter was in Australia, doing adventurous things there.  As all previous none family partners, had found other partners, the choice was do it together or not at all.  

So differences set aside, we set about training hard.  Well rather I started training hard as I knew I would be much slower than David and wanted to show him just how fit I could be.  After several 10 mile runs (and some even staggering up hills with a pack full of canned beans) I thought myself ready for the challenge. 

We had booked in at a Travelodge in Carlisle and as both of us had Friday off, we travelled up late morning.  As daughter Sarah and future son-in-law were also doing the event, but travelling up later by train and also staying at the Travelodge, Dave agreed to pick them up from Carlisle station, just before midnight. 

We were all packed and sorted out before getting to sleep at about 1 a.m. setting the alarm for 5.15.

Error number 1:  if you want to do well in the OMM, get an early night.   

The journey to Dunisdeer, a small settlement at the foot of the Lowther Hills, we estimated would take an hour from Carlisle leaving at 6 in the morning.  We left at a quarter past 6 and the journey took one hour 20 minutes.

Error number 2:  over estimate your journey time when travelling down tiny country lanes and likely to be stuck behind tractor traffic. (Clearly there was a tractor convention on the morning of the OMM and all were going to a winter ploughing match at Dunisdeer!!!).

Arriving at the event centre with less than an hour to go before our start time – and knowing there was a half hour walk to the start, we parked and started running, doing up shoes and bags as we went.  Sarah and Tim had lots of time. They were starting half an hour after us.  There were two Portaloos in the car park field and Tim had managed to get to the front of the queue almost before I had done up my shoe laces.  I did think about pulling rank, (especially as I will soon be the Mother-in-Law), suggesting he should go to the back of the queue and I take his place, but he looked fairly desperate and I thought there would be lots more toilets near registration.

Error number 3:  always play the mother-in-law card if it means you get to your start on time.

The route to registration was longer than we thought.  We weren’t too worried.  Sport Ident was being used, so there would be a punching start – wouldn’t there?  Registration was in a farm building.  The farm yard held a small scattering of Portaloos, behind which stood an enormous line of people as far as the eye could see all doing pretend stretching and stepping exercises.  Clearly they had been there for ages and were getting somewhat desperate for a pee.  Knowing this was a 25 minute loo queue, we were keen to get our start times changed.  “Not a hope!” we were told by a dour lady at registration.

Error number 4:  do not have high fibre breakfast and several cups of tea before an OMM. 

I stood in said queue for 25 minutes before finally getting to the front.  By this time we were two minutes into race time.  Maybe we could run really fast to the start (up a great big hill) and only lose 20 minutes or so.  With this in mind I left the loo and started running towards David waiting across the farm yard looking somewhat angry.

Error number 5:  never run towards an angry husband. 

In my haste I slipped in the farm yard slurry (or was it just mud)   and was quickly covered from head to foot in brown gooey liquid.  Husband looked on, whilst kind and sympathetic OMMers came to my rescue, picking me up, brushing me down and wishing me well.  We covered the said half hour route in a mere 35 minutes arriving at the start puffing like a steam train, hot and sweaty, even in the cold dank morning weather.  We were greeted by a cheery start official who looked at my muddy attire and joked “what, no time to wash last year’s kit then?”   I assured him, it was my pre-race ritual – mud rolling – to improve my aerodynamics. 

Starting about 40 minutes late!!!!! we were handed the Lowther Hill map, day one course. Twenty-five controls were scattered over the map, many of them a long way from the start.  I suggested that perhaps we should not be too adventurous in our route choice, as we were starting so late.  David felt we should pretend we had started on time to see how many controls we would have visited in 6 hours anyway.  I begged to disagree, but felt I should save our first argument till out of earshot of officials.  

Error number 6:  always disagree with partner, if agreeing means you will come last! 

We chose a straight forward first control which involved an uphill path run above a stream valley, then dropping down to the stream to follow it to a bend just before its source.  The terrain was tussocky and boggy in parts so none too good for week ankles.  We had only just started and already I was feeling the training was paying dividends as I stormed up the hill.  Those that know me well know I have a bit of a hearing problem.  I never wear hearing aids when running as all I hear is my own heavy breathing – definitely a sound not worth listening to – so I completely missed various expletives and agonising cries from husband someway behind me.  When I finally turned around to check that he was keeping up with this super fit me, he was nowhere in sight…… until I looked down the hill.  Dave had fallen several feet downwards as his ankles seem to give way over tussocks. He had gone over on one ankle and carried on going over the hill side for some considerable distance.

Error number 7:   chose a partner with strong ankles. 

This problem was to dog us for the whole event, forcing us both to walk most of the way around the course.    Dave tried breaking into a run again, only to continually fall over (ankles resembling something like the bendy men from a favourite children’s television programme many years ago).   I also started having problems thinking that a blister plaster had worked its way off and was sticking painfully to the sole of my foot.  As time went on, the plaster had seemingly split into little pieces and was causing lots of little stabbing pains on my soles.  Whenever, I thought about undoing shoes and socks, the problem lessened and I could never quite be bothered to stop for a long time in the rain and fog. We soldiered bravely on attempting 8 more controls up hill and down dale.  Our progress and motivation continually hampered by Dave’s bendy ankles and my blister plaster problem.  We finally arrived some eighty two minutes after our allocated 6 hour time period, losing 164 points.  As we had only scored 155 points, we were in negative equity, achieving a grand total of 0 for day 1.   

We put on a brave face and pitched tent in a dryish area of an already rather crowed camping field.  Sarah and Tim were not back yet either – clearly they had a few problems as well.  Dave had used our flimsy very light weight and very tiny tent a year before, but had by now forgotten how to pitch it.

Error number 8:  always pitch your tent in favourable weather conditions at home, before attempting to put it up in force 10 gale situations. 

Finally the tent was pitched with me muttering something about the impossibility of either of us being able to sleep comfortably in a tent with a floor space the size of a gnome’s handkerchief.  Once inside the tent, Dave fell swiftly to sleep leaving me to collect water and make the evening meal. (So what’s new?).  Eventually I decided to take off soggy shoes and socks and investigate the problem of the blister plaster.  As I removed my socks I realised the cause of the stabbing pains 

Error number 9:  never, never wear stick-on fake toe nails to an OMM event. 

In an attempt to create a little glamour to my OMM outfit and to disguise the nasty bald toe nails (runners toenail has always been a bit of a problem with me) I had stuck on and decorated fake toenails from Superdrug – very glam and ideal for summer beach hols.  Not so sensible when they come unstuck and start sticking into the soles of your feet.  As I removed both socks 10 tiny red and perfectly formed fake toe nails came unstuck from the soles of my feet, bringing instant relief.  The blister plaster was still firmly in place!

After a six course meal, all cooked in one pot and somewhat exhausted, we both slept soundly through the night to awaken to tales of woe from other happy campers.  Tents had blown over in the very windy overnight conditions and some poor folk were forced to sleep in the Portaloos, brewing up warm drinks in the safety of the urinals!  Others had walked back to their cars (The overnight camp was not that far from where he had started, some four miles further down the road).  Clearly we could do the sleeping bit of the OMM together without major disasters.

Sarah and Tim had done reasonably well. Despite acquiring a few penalty points, they had covered much more ground than us and so did not have to start day two with nil points.

Our start for day two was some half hour again before Sarah and Tim.  At least this time we started on time – just.  We chose a first control – like many others that was steeply up for miles (well miles may be a slight exaggeration).  Dave continued to struggle, falling over every so often and refusing to pull me along on the bungie we brought but never used!  (A bungie is an elastic cord which you tie to the weaker member of the team, who is pulled along by the fittest of the team.  Although it doesn’t work terribly well, if one member of the team is always falling over.)  Needless to say Sarah and Tim caught us up before we reached the top.

Having bagged the first control and enjoying the sunshine – complete change of weather situation from day 1 which was miserable, windy and foggy – we decided just to do the minimum number of  controls, enjoy the walk and get back early for a Wilf’s lunch before it all ran out.  We in fact arrived back at the finish with almost two hours in hand and having gained only 85 points. 

Error number 10: ensure at least one member of the team has a little motivation left for day 2 to avoid coming last.

So that was the complete Omm experience over and done with for another year.  The results indicated that we were indeed somewhere down the points table, but at least we were not disqualified. As we packed up to leave , looking forward to the ten hour car journey in traffic queues along Britain’s best loved motorways on a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had the joy of knowing that only a tiny percentage of people in our age group are fit enough to spend a week-end on a Scottish mountain side in gale force winds, torrential rain and fog, carrying their tent and provisions on their back to spend a cramped night in a tiny tent, when they could be at home enjoying the extra hour in bed that the winter solstice brings at this time of year.  

Error number 11:  we’ve already started thinking about doing it again next year!                            

What has happened since last blog

Had to see specialist again for results of bone and ct scan.  The good news is that there is nothing new in the bones and no sign of ascites or peritoneal disease (tummy swelling).  Had various stomach problems so no more diclofenic for me for a while and smart little camera thing is going to be shoved down an orifice to check if any ulcers present (an upper GI endoscopy) - Now been referred to a gastrologist.

New scan being organised to check no problems in lungs before I fly off to Portugal for a week as I am having some difficulty breathing when I try and climb mountains (well just the stairs actually).

Chemo I am having next time is called Docetaxel. May affect my immune system more than the last, so only allowed to mix with ultra healthy people during the beginning of the cycles.  Had to cancel the little planned Italian week with Teresa and have rescheduled for later in the year.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Welcome to my Blog

I decided to write a blog - not to show my brilliant make-over photo to the world - just so people could keep up with what is happening with me at the moment.  As many of you know, I recently was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and all my wonderful friends often ask, following a scan or treatment, what is happening now.  So to avoid my husband hearing the same phone conversation so many times (as most of you know I can talk for England!) my clever daughters suggested that I started a blog.  So here it is.