The Camino Road
Life CV…I like using this term when referring to my experiences in life and it is a term I use often. My personal goal is for my own life CV to be filled with experiences that help me discover, grow and sample the variety that is present in life.

Truthfully there are some unwanted items on my life CV, things that even with the backing of good intentions still turned out to be a bad idea. Things that make me wonder, “What was I meant to learn from that one?”

I do however feel incredibly lucky to know that I will have Conversations with Rose on my life CV. I feel passionately connected to this idea and to see it come to life and take shape is very exciting. It easily meets all the criteria for deliberate entry to my own life CV.

The element of challenge

I am acutely aware of the challenge ahead. I have to be honest to myself (and anyone who reads this) and admit that I am by no means a long distance pro-walker and that my dog walking skills do not quite make the training cut. Walking long distances continuously and knowledge of the gear needed to support this, is something that is new to me.

The training has been challenging but highly rewarding except for the inevitable horrible blister which reinforces the importance of great shoes. My original pair quickly found a rubbish bin as I am convinced they were sent straight from hell.

Training for the Camino Frances

Apart from the physical element, this journey has also been emotionally challenging as I am slowly revealing those old scars that I have spent the last four years carefully disguising. Reliving some of the grief I felt when my mother passed away is not always a pleasant experience and adding to this the inevitable sadness that comes with hearing the stories shared by other families, well let’s just say it gets emotional at times.

I did sign up for this though. I believe that all this sharing is ultimately good and one of the main aims of Conversations with Rose. I’ve been meeting with various families and without fail, no matter how emotional our conversations, we seem to always have a moment at the end of relief, connection and happiness. So with this in mind I feel confident that I am on the right path.

A real passion

I’ve felt a surge of passion ever since saying: “Yes, I think I will do this!” followed by a flood of ideas and endless energy fuelling late night reading, writing, planning and learning. Admittedly I am feeling very much pushed out of my own comfort zone and I do have moments of fear.

Van Gogh said:

“Normality is a paved road. It’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow”

Walking this much is certainly not my normal.

Openly talking about loss, grief, cancer and everything related is not my normal.

Sharing so many personal experiences is not my normal.

Yet I am delighted to step out of my comfort zone as I am learning, hearing, seeing, meeting and feeling new things that I couldn’t even have imagined. This discovery will continue throughout the Camino walk with the additional surety of little challenges provided by each family in order to best celebrate their own loved ones.

Who knows what I’ll be getting up too and how exciting to introduce all these different characters to the world collectively making a difference to others.

Sense of achievement

I am sure that the day I walk into the Camino De Compostella and collect the last stamp in my pilgrim passport that I will have a great sense of achievement. It is bound to be an experience in life that’s vibrancy will not easily fade over time. There is more to this though than simply walking the route as my goal is to raise enough money to support the exploration of new ways to treat and prevent this horribleness that is cancer or as my friend puts it horribleness ness ness and an extra ness. Spot on.

I care a lot about the walking part but I really hope that it will speak to people in ways that they will make a donation and collectively we can fund removing some of those extra ness’s added to horrible cancer.

So I have a challenge, overflowing passion and set goals in place, a brilliant recipe to evoke excitement and naturally stress. Without these there wouldn’t be so much to gain.

I recently received an inspiring letter from a reader that made me feel sure that I’m doing the right thing and so I would like to thank this kind reader and share with you his uplifting letter:

Just had to leave you a message, that text box on your fundraising page was far too small. So frustrating entering and re-editing my message. I thought, I will bore you via email instead. Don’t panic, I do not come with tales of Nigerian lottery tickets. I don’t have a cousin called Bubba Tunde, looking after your winnings awaiting to transfer them to your account, after you have paid a keepers fee.!

So, anyway, A pretty awe inspiring feat you are undertaking in May. My awe is certainly inspired. However, only enough to donate from the comfort of my sofa. My feet ache at the thought of the pilgrimage you are about to begin. Currently they are raised onto another sofa, toes wiggling as I type.
In some way I would like to think I am giving a minuscule amount back, via your rather amazing pilgrimage. I guess I owe you a Thank-you. 2 pretty ordinary words to say to an extraordinary person. The funds you raise, your unselfish act, leaving your job, leaving your home. I will root you all the way, from the comfort of my armchair, of course.

I have huge emotional connection with the Royal Marsden Hospital. I first made it’s acquaintance around 8 years ago. A lump on my chest triggered a consultation at my local breast cancer clinic, which in turn referred me to the Royal Marsden. I nearly never went back to receive my results, as I was unable to find parking ( the consultant who took my biopsy had told me, “don’t worry its likely to be a cyst, only a 0.01% chance of it ever being a cancer”). Eventually parked. I knew something was wrong. My name had been called instantly as I had arrived. The nurse asked “Ohhh, are you here alone?”. As she finished her sentence, 10 staff members walked into the room. Ello! something ain’t right here! I thought to myself. So I was told I had a rare form of Sarcoma. That I would be referred to the Royal Marsden and their man at the top in this field of sarcomas. The consultant that had told me not to worry was sat in the corner, mortified.

I told him let’s not worry about the past, lets hurry up and get this thing out of me. My operation had been delayed as the professor (don’t dare call him a Doctor!) had decided to ignore my impending death and go on a 3 week holiday! Charming I thought. By then, My tumour had grown to the size of a cricket ball. Caused my brain to switch on and off randomly for micro seconds at a time. Made me randomly ill for no reason. So over the next 2 years, 2 operations, the removal of my left pectoral muscle. Which was hardly muscly anyway. I recall the professor calling me “tubby” at my pre-assessment. 1/10 for bedside manner. In the weeks building up to my first operation I had dropped from 95kg to 65kg. Tubby? In your face professor! I called it the Cancer diet. Well 2 operations a year apart, as they has suspected that the sarcoma had returned almost exactly a year to the day. The second operation done by a wonderful South African doctor and nurse and some crazy British anaesthetist who wanted to insert a long needle into my spine. I kindly told him NO!

My left boobie feeling that it had been pulled over my shoulder by the time I was returned to the ward. Eight years on, I am still here. Happy to be alive, with my wonky nipples. I just thought, with my chest deformity I could be the next Bond villain! A henchman at least!

I return every year to be checked upon. I love that the nurses come from nearly every nation of the world, each one caring and patient and probably rushed off their feet. Each time I sit in that waiting room, I never see the same faces. In the eight years, I am sure I have shared that waiting room with over a thousand cancer patients. It makes me pause for thought.

I have no idea why I share this with you. Maybe as a stranger its easier. Maybe it’s easier to type rather than use voice to communicate my thoughts. Maybe I am just ready to share. I should shout it from the top of a mountain top. Not this week though. I am recovering from a back injury. Let’s not get into that today. However, If you start a back related fundraiser, I’ll let my fingers loose on my keyboard again. I guess, though, I may have been added to your spam box by then!

I wish you luck, wish you enlightenment, wish you a pain free journey, wish you many joyful, emotional thoughts along your route. I hope the weather holds out for you!