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hooked on hiking
Why I decided to support Macmillan in the first instance
The main reason why I decided to support Macmillan Cancer Support is because in 2008 my lovely stepdad Jed was diagnosed with lung cancer. Macmillan were there every step of the way until he passed away in 2009 at the age of 52. Our Macmillan nurses helped us a great deal during this difficult time. They were a valued source of expert information, advice and support. Most importantly they enabled us to care for my stepdad in the comfort of our own home. I also lost my aunty, my granddad and a close friend to cancer within a very short period of time and Macmillan have been there to support them and their families. I believe that we are all affected by cancer and that we can all help.
Why I chose to do a hike
I have always tried to be a positive person and I needed to find a positive way of dealing with a very negative situation - the grief of losing my stepdad. I wanted to do something in his memory. I wanted to give something back. I looked on the Macmillan website for some inspiration as I really wanted to give something back to the charity that had helped me and my family so much during a hard time. Macmillan has a huge variety of amazing fundraising challenges on offer and there really is something to suit everyone whatever their interest or ability – running, cycling, triathlons, walking and swimming. I had never done anything particularly physical before, but I decided with quite a bit of nervousness that the overseas challenge hike events were the ones for me and within a month I had signed up for my first trek - The Great Wall of China.
I decided to do an overseas challenge trek because I have always loved travelling and fundraising, so this was the perfect way to combine two of my passions.
I felt it was a great way to see a bit more of the world, get fitter, meet new people and experience new cultures whilst raising money for a wonderful cause.
How I found the first hike
My first hike was the Great Wall of China Hiking Challenge 2010. The hiking on this trek was difficult at times, with early starts and long days. There were different abilities within the group, but everyone helped and supported each other along the way with the ultimate aim of getting everyone to the finish line. The terrain was varied with stunning views and beautiful scenery and new photo opportunities at each and every turn. The camping was in remote places, in very basic conditions and I was sharing with a complete stranger. There were no toilets and no showers for the duration of the trek so no hair or make-up. But everyone was in the same position and although I originally thought that these things would bother me, they soon didn’t matter at all and I absolutely loved the experience.
The overriding memory from this trek and all my treks has been the experience of being part of ‘Team Macmillan’, which was an awesome one. At times the treks are tough, but remembering why you are taking part and the amazing camaraderie of the wonderful people you share the experience with, brings you through smiling at the end, and ready to do it all over again.
Am I hooked on hiking now?
After completing the Great Wall of China Trek, 2010 I immediately signed up for the Inca trail to Machu Picchu Trek, 2011 and I completed the Mount Kilimanjaro Trek, 2012. Each of the treks have got progressively harder. The altitude treks have been particularly challenging to say the least.
After doing my first challenge, I gained the confidence to try it all again and I would definitely describe myself as hooked now. I found that after each trek, my goalposts kept changing. I decided to complete three treks before the age of 30, which I succeeded when I turned 30 this year. I also wanted to raise £10,000 for Macmillan, £1,000 for each of the ten months that we received their help and support during my stepdad's illness. I have also achieved this, having now raised almost £14, 000.
So what is my next challenge?
Well I was going to hang up my hiking boots for a while and then Macmillan decided to introduce their Everest Base Camp Trek and I am very proud to say that I will be joining Macmillan on their first trip to Base Camp, one of the most iconic places on earth, in November 2013. I am currently starting to train and fundraise the £4,350 that I will need to take part in this trek. Macmillan keep the interest and momentum going for fundraisers by introducing new and exciting challenges all the time. I keep saying, 'I will just do one more...'
Lastly, I am not just hooked on the hiking and the actual challenge, but the whole Macmillan experience that includes the months of preparation, the training and the fundraising. I miss it all when it's not in my life now. I guess it's just become a huge part of who I am now and it defines me as a person.
What impact have the challenges had on my life?
The Macmillan challenges have completely taken over my life! They have given me a chance to learn about who I am, what I can achieve and how far I can push myself. The whole experience of losing a loved one has taught me that life is far too short and I cant think of a better way of embracing life in such a positive way.
When preparing for the treks, my life completely revolves around training and fundraising. I love the training element as you progress to feel much fitter, healthier and confident. I also love the fundraising. I am always looking for new ways to make money for Macmillan. I have done a huge variety of events, including coffee mornings, race nights, raffles, auctions, craft fairs, supermarket bucket shaking and bag-packing - you name it, I have probably done it. I have found that the fundraising has also been a positive experience for family and friends who have really helped me along the way as they have been able to share the experience of doing something positive for Macmillan who helped us all through a dark time.
As for the treks, well they are adventures of a lifetime for which I have many unforgettable and happy memories. Each time, I have returned home with a fantastic sense of achievement and pride in the knowledge that I have raised valuable funds that will do so much good for people going through a similar experience in their lives. I have also made many new friends. We stay in touch on Facebook, we have had get-togethers and I have even been to a wedding of one of my fellow trekkers.
As a result of the treks, I have also experienced more of the cultures of the countries that host the challenges through extending my stay after the treks – I have seen Beijing, Xian and the Terracotta Warriors in China, experienced the Amazon Rainforest in Peru, been on Safari in Tanzania where I also worked as a volunteer in the Light in Africa Children’s Home in Moshi. The challenges really are life-changing in a truly wonderful way.