Planning life after near death...
By Kate O’Callaghan
Ok a little dramatic but let’s go with it for now because it seems a good title!
I spent years living on the edge of the lakes but never really appreciating it! I was always admiring other people’s adventures on social media, always wanting to be doing more.
I just wanted to escape!
These people were doing the things I wanted to be doing, why the hell wasn’t I? And so, I snapped, I packed up my things and I decided that I was going to be who I wanted to be! (Sounds a lot simpler than it was, but it was worth it…)
Since I made that life changing decision I have had some of the best years of my life! For a start, I met Danny, who has changed everything for me, he is my adventure. We have travelled plenty – Vietnam, Thailand, Croatia, New York, Indonesia, Italy, France and more! He also introduced me to a new love – mountain biking!!
Mountain biking has opened the lakes and all the places we have visited in a way I’d never experienced, I’m always overwhelmed by what we discover on our bikes!! Being in the mountains gives me peace and freedom, and the fact that you’ve cycled your way there gives you a massive sense of achievement! We have been on more adventures and completed more challenges in the last 5 years together than I had in my lifetime!
Life was going spectacularly well, I was getting all the adventure I wished for, huge plans for our next adventures in the pipeline and I was having the best times with my friends and family, I literally couldn’t have been happier! And suddenly in one small sentence EVERYTHING changed, just 3 small words that shatter your world completely – “You have cancer”!
Shortly after my diagnosis I decided that things could go one of two ways, I could either stand up and fight or I could let it consume me! The decision was easy for me, there wasn’t a part of me that would allow this thing to consume me! Having cancer has challenged me in a way I can’t even begin to explain, the side effects from chemotherapy are soul destroying, not only do you have the physical stuff like the hair loss nightmare and weight gain but things like the fatigue, which is crippling, from being a person who was always on the go with bounds of energy to someone who needs a 3-hour nap after something as simple as a shower is hard to swallow. The worst part for me, is the fact it has tried to steal my identity!
Being told that all you can do is pretty much sit still and rest when you’re used to mountain biking and exercising 5 times a week is hard work! I haven’t been the best ‘cancer patient’ always pushing myself as soon as I feel a little energy returning post chemo! I’ve not been able to bike but I’ve walked and I’ve hiked (having a crazy new puppy to walk has helped) and I’ve even decorated! I’ve pretty much done anything I can and got in trouble with my consultant constantly along the way 🙂
I have been able to really focus on Yoga and Meditation with the help of Hannah at Proper Northern Yoga, who I met during the Wonderful Wild Women taster session. I fell in love with Buddhism during our trip to Thailand, now whilst I don’t practice Buddhism, I do practice mindfulness and that has been a major contributor in to how I have emotionally dealt with having cancer, it’s given me the peace of mind and inner strength to just get up and carry on, no matter what!
Danny and I were always very much ‘live life’ kind of people but the reality of having cancer and fighting for your life really does make you realise that life is so short and precious! You really do have to forget about the day to day worries and just live how you want to live and be who you want to be!
I am spending my down time planning more adventures – 2017/18 is going to be one hell of a year, my treatment is due to finish in April 2017 (yey!!) so we will be starting with a week in the Scottish Highlands in June, followed by a couple of weeks travelling around South West Sri Lanka in December, a couple of weeks traveling around Canada in summer 2018 – plenty of mountain biking and socializing in between too! I will also be heading over to Nepal for 11 days in April 2018 with Hannah and a few others from Proper Northern Yoga for a trek and yoga retreat! We plan on starting 2019 with a bang too by heading over to New Zealand for a couple of weeks… It is a big old world out there and we want to see it all!!!
My new bike has been ordered, and I am currently planning a full back with a vengeance training plan, not only to shift the chemo blubber but to get back on my bike and become the best rider I can be! Riding has never been about competing for me, racing isn’t my thing, the social and the headspace are the draw for me, but to progress and for the craic my target will be to complete the Hope Tech Women’s Enduro in October 2017! Watch this space…!
All my hardships prior to cancer now seem somewhat minor, this has so far been the toughest and most physically and emotionally draining challenge of my life! It has softened me, refocused me and really made me realise what is important in life – love, laughter, adventure, family and friendship! I am lucky to have all those things in abundance already, without my family and friends support I wouldn’t be where I am today! I am going to work less, play more and make sure I enjoy those things that are most important to me more than I have before!!
“Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” – Buddha