12. Chemotherapy Kiss Off and The West Highland Way?

This is the last post in a series which is introduced here.

Friday 9 June – 9 July 2017

I sat on the chair in the Macmillan suite at hospital for the last time.

The veins in my left arm were now all but collapsed. I was dreading the rigmarole of the cannula going into my vein, but I told myself to man up, silently acknowledging that I had much to be grateful for. Results of my blood tests throughout had shown that my liver and kidneys were processing the chemotherapy well; I’d avoided infections, colds and complicated side effects; neither my finger nor toe nails had turned black and dropped off…I hadn’t lost all my eyebrow hairs or eyelashes; the hair on my skull had started to make a fluffy, baby vulture style comeback and I hadn’t grown two heads. ‘I am lucky and I can get through this,’ I said to myself.

Wakeful nights, general achiness and a humungus appetite were par for the course during the first week after treatment. My teeth continued to feel sensitive and I was clumsy too as plates, glasses and bottles slipped out of my hands. But, more aggravating than all of these things put together, was my unending headache.

How my brain feels when certain people talk longer than is good for me. 

At the end of the first week I had a horrible night of disorientation, diarrhoea and a feeling of deep nausea which was followed the next morning by an emotional low. I checked back through my diary and saw that these symptoms always occurred on the seventh or eighth day of the cycle – the point when my immune system was at its lowest.

Concentration remained poor and I felt so much more tired. It was an effort to lift my arm to scratch an itch on my face let alone lift bloody weights, but out of sheer willfulness I stuck to my exercise routine. It wasn’t easy, and at the end of week two the catchy-throat thing and breathlessness made it all the harder. I decided instead to go on longer walks around the back of the village where I live – that made better sense since I still hoped to do the West Highland Way at the end of the third week of this last chemotherapy cycle.

A single poppy in a field of green out the back of the village.

But week three was not good. Marcus and Leon’s Papa died and we had the funeral to attend; it was an emotional time for many reasons. And then the weather turned rotten. It rained and it rained and I was stuck indoors. I felt depressed and obsessively checked the forecast for the WHW route. Day after day there was no improvement. Cloud and rain symbols filled the weather chart and my mood sunk lower still.  I had no choice but to sack off my plans. The West Highland Way, from Milnagavie to Fort William, was too long a route to travel in wet conditions (154.5km over several days) and I couldn’t risk getting sick and compromising surgery. I phoned my boyfriend Paul to let him know since he’d organised time off work to come with me to do the walk. He sounded relieved when I told him I’d changed my mind because of the weather, but I wasn’t happy. Surgery was only eleven days away and after it I’d be too sore to carry a pack on my back. There had to be a way.

Typically, after cancelling my plans, the following week’s forecast changed for the better overnight. But when I called Paul to say the walk could go ahead after all he told me he had already arranged work and wouldn’t be going; so the WHW was still off, unlike the rain that still thumped down outside my windows. What misery I felt.

Saturday was terrible. My mood was black. I didn’t care to leave my bed. And the upset was so strong I felt no hunger all day. I just wanted to be normal again. God damn cancer. I didn’t want to have to think about it or the surgery. God damn menopausal hot flushes and chaotic hormones – God damn everything!

Bit of a psycho moment when I eventually got up and angrily coloured in my face. Not long after I did this to myself I got a text from my friend Mel who said she was having a bad hair day. So I took this photo and sent it to her saying I was having a bad face day. It cheered us both up.

An entire day had almost disappeared when I had my brainwave. If I couldn’t do the West Highland Way I’d do the Great Glen Way instead! Earlier misery and anger were replaced with excitement and I felt like a little bird about to be released from its cage.

The Great Glen Way had a lot going for it; at 117km it was 37.5km less than the West Highland Way; it was closer to home making it more easily accessible, and good public transport links meant I could bail out if anything went wrong. Starting at Fort William the first 53km was on the flat and I could happily do it on my own. As it turned out my eldest son, Marcus, decided he’d join me. On Monday 3 July at 11.30am we started out on our walk back toward home.

Fort Bill to Gairlochy. Marcus trotting on by Loch Linnhe at the start of the Great Glen Way.

It was a scenic and peaceful route along the canal tow path from Fort William to Gairlochy. The first day’s walk was 17km, but in all we ended up doing 25km.

There was a 1.5km detour due to work being carried out on Soldier’s Bridge and then we had to walk an extra 1.5km off the trail at Gairlochy to reach our campsite. The only other tent pitched there belonged to a friendly older dude called Steve who insisted I use his hammer when he witnessed me stamping on my tent pegs to get them into the ground. He told us he was walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  After we’d got the tents up Marcus and I walked another 5km into Spean Bridge for dinner.

By the end of the day my feet were very, very sore and during the night my legs felt terribly heavy. However, in his tent it sounded like Marcus was doing battle with possibly the entire contingent of Gairlochy midge. His kill updates kept me amused and took my mind off my aches.

Gairlochy to Laggan Locks. Our destination is the vanishing point in this photo of Loch Lochy.

Early the next morning we packed up and hoisted on our rucksacks, it felt as if the force of gravity had been quadrupled, but there was no time for grumbling. We had to get on the move to avoid being attacked by the pesky midge.

We met a few folk on the trail; a man in a fancy hat who was walking with his son; twenty-something, female twins from Germany and Mark and Shelly, a lovely couple from southern California who were impressed at how quickly Marcus and I were walking with such big packs.

There were a few more uphill sections that passed beneath the Loch Lochy Munros, Sron a Choire Ghairbh and Meall na Teanga. The incline was nothing dramatic, but the effort of it was enough to cause us both to give in to groaning. Marcus complained about his back…me about my sore feet…and we both moaned about our thighs.

It was a relief to get to Laggan Locks and as we sat on our bags and rested our bones my uncle David texted.

Uncle David: how’s the trek

Me: Hard! How did you manage it in three days? We just did four n half hours with the tents, sleep bags, mats, food n water etc and are well aching. Feet are murder! 😀

Uncle David: Sounds familiar. Two days by the way, with full camping gear. Tee hee

Me: You’re totally lying

Phone rings. It’s Uncle David. He tells me he got dropped off in Fort William at five in the morning and walked till he reached Invermoriston at eight o’clock in the evening where he set up camp with his Tesco three man tent. He set out again early the next day and arrived at Inverness Castle at ten o’clock that night. I felt both impressed and annoyed. (Stupid chemotherapy feet and stupid slow legs).

Marcus had had enough and declared that long distance walking wasn’t for him. So he was going home and staying there and I would continue the rest of the way alone. I quite looked forward to being on my own.

The Caledonian Canal en route to Fort Augustus.

On the third day my legs felt stiff, but once they warmed up I managed a reasonable pace. All the same I was glad this section between Laggan and Fort Augustus was flat and only 17km. I ate my lunch on a bench by Loch Oich and boy did it hurt to get back onto my feet again, and by the time I reached Fort Augustus I had abandoned any thoughts about continuing on to Invermoriston. Instead I caught the bus home for a night in my own bed!

Not long into the walk on day four my feet enjoyed a dunk in this icy pool.

On day four I walked from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston by the high route and LOVED every bit of those 12km. It was fantastic to zig-zag upwards and get above the treeline.

I could see Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and, of course, the mighty Loch Ness.

The best part about the day was having the trail all to myself. Not a single soul did I meet – that’s quite rare. I was in the middle of loving being up high, loving walking and enjoying my own company when I saw a peregrine falcon – super cool!

Paul drove down to meet me after his work and took me for dinner to the Loch Ness Inn at Lewiston. What a treat.

Cranachan. A (my) delicious pudding made from oats, cream, whisky and fresh raspberries. Mmmm…

Friday was the  fifth day. It had lashed rain during the night and it was still throwing down in the morning. I got up, packed up the tent and by the time I got on the trail the rain had dried up. I was taking the 22km high route from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit and feeling monstrously happy because this was the section I’d been most looking forward to.

A stone and wood sculpture built to frame the view down toward Ben Nevis.

There were a lot of steep ups, but they were satisfying. And quickly after leaving Invermoriston my Christmas pudding hill, Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, suddenly came into view. I’d been looking forward to seeing it from this new perspective. I checked my map to see if I could go to its top from this side…not today, but one day I will.

The path rises steeply above the treeline on the southern flank of Creag Dhearg (Meall Fuar-mhonaidh lies to the north).

I overtook four Americans and a couple of Germans as I climbed high up the hillside through the trees. The path then zig-zagged down and I came upon a curved stone seat shelter. The high path offered memorable views over Loch Ness and the Monadhliath Mountains to the south. A patchwork of light rain showers were falling over the hills on the other side of the water and, though I was in sunshine, I was walking towards a bigger, darker bank of cloud that touched the waters of the loch.

Rain cloud touching the water.

I wanted to eat my lunch before I met the rain, but I couldn’t stop because as soon as I did the midge surrounded me. I didn’t even get a chance to empty my boot of little stones. Several walkers passed me from the opposite direction looking like drowned rats. I looked toward the dark sky ahead, but good fortune stayed on my side and the cloud rained itself out before I got near.

Creag Dhubh from the other side as I walk toward Drumnadrochit. Meall Fuar-mhonaidh to the right. 

Walking along the familiar minor road (having driven it so many times to Meall Fuar-mhonaidh) I passed a trio of young Swiss Great Glen Wayers. When I stopped to take pictures they leap-frogged by me. And then, as I walked the trail that descended through forestry, singing an Amy Winehouse song (badly), I overtook them again as they sat under a tree checking the map and eating a snack.

It was a relief to reach Drumnadrochit and after stretching I took off my boots to give my poor feet a rub. Two toenails, one on each foot, that had felt tender all week were now black…could have been worse, I could have had ten black toenails and ten black fingernails.

As I lay down to sleep that night my body felt super tired and ached heavily.

Saturday was the last and biggest day, covering a distance of 29km from Drumnadrochit to the castle in Inverness. Paul, with his fresh legs and feet, joined me for this last stretch of the Way. It would take about seven hours to walk and I knew it was going to hurt.

Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. 

We’d not long left the pavement to join the woodland trail when we were passed by a runner who asked if we’d seen a guy ahead of him. I told him no. He cursed and announced that that was the bronze. Of course! I’d forgotten that the Great Glen Way Ultra Marathon was on today. Eighty runners had set off from Fort William at one in the morning, it was now just after quarter past ten and I was impressed that four had already made it this far so soon.

Two hours into the walk, and marked by a signpost,  we’d reached the highest point on the Great Glen Way. Only 18km more to go!

The scenery wasn’t as inspiring on this last section however I was entertained by counting the ultra marathon runners that passed us by. There was a cool cafe in the middle of the woods on the hillside at Abriachan where we exchanged brief greetings with another walker who told us he is walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

Fellow blogger, and photographer, Christopher Weager, posing for a photo by the cool cafe on the hillside.

We passed the Swiss trio again today, it was nice to see them. They huddled together, up against a wooden gate, to shelter from the wind and snack. I was hungry too.

At two o’clock my feet could take no more. We were already more than halfway to Inverness so Paul and I stopped dead on the trail; I took off my boots, wriggled my feet then savaged my lunch…who knew a simple tuna mayo sandwich could taste so good, and my apple pastry was in a league of its own. ‘Enjoying lunch!’ the lad from the Swiss group grinned. My cheeks were stuffed with pie and I could only wave as they walked by.

People on the trail. Wind blew quite gustily in this exposed section, nonetheless beyond those trees we succumbed to our bellies and stopped for lunch.

Further along the trail, when Paul had disappeared into the bush for a poo, I saw three figures approaching – it was only Land’s End to John O’Groats Steve, and hat man with his son who I’d first encountered at Gairlochy. After Paul’s re-emergence from the bush, we all walked together for a bit. I told John O’Groats Steve that Land’s End Christopher said the coastal path up north was horrendous: that information helped Steve decide he’d stick to the A9 to reach the top of Scotland. Always glad to help…

The company had been a welcome distraction, but Paul and I went ahead and again I became aware of my little mermaid feet. Every step was a major trauma, but I didn’t care how much pain I was in, I ignored it best I could, determined to press on to the end.

It was freakin’ awesome to suddenly see a view of Inverness city sprawling out from our hillside stance. Only 6km to go.
At five o’clock, Nils, Aline, Me and Luana, the Scottish – Swiss tag team, finish the Great Glen Way at the castle in Inverness. Paul is behind the camera.

I was really pleased that I’d managed to complete the Great Glen Way. The harder the fight the greater the sense of achievement. It had been a good kiss off to chemotherapy and I still had two days to spare before going in to hospital for breast surgery.

It had been a crappy start to my final chemotherapy session; the accumulative effect of the drugs had taken their toll and I had been emotionally spun out. I had also been disappointed to abandon plans for the West Highland Way, but I’m glad it didn’t work out because I’ve an idea of what I can expect from myself and will be better prepared when I do get on that trail (which I fully intend to try for between surgery and radiotherapy, LOL). Everything worked out well in the end…and I can only hope that this will also be the case at the end of my 2017 medical triathlon.

Thank you to everyone who has followed my chemotherapy blog. I hope that you feel a little bit enlightened, and a little bit inspired to get out and do the stuff that makes living worthwhile.

The future is uncertain. None of us can know how or when we are going to die, but up to that point we do have the power to choose how we live.

Next: Surgery and A Short Walk 1

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11. Chemotherapy Five, Another Scan and TT Races on the Isle of Man (hills climbed, Meall Fuar-mhonaidh)

This is the eleventh post of a series which is introduced here.

Wednesday 17 May – Thursday 8 June 2017

I woke at five in the morning on the day of my treatment and read for a while before getting up and getting stuck into housework – distraction tactics.

At the hospital it took two nurses three attempts and forty minutes to insert the cannula into one of my veins which I found upsetting and so shed a few tears. Still, not long after I was in my chair, a Polish woman, about my age, arrived and sat opposite me. Her nurse had similar issues with the cannula; the woman fainted and was eventually sent home, without treatment. The stress isn’t just caused by the needle and tubing going in, it’s the whole situation: I spend so much time distracting myself that I forget the immense strain I’m under both physically and mentally. And it’s when I’m in the chemotherapy chair that sometimes my resolve crumbles and I feel vulnerable. I don’t like the drugs, but again, once they were flowing, I settled.

When I arrived back home there was a letter on the doormat. An appointment with the consultant on 1 June. It had to be about surgery…

Similar to the last session of chemotherapy I didn’t feel hideous straight afterwards. Day two and three were okay, though I was wiped out by dinner time. And I did get upset when I noticed I’d forgotten to take my steroids on day three. Taking them four hours later was not cool.  I lamented the crappiness of my memory: sometimes I’d forget to write the things I needed to remember down on paper. And I’d repeat myself too.

memory meme

I was frustrated and angry at the incompetence of my brain; it was like I couldn’t wake it up.

I couldn’t even follow simple instructions. For example, I had the steroids box in my hand. I read the label, but could not make sense of the words – that scared me. And it made me think about my grandad. He’d had dementia in the last few years of life; he was always getting muddled, even forgetting where he lived and, in the end, doing stuff about the house that made it dangerous for him to continue living there. Sorrow filled me. I wished I could have understood back then how he must have felt…I suppose it’s only when we walk in other people’s shoes that we can have true empathy for what they’re going through.

Since I’d been late taking steroids sleep was crap, even though the doctor had prescribed me Temazepam. I lay in the dark listening to the kitchen clock downstairs ticking past the hours and random thoughts drifted around my head. Quite the profound conversation I was having with myself at ridiculous o’clock, until it was interrupted by ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf’…why brain, why?

brain meme two

Talking of wolves I spent the next two weeks eating like one: yup, return of the voracious, insatiable appetite without enjoyment of taste, and not forgetting sluggish digestion.

Aches, pains and oh so heavy legs didn’t prevent me from getting out for short walks and on day nine I did a ‘run’ to the Fort and back. My calf muscles felt like they were dragging a dead horse, but in spite of the hardship I followed up the ‘run’ with a workout and then, in the afternoon, went back down to the Fort to watch the world go by in the sunshine. I think that might have been overdoing things.

Two days later I noticed my sore throat was back with a vengeance. Each inhalation through my mouth caught sharply and deeply and was especially bad when I was exerting myself – even just by going up my staircase. This only concerned me because it had the potential to hamper my plans for doing the West Highland Way.

It was Paul’s birthday during the final week of this cycle. While he was slaving away digging holes at work, I was slogging my way up Meall Fuar-mhonaidh again.

From my view point on Meall Fuar-mhonaidh I see a good path snaking off to the west. I want to know where it goes. I think it’s part of the Great Glen Way.

Between heavy legs and the sharp, catchy-throat thing I had to admit to myself that I found the up a struggle. It was far harder than any of the hill trips I’d done to date, but that just made reaching the top more rewarding and worthwhile.

It was also worth it to see the look on Paul’s unsuspecting face that night when – after managing to keep it secret for virtually a whole year – I gave him tickets to the TT races on the Isle of Man. The wee petrol-head birthday boy was delighted. But we had a tight schedule because before we could leave I had to go in for that hospital appointment.

At hospital the next day I was sent for more scans.

The doctor who carried out the ultrasound was quiet. ‘Well,’ he said after much pause, ‘I can tell you that the tumour is so small it’s undetectable.’ I couldn’t believe it!  Amazing!  And exactly what I needed to hear to give me the courage to get through to the last treatment.

Because the course of chemotherapy had run without delays, surgery could be carried out sooner than originally anticipated and I was told that I’d get my operation on 11 July. ‘Oh no!’ I said to my consultant, ‘how am I gonna get the West Highland Way done before then?’  He was only thinking of my best interests, but suggested it would perhaps be best not to make plans.

Paul and I set off for on our trip and arrived late evening on the Isle of Man.

Glamping at Ballakermeen High School, Douglas. Though our tent was close to the school’s toilet facilities I was pleased I’d taken my she pee and had a plastic bottle…heh-heh…especially when the wind was  howling and it was lashing rain in the small hours of Sunday and Monday.
Guy Martin in Saturday’s Qualifier. He wiped out during the first lap of the Superbike race the following day.

Engines screaming as the first bikes sped uproariously past my vision on the Saturday are now an unforgettable memory. Paul was in his element and it made me so happy to see him smiling. I have to admit I too was caught up in the speed, the atmosphere and the element of danger we were personally in by being roadside: bikes were flying by us in excess of 150mph at times. I fantasised about riding the bikes…

Me chasing Paul and him escaping.

During the three day break we did a lot of walking and standing about – hard yards and tough for me – but the new surroundings and being away from home and hospital were enough of a compensation for the discomfort I suffered.

It had been a busy cycle (lol), but back at home, and before I had to go for the last chemotherapy session, I managed to squeeze in one more workout. You know those dreams in which you’re trying to run away fast from something, but you can only go in slow motion? Well that’s how my body felt for real. The catchy-throat thing and shortness of breath was still a problem too and I was bothered that I hadn’t recovered from the latest battering of drugs…

I’d been advised not to make plans while undergoing chemotherapy, but I don’t hold with that. To make plans and galvanise them into action is exactly what has helped get me through the treatments. I don’t like to give in easily. My mind switches back to the TT races and I think about the motorbike riders and how they are constantly pushing themselves to new limits. I can be like the riders, in my own way. The consultant might be right – maybe the West Highland Way will have to wait – but it’s still on my agenda to do it before surgery.

Note about side effects: The aches and pains in my bones were not as severe as the first cycle of docetaxel. I think the removal of my coil caused the additional discomfort, and I’d bled for four weeks – who needs that? At Clinic, before my final treatment, and with plans for the WHW foremost in mind, I asked why the catchy-throat and shortness of breath thing lingered. I was told it would probably improve by the weekend.  Then I asked why I felt so super tired and heavy legged. The nurse said that although my bloods were good for the final treatment they showed that my hemoglobin levels were low and this causes the super tired – not much I can do about that.

Next: Chemotherapy Kiss off and the West Highland Way?

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10. Chemotherapy Four: Docetaxel Sucks but my Confidence Grows (hills climbed, Ben Lomond, Cul Beag and Meall a Bhuachaille full ridge)

This is the tenth post of a series which is introduced here.

Wednesday 26 April – 16 May 2017

The cannula went into a vein in my hand no problem, though not without my usual wincing on its insertion and removal. As I performed my eyeball twisting grimace the elderly woman in the chair next to me smiled. I smiled back. She told me she had to have twelve cycles of treatment, each session lasting eight hours. Ninety-six hours of chemotherapy! That gave me something to think about.

I’d been thinking about something else too; I’d had some good times while going through chemotherapy – which had surprised me – so decided it might be worthwhile to write a blog; to destigmatise chemotherapy, and share my positive experiences with others.

It was so far so good in terms of side effects from the docetaxel too (the new chemotherapy drug). There was no nausea and I thought I was getting off lightly, until day three. I’d had to go to hospital to get my coil removed and a few hours later I began to bleed. Coincidence or not, my bones then started to ache.

For the following week I took paracetamol and used my time in bed to make a start on the blogs (a task not to be underestimated when your brain doesn’t work properly).

Despite being unwell it was too maddening to be inactive so on better days during that first week I walked to the Fort. Dolphins filled me with joy as they jumped in and out of the Moray Firth.

dolphins at the fort, lol
Ok, ok, this no dolphin in the inner Moray Firth, but my photos of the actual dolphins were not good.

During the early hours of day seven excruciating agony in my lower back, bottom and pelvic area woke me up. It was so bad I had to go downstairs to eat yoghurt – so that I could take strong pain killers without wrecking my gut. I crawled back upstairs on my hands and knees, tears streaming down my face, and climbed into bed. It was like little women were burrowed deep inside my bones, endlessly threading needles in and out of the marrow. Fresh pain exploded in rhythm with each heartbeat until the cocodamols finally took effect. I had never wished more that Paul was next to me in bed.

The side effects were kicking my ass.

It hadn’t really registered before, but the soreness in my throat seemed worse, lingering longer than it had after previous treatments.  My teeth felt sensitive. My tongue felt like it was burnt and there was a thick film on the roof of my mouth. I was short on breath too, but come day nine I was back into my exercise routine and the same on day ten. My appetite was voracious, but because my sense of taste had abandoned me again I lived on Weetabix, scrambled egg, fruit and vegetables. As a result of this diet diarrhoea blighted all of day ten and into the early hours of day eleven.

My asshole in flames.

There was no doubting the accumulative effect of the drugs in my system. My body felt it. These new chemicals made every bit of me feel dried out, yet tight like an overstretched balloon ready to pop. I felt dirty inside. My body was heavy like a sack of stones and my legs were so damn tired all the time. But the hardships just made me all the more determined to smash this cancer in the face.

On day eleven I didn’t like to let on to my friend Mel that I wasn’t feeling marvellous, so she picked me up as planned and drove us to Drymen, near Loch Lomond, for an overnighter. We dumped our stuff at our B&B, then enjoyed dinner at the Clachan – Scotland’s oldest registered licensed pub.

At breakfast the next morning we both surpassed ourselves in the piggery stakes. Mel definitely has hollow legs and put hers away no problem, but my gigantic feast sat like a boulder, uncomfortable in my gut. I felt incredibly sorry for myself.

Hmmm…Mel sleeps like the dead, it’s just not normal!  A restless night for me, but I did manage to come up with another good plan: I am going to do the West Highland Way after my last chemotherapy!

Getting up Ben Lomond was a Herculean effort and poor Mel had to stop and wait for me, a lot. But although slow I managed to get to the top without a break – mostly because I was scared that if I did stop I wouldn’t be able to move again! Mel had told me a friend of hers who’d also gone through chemotherapy had really struggled on the docetaxel…the woman had gone out for a walk one day and all of a sudden her legs hadn’t wanted to work anymore and she had ended up in a wheelchair for the remainder of her treatment. I knew I wasn’t feeling as good as I had been after previous sessions and as I made my way uphill paranoia begged please don’t let what happened to her happen to me.

Me ‘n’ Mel’s summit selfie.

I miss my pubic hair.

Toileting after the hillwalk was a disaster. My sanitary pad was overflowing and when I peed into the loo at the carpark, instead of it channelling neatly downwards my urine whirred round like a damn garden sprinkler stinging my chaffed skin as it spilled its warmth – at first down my right thigh and then my left, before dribbling over the seat (yes I was hovering) and onto the floor. What a mess to clean up. Big sigh at an additional pitfall of chemotherapy. There is no dignity.

It had been a tough day, but it was what I’d needed.

On day fourteen I was feeling much better in myself and was out hillwalking again, this time returning to the northwest of Scotland with Marcus.

Cul Beag. A Corbett with ultra-stunning views. Solifluction terraces helped me make it up the steep ascent. Channels of exposed bedrock provided a nice sheltered snack stop. And from the summit I took this panorama of Stac Pollaidh – how small it appears!

The weather was too good to pass up another outing, so on day sixteen I ventured to the Cairngorm range at Aviemore.

View of Cairngorm on way down off Meall a Bhuachaille.

Marcus and his friend were doing Meall a Bhuachaille too, but I didn’t tell them I was going there ahead of them to walk the full ridge. I stopped off at the Cairngorm Mountain Café in Aviemore, picked up a couple of their awesome gooey chocolate and blueberry brownies, popped them in a tub labelled with the boys names and took it to the summit shelter cairn where I stashed it visibly between rocks.

I was happy at the thought of the boys discovering their treat as I carried on along the ridge, and I was all fired up about my idea to do the West Highland Way.

It had been a grand day, but the excitement wasn’t over. When I got home there was an email from Jenny, the literary agent in Edinburgh. A final editorial report on the book I’d written was in; it wasn’t going to take much to get my manuscript up to submission standard for publishers. This was great news because it gave me something else to focus on; and since it had been inspired by my sons, it was now more important than ever to see my writing project through.

This cycle of chemotherapy was hard, but also satisfying for what I felt I was achieving. I’d even done my first ‘runs’ since January – only 5km, but with each step my confidence grew stronger, and I knew I was lucky. The doctors were giving me the gift of more time and I wanted to use it well.

 Next: Chemotherapy Five, Another Scan and TT Races on the Isle of Man