I was recently asked a very pertinent question whilst standing around at the 1st European Youth Championships of the season at the EICA climbing gym in Edinburgh “do you mind me asking but how did it feel to be told you had terminal cancer?” Interesting question for sure but more surprising was the fact it was a young German climber who was doing the asking. Just as enlightening was the next inquiry, this time delivered by another young climber from Denmark “how do you manage to look so healthy when you are actually very ill?”
Reading this you may then ask why I use the words ʻinteresting and enlighteningʼ when explaining these enquiries especially given my own personal situation and diagnosis. To answer the initial questions was the easy part. “Imagine standing in the path of migrating wildebeest or maybe being hit very hard by someone wielding a sledgehammer, then you may be close” was the answer to the first followed by “donʼt be fooled by looks” “if you could peel back the skin you would reveal something akin to a dalmatian dog with all the common markings representing the cancer”
Returning to that dark day just 18 months ago when I was informed of my imminent passing I remember thinking how I had to start living, meeting each day with a smile and truly making the most of the time I have left. ʻFortunateʼ may not be the word most would expect to hear from someone dealing with terminal cancer but that is exactly how I feel and ʻhappyʼ may be another term some have problems with. There is a clarity to life now that has been born out of the prognosis. To see the beauty of every moment, the vivid colours of life and the energy that exudes from happiness is a gift that has been awarded on the back of such sadness.
For me the excitement at being asked such questions by young people from all corners of the globe shows just how huge the strides are that have been made since the launch of ʻourʼ charity Climbers Against Cancer and how the ideas behind the cause are being endorsed by both young and old alike. The photographs that land at my ʻdoorʼ on a daily basis are a testament to the power of CAC and show how itʼs tentacles have gripped almost everyone in not only the climbing scene but also amongst both family and friends alike.
I would be taking on such a mammoth task if I were to try and thank everyone individually for their part in making Climbers Against Cancer a success and just as difficult would it be if I were to try and pay compliments to all for your support and kindness along the way. I may only require a ʻone wayʼ ticket on my latest journey but my travels have given me the pleasure of meeting some great friends and some truly remarkable people. To everyone out there I would like to pass on a huge THANK YOU. Without your help not only would it have been almost impossible to create an awesome cause but you have also made my life so memorable and enjoyable.
CAC may stand for ʻshitʼ in many languages and maybe that is a very apt term when referring to the darkness that is cancer but in just 5 months since we launched the website we have all shown that the title itself printed on various brightly coloured t-shirts represents much more than that. Life, Love, Friendship, Happiness, Strength…. the list seems endless as I look around the climbing centre and see climbers from many different countries, of all ages, cultures and backgrounds coming together under the umbrella of Climbers Against Cancer.
Although all the administration and day to day running is based in the UK, Climbers Against Cancer is very much an international charity with many people around the World helping in various ways to make the project a success on a global scale. Although time may be something I donʼt have a lot of CAC definitely has the capability of running well into the future and with the group of trustees in place and many ambassadors in various countries the prospects are very bright.
With almost 7000 t-shirts printed to date the rainbow colours of CAC are starting to appear in every country on the map and very soon we will be making our very first donation to research facilities as planned in each of the 5 Continents. We are very proud to announce that the first of those contributions will be made at the Australian National Championships that are taking place at the Villawood Climbing Gym in Sydney on the 29th + 30th June. The second donation is planned to take place at the IFSC Lead World Cup at Briançon, France on the 19th + 20th July with preparations still on going. We are also hoping to announce the 3rd event to take place at the IFSC World Youth Championships in Central Saanich, Canada and discussions are currently underway to confirm this donation in August.
We plan to hand over the chequeʼs with a value equivalent to £10,000.00 at each of the events and the full details of the organisations chosen to receive the funding will be made available as soon as everything is confirmed. As stated when I first started Climbers Against Cancer the intention is to change the location of the donations at each opportunity with the hope that in the fullness of time a facility in each and every country will benefit from the generosity of you all as supporters of CAC.
Facing the questions from the young climbers from around Europe last weekend made me feel very humbled and the openness and awareness with which they approached me gave me a lot of hope for their future. Despite my own predicament and the knowledge that none of the fundraising will be of benefit to myself it does make me extremely proud and happy to think that as climbers we will be helping others and maybe one day we will have played our part in riding our lives of this terrible disease.
”When it is dark enough you can see the stars”