The Why

I thought it was important to keep these posts in a handy spot – so that I never forget the Why part…………

The Why – May 2012

It was on July 11th 2011 that I wrote the first version of ‘The Why’ explaining my reasons behind climbing Kili and asking for your indulgence in following my journey.  Thankfully after being such a loudmouth about the whole thing I actually made it to the top, flew the flag, had the picture, had South Africa post lose my first round of thank you letters and dragged my heels on the second round. (Note to self – lessons for this time around). So much has happened since then just ten months ago that it seems a lot to process.

First order of business is my mum’s health, when last I wrote she was about to move into a new treatment phase to address the sinister creeping (look away kids) fucking cancer that had returned to new pastures in her body. Once again drawing on her strengths and reserves, medicine both traditional and alternative she has triumphed over the beast and after a torrid few months of radiation treatment and chemo while under the additional supervision of her Chinese medicine physician she is once again getting great blood test results, body scans and the all clear for a new international jaunt in the second half of this year where she will come and visit us in our new country of residence (yes – we’re moving in June from South Africa to the USA – Atlanta, Georgia). Did I mention last time she was diagnosed when I was pregnant with my daughter now 5? Since then she has welcomed three new grandchildren, the latest just last month and she has already had two trips to Queensland to visit the gorgeous baby Isabel and her big brother Oscar.

To summarise she is six years into her diagnosis of Bowel Cancer Stage IV, plus three grandkids (four in total), plus one Hopemobile (her own Grey Nomad method of transportation used for camping up and down the Aussie coastline) and a round the world plane ticket in hand (not her first in the last six years). Yay for my Mum!!!

I cannot say enough wonderful things about my friends, family and absolute strangers who sponsored me for my Kili climb. I am so indebted to them for their support and encouragement, I made it to the top – which was the idea and my stated goal, but in some ways I feel I let them down. I didn’t insist, nor even ask that they get tested for Bowel Cancer when I gratefully accepted their words of encouragement and sponsorship dollars.

I wish I had.

At Christmas time my wonderful friend Sarah and her family from Hong Kong came to South Africa to visit us, luckily for us her lovely husband is South African and they have been twice to visit since we have been here. Our eldest sons are best friends from pre-school days and always pick up where they left off and our youngest (hers a boy – mine a tomboy) are also very close, born a month apart at the same hotel-spital in Hong Kong. We spent some wonderful times together during their stay both at our place and with her in-laws and friends here in SA. It was so wonderful to see them all looking so well and happy. Sarah was very dedicated while she was here, running four to five times a week in training for the Hong Kong GreenPower event that she was running later in January. Her first year at 25kms (she usually tackles the 50kms – in fact we did it together twice as part of the same team) she wanted to run rather than just hike.

On the 15th January she sent me a text to say she had finished in under three hours and was very chuffed with her time – if you knew the trail you would be very impressed as I was. On the 22nd January she sent me an email titled ‘News’. It wasn’t good news, it was bad news, bowel cancer bad news.

As I write this she is in a rest week between 25 rounds of radiation and an eight cycle chemo treatment program. She is strong, positive, fit and healthy and has incredible support from family and friends near and far.

If you saw Sarah and me side by side – you would pick her as the one about to run the New York marathon, not me. This year I am going to finish the marathon and then text her to tell her my time – it will not be as impressive as hers would have been, but perhaps she’ll run it next year for a comparison, I would not count her out. Or maybe she’ll just come to visit for the shopping and a girls trip – that works too.

In July last year The Jodi Lee Foundation had raised almost AUD $250,000 towards increasing awareness of Bowel Cancer and early detection, as of today after some amazing fundraising efforts they have raised AUD $790, 844 and counting. No doubt the first million is just round the corner and more importantly increased awareness translating into saving lives. Jodi would have been amazed but not at all surprised at Nick’s dedication to the cause and success in achieving the goals of the foundation. She would also have been proud that I didn’t have any vomit in my hair after seven days on Kilimanjaro, although not sure she would have approved of the plaits I wore to stave off the greasy hair .

So The Why changes while it stays the same.

Sarah, Mum and Jodi, I am going to run, walk, limp or drag myself across that finish line on November 4th and while my body may ache, throb, cramp or seize up (why say may – lets face it – probably will) I will try to remember that its just a drop in the ocean compared to what you have faced and just keep going.

The Why – July 2011

But why are you doing this thing? Is it on your bucket list?
Ummm. Sure it is – or not, don’t have a proper bucket list, more a meanderer looking for opportunities. But say that yes – it is. Does that count?

The honest truth is I’ve always looked for an opportunity to spend a week without showering or washing my hair, and in all possibility vomiting profusely for at least a couple of those days.
No, actually, that’s not it either.

I guess I like to set goals for myself and achieve them and this is one that came along and I just signed up. I’ve got some form on the hiking front, for starters my other blog lists hiking as a personal interest, as does my resume – that counts right!?! I’ve also fronted up three times for the Hong Kong Greenpower hike from the Peak to a far flung beach – 50kms no less, up (and down) the green corridors that are surprisingly plentiful on that small island.
I think I can still get up this mountain and when I do it I will remember others that can’t.

I’m not good at writing seriously – not because I can’t be, but because I am afraid of missing something in the telling. There are so many people that can write so beautifully about things that mean something to them and are important, but I’m afraid I can’t, I can only tell you how I see it.

Fuck Cancer!
Sorry to use a swear word (look away under 18’s, or is it under 16’s?) but I know you all agree. I am sure anyone that reads this has a friend, family member or acquaintance that has been affected by the dreaded Big C. It’s a horrible disease that defies logic along with many other things, there are so many different forms of it and not even they follow agreed paths or timelines.

For example, two people who are special to me were diagnosed with Bowel Cancer, Stage IV at diagnosis.

One is my mother. When I was pregnant with the child currently referred to as the World’s Angriest Four Year Old (WAFYO – just because she’s bound to appear on here again at some stage) I took a call at work in Hong Kong one day from my Mum at home in Australia and she told me she had Bowel Cancer. That’s not a good phone call. What followed was something that people who have been there with family members and friends understand, statistics like 30% success rate for operations and treatments suddenly seem to be amazingly positive possibilities (as opposed to when you were at school and that was your possible exam result). Because the alternative, what could happen the other 70% of the time is just not able to be considered.

It was five years in May since my Mother’s diagnosis, I cannot understand what she has been through although I know the facts – the number of operations, the number of chemo treatments that worked and didn’t, the ‘overlooking’ of a new related tumour for two years because of apparent radiographer/oncologist incompetence, another operation, the Chinese doctor that has kept her body and mind healthy through all the western treatments, her ability to stay focused and positive and still come and visit us overseas in Hong Kong and South Africa (on occasion against medical advice) to enjoy the company of her adoring grandchildren, who love their ‘Mumma’ all the time even when they don’t like me very much. Through it all she has kept her own record of events for the hundreds and hundreds- and I am not kidding about that number- of people all over the world that she counts as friends.

My mum is a special person, she is after all my Mum, but she deals with so many things (not just her cancer) in such a positive and upbeat way for the most part- as well as forgive me my many failings as an absent daughter that not enough can be said about how wonderful and unique she is and what she inspires in others.
So apart from the fact that she sent ME flowers for Mother’s day this year (correct- I sent her none) let me give you an example.
After discovering Mum’s illness and diagnosis one of her very closest friends took off on a ‘short’ 850km walk across the Camino, the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela to find a challenge as close as she could think of to the one facing Mum. After completing the journey, she wrote a book, dedicated it to mum and donated all the royalties from the first edition to Cancer research. These are the kinds of amazing friends that she has.

Five years on the doctors do not exactly know what to do with her, the cancer keeps coming back and somehow Mum keeps turning it away. Its back again now, and this time, like the other times it seems worse than before but part of me just keeps believing once again she will conquer it. If recent blood test results continue their trend, it appears that once again she will push it back and carry on with her grey nomad adventures in the ‘Hopemobile’.
I will climb Kilimanjaro for my Mum and remember how hard her journey has been and the unknown road ahead.

The other person is my friend Jodi. I met Jodi in 1995 when she was sharing a house with my boyfriend Sam (now husband) and some other friends in Bris Vegas (that’s Brisbane, Queensland for all you non-Aussies). They were all from Adelaide, living in Queensland and like ‘Adelaidians’ and South Australians everywhere – even though they had never met before managed to find each other in another location and become friends. Jodi started seeing Nick, a friend of Sam’s from school – of course. Later, the three of them moved to Sydney (not together) and we continued our friendship all living in the same city. Nick was a groomsman at our wedding, I organised Jodi’s hen’s day in Sydney in the absence of her out of town bridesmaids and Sam was a groomsman at their wedding. Our adventures together continued as Nick and Jodi became traveling Aussies at large, as we were, first in the UK and then in Vietnam. The Lees and the Moffitts holidayed in Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An, Hong Kong and Adelaide together. Our kids played together, we had fun and plenty of laughs. Jodi was a wonderful reassuring presence and support when our son was going through his diagnosis with Aspergers having worked extensively with ASD children during her teaching career.

Then one day, we got another phone call. It was Mum’s diagnosis all over again. Jodi had to be air lifted from Ho Chi Minh to Bangkok once they realised there was a problem and she had to be operated on nearly immediately. The upheaval and changes caused not only by her diagnosis but by living away from Australia and in a country with a different medical system were huge. Soon afterwards Nick, Jodi and their children Jack and Arabella moved back to Australia and Adelaide to be close to their families and continue their fight against the disease. I thought I knew how it would go from there, but no cancer, not even one with the same name and numbers follows the same path. She fought the cancer bravely for two years and then we got another phone call. My gorgeous friend had died. We were here in South Africa by then and only one of us could travel back to Australia for the funeral. I remember my ridiculous comment to Nick at the funeral ‘Sam and I had to draw straws on who would come’ (I am absolutely hopeless in these situations, can you tell?) Nick said ‘I hope you were the one that won’. Of course we had both wanted to go – to remember an amazing person, mother and friend. There were hundreds of people there, many had traveled from different, cities, states and countries to attend and say their own goodbye to Jod.

Not long afterwards The Jodi Lee Foundation was formed and in less than 18 months through some amazing efforts and activities it has already raised AUD $250,000 towards promoting awareness of bowel cancer and encouraging early detection through regular screening from age 40. People such as Nick, Alastair Cavill who just completed the Gobi March and Andrew Poole through his organisation of The Ride for the Little Black Dress (Jodi’s outfit of choice) have made tough, endurance type of activities a hallmark of fundraising for the foundation.
I hope to contribute to the Foundation through our climb and fly the Jodi Lee Foundation banner atop Kili. If you would like to donate to support me you can go here and do so, remember to choose the drop down (gulp) ‘Kilimanjaro climb’ so I can thank you later for the extra pressure to make it up there.
My target is to make it to to the top and fly that banner.

I know Jodi would want me to do that as quickly as possible. I am almost sure what her advice for the climb would be
‘The sooner you finish this Nikki, the sooner you can have a shower and wash that vomit out of your hair.’

4 thoughts on “The Why

  1. Hi Nikki, Got tears in my eyes AGAIN…. not only for Jodes and other cancer sufferers but for your wit and humour. You go girl…. very inspiring! Best wishes, Jando

  2. Hi Nikki. Your words have a powerful voice and your actions as well. Ditto from Jando’s message, VERY inspiring. Good luck, enjoy the climb and you are spot on about what Jodi’s words of wisdom would be to you!!! Ginny from Vietnam

    • Thanks Ginny. I love that everyone agrees about what Jod would tell me – and that although we all knew her at different times and places, she was definitely the same person everywhere. Thanks for your kind wishes, I will put them away for some extra inspiration come summit day.

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