Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Caving has always been my favourite past time, I enjoy the challenge that it brings and it’s a great form of escapism, you only really think about the next obstacle that you have to negotiate and all thoughts of work and day to day life just disappear. It’s a Marmite thing, a past time you either love or hate. Personally, I love it.
However after my first MOAS I believe that my confidence had been knocked. I’d always kept myself fit, I ran regularly, caved, weight trained and eaten a good diet. I didn't smoke or barely drank yet still I got cancer. I’d gone out of my way to stay fit and healthy, I thought I was invincible. We pushed caving trips and did some fairly long and technical trips, some very demanding physically with hours spent underground, some very technical hanging on a single rope with vast amounts of fresh air between us and the cave floor. I trained hard and ran three times a week but I still got cancer, I wasn't invincible, cancer doesn't discriminate, cancer doesn't care.
No longer was I the fit guy who trained hard and enjoyed adventure sports. I was now the guy who people looked upon with pity, who had cancer and been through a huge operation and whose future was so uncertain. My life had changed forever.
So I had a break from my beloved caving. The kit hung in my tackle store unused and I instead went for more sedate past times. I wasn't sure I could handle the demands of the tough underground environment. Instead I chose more sedate past times such as walking, fishing and photography. All things that I enjoy and get a lot out of but were not caving, not life on the edge.
It wasn't until after my second MOAS and after my involvement with the Cancer Survivors Club book that I was inspired to dust off my kit and start caving again. It was at the book launch, surrounded by so many inspirational people who had shared their stories that I realised I needed to shake myself up a bit and get back to normal. Chris Geiger had a page on the website where he wanted to encourage people to send in their photo’s with themselves and the Cancer Survivors Club book pictured in the most unusual places.
Well there was the challenge- get back to caving and take the book underground! A perfect excuse to go caving again that will hopefully show fellow cancer sufferers and PMP sufferers that there is life after cancer and two MOAS operations. It was time to start grabbing life by the short and curly’s again! I have an old mantra “you only get out of life what you put into it” and it was time to stop pottering along and get fit. Fit for caving, fit for life and whatever it may throw at me again.
So I returned to running, first of all just some short flat runs and then gradually went further and further and then threw in a few hills. I'm now running two or three times a week and averaging 7.5km on a lunch hour.
With my fitness levels starting to return to normal it was then time to start planning the trip underground. I wanted to start off fairly easy and as it happened a guy I was running with at work also fancied giving caving a go. So we set a date –Friday 22nd of February and headed to the Mendip hills straight from work. The plan was to descend the Swildons Hole cave system to a point in the cave known as Barnes Loop. A pretty section of the cave and ideal for photos and also a trip suitable for a novice caver and also a caver returning after two MOAS operations!
It was a bitterly cold evening when we arrived. The temperature was -2.5 degrees and it was trying to snow, the ground was frozen solid. It was time to take the Cancer Survivors Club underground. Below is the photo that we took in Barnes loop and a short movie inside the cave showing how we got to our chosen spot!
Hopefully it will inspire fellow sufferers that you can get back to normal after treatment and to go grab life by the horn’s as “you only get out of life what you put into it”! Go on; go set yourself a challenge.......