Saturday, 29 August 2015

Suffering and perspective

Someone said to me the other day that I bet I wished I could turn back the clock and change the course of my life, so that I wasn't living with a bag and hadn't gone through all this stuff.

You know what? I wouldn't. I honestly mean that. I'm genuinely grateful for the experience and the journey. Yes that sounds all new-age and weird, but it's true. It's taught me so much; about my life, my body, my running and what's important to me in life. The simple pleasures in life - such as going for a run, or hiking a mountain with my family - are treasured, not taken for granted.  I'm actually happier in myself, stronger in my relationships and weirdly have better body image and self confidence. I would never have imagined that outcome.

And anyway, what's the point in wishing you could change history? All you can do is accept it, keep it in perspective and move on. It's that simple.

Suffering teaches us so much. When you're rock bottom and you not only survive, but you come back stronger, you know you can handle anything.  Suffering gives us perspective. It gives us an opportunity to learn and change. How we deal with suffering is our choice. You can let it take you down, or you can use it to come back stronger. 

I've been reading 'Runner' by Ultra Runner Lizzy Hawker recently and it blew me away. I could relate to every word. Her story, her journey, passion for running, the mountains and her suffering resonated with me in a way that no other runner or writer has ever done before.  I adore her, I adored the book and I simply couldn't put it down. There are literally hundreds of quotes I could pull from it, but this is one of my favourites :

'Everything that came before had to happen for me to become the person I am. The greatest moments of clarity come when I look back and realise that it was and is all necessary and all beautiful. This is a journey of rediscovery and realisation'. Lizzy Hawker - Runner.

Since the Get Inspired article came out on the BBC website I've been inundated with hundreds of lovely emails and messages from others who are going through a similar surgery or illness, some who are struggling, others who just wanted to reach out and tell me that they'd been inspired or wanting to share their story with me too.

It's been humbling and moving. Being able to share my story; and through it give other people a bit of hope or inspiration that anything is possible. Life doesn't stop when you have a bag. In fact it might actually be the start of something much better...

As time goes on, living with a bag just becomes the norm for me. It's part of me, it doesn't define me and it certainly doesn't stop me from doing anything. 

I love this photo taken of me in the summer holidays in Zermatt. We'd just run the Zermatt marathon a few days beforehand and this was taken as we hiked up through a glacier at the foot of the Matterhorn. It was a stunning hike with my family - one of those days that you remember forever. 

Would I change what I've gone through? Yes I suffered, it's been brutal and the outcome is that I now live with a bag. But would I change it? No chance. As Richard Nixon once said:

'Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain'.