Nine weeks to go!

I’ve been in a happy bubble for days, all because of the kind-heartedness and generosity of the people of Oxford.

On Thursday evening, I hosted Brain Buster – a quiz night in aid of Headway at the Oxford Retreat. I was supported by colleagues, friends and a team from Headway all of whom helped make the night a fantastic success. The generosity of local businesses in donating prizes for my raffle means that I managed to sell hundreds of raffles tickets in addition to selling out the event and I’m now only £500 from my fundraising target!

So, this post is to say thank you. Whether you bought a raffle ticket, helped me source prizes, came to the event or shared a social media post about my cause. Thank you. It’s because of people like you that my fundraising is currently sitting at £3,500.

Whilst it’s going to take a whole heap of happy to beat my feelings about Thursday, this weekend has also been pretty incredible. I got to see my family for the first time since Christmas, which involved a cuddle with my gorgeous niece. Then, I got up this morning and ran 15 km. Unfortunately, my hearing aid ran out of battery about 500m in so I really struggled to keep a constant pace without music, but I persevered and completed the run! I’m beginning to think I should practice running and changing a hearing aid battery at the same time though – not sure it’ll last for the whole of race day if I’m listening to music the whole time!

So, I’m going in to this week with a load of positivity. Nine weeks from now, I’ll be sitting on my sofa much as I am now, but with post marathon legs. It’s been a long old journey to get here and my journey will by no means stop when I complete the marathon, but I’m so  happy that I’ve been able to get through my training and get so close to my fundraising target. I’d really love it if we could meet my target before I cross the start line nine weeks today! You can donate online, or you can take a look at my auction and place your bids until it closes on Friday!

The pieces of my former self

If you knew me before my brain injury then you’ll know that I used to spend a lot of time sitting at my piano making music. I wasn’t the greatest pianist, but there are several pieces that I loved to sit down and just play.

Post injury, I’ve really struggled with my coordination and that’s had a big impact on my ability to play. I’ll play a piece perfectly with my right hand, but my left hand just can’t keep up!

So, in an effort to get another of my favourite pastimes back, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time sitting at the piano recently. It’s really slow progress as concentrating on something so much makes me really tired and I can only get through a few bars at a time.

Thankfully, the hard work is slowly paying off and I can now play a few sections of my favourite piece. I’ve come such a long way since I was discharged from hospital that it’s strange to think there are still little chunks of my former life I haven’t got back. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m looking forward to working on putting the pieces of myself back together.

When I’m not at the piano or out running, I’ve been spending all of my free time organising my fundraising event which is now four days away! It’s incredible to see how supportive the local community have been and I can’t wait until the event! Bidding is open on my online auction over at https://www.26milesauction.com . Theres been a lot of interest so far, so make sure you place your bids now so you don’t miss out!

Time to Talk

I’ve made no secret of the mental health issues that the early stages of my illness caused. Back in Autumn of 2018, which feels like a lifetime ago now, I was struggling to function. I was scared to leave the house and I spent most of my time curled up on the sofa hiding from my responsibilities under a blanket.

What I haven’t spoken about very much at all is the mental struggle of coming to terms with a completely new version of yourself after an illness as serious as mine.

Thursday 6th February was Time to Talk Day; an initiative created by mental health charity Time to Change, with the intention of starting more conversations about mental health. The rise of #TimeToTalk to the trending section of Twitter made me decide that it’s time for me to talk. I’ve spoken in depth about most of the physical limitations that come with a brain injury, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of how that can mentally affect a person.

It’s not surprising that I’m a completely different person to who I was eighteen months ago. I have crippling fatigue, difficulties with speech, concentration and coordination and, to top it all off, I’m partially deaf. I think it’s impossible to go through everything I went through, come out with the list of disabilities I have and not have a new outlook on life.

Whilst I’ve understood the changes to my physical and mental limits, I’m a long way from coming to terms with the new version of myself. Emotionally, I’m still a twenty-something year old woman who wants to go out and live her life to the fullest. Two years ago that’s exactly what I was doing, so knowing that my disability now prevents me from doing that is a difficult pill to swallow. There are days when I feel really low because I’ve had to cancel plans with a friend when my fatigue is really bad. There are times when I stay at home and avoid doing something I really want to do because I can’t cope with the idea of a big crowd of people on that particular day.

For me, training for the marathon and fundraising for Headway is my way of starting to come to terms with the prospect of a permanent disability. It’s a way of proving to myself  that even if there are days where I really struggle to cope, both physically and emotionally, I can still achieve my goals. Whilst there are days where thoughts of the version of myself I’ve lost bring me to tears, the new version of myself isn’t so bad. She’s strong. She’s a fighter. She’s not going to let her disability stop her living.

She’d also really love it if you could make a donation to Headway – only £1,300 to go!

 

Rest – the key to success

I’ve briefly mentioned in previous posts how important it is for brain injury survivors to find balance between going out and getting on with their lives and getting plenty of rest.

Until this week, I’d not realised quite how true that really is.

Last week was a really rough week brain wise, to the point where I couldn’t complete the run I’d got planned. But instead of letting it get to me and delay my progress, I took a few days away from my trainers and made sure I got plenty of rest throughout the week. Today, I went back to my training plan and not only did I complete my 10k as planned, but I ran it in under an hour!

There are so many factors that could have contributed to my success this morning, ranging from the extra rest, right through to the copious amounts of wine my friends and I drank last night. I’m going to assume it was the rest though and continue with that strategy rather thank drinking my way through the next few months!

So, the key to getting good at running is to make sure you get plenty of rest, and I’m beginning to find out the key to fundraising too! According to Virgin Money Giving, I’m 68% of the way to my total – that’s only just over £1,000 left to go! There’s lots of interest in my silent auction, which goes live very soon! You can sign up online here, or keep an eye on my social media accounts for new lots being announced!

Fatigue & Failure

This week has been a rough week for my brain and I.

Fatigue has hit me like a ton of bricks and I’ve spent most of my evenings and pretty much all of my weekend napping the time by to try and give my brain the rest it needs.

When I woke up this morning, I was feeling better, so I decided to continue my usual Sunday morning routine of eating a huge bowl of porridge before hitting the streets of Oxford for a run!

It turns out, that I wasn’t feeling better at all, and I could tell a couple of hundred metres in to the seven and a half kilometres I’d got scheduled that I was in for a rough ride! I had every intention of sticking it out to the end, but running when you’re fighting your brain is difficult. I couldn’t concentrate, which meant that my breathing was wrong and I couldn’t find an even pace. Pretty soon after I’d hit the one kilometre mark, I was having to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Four kilometres in, I had to call it a day. I was tripping my way round the route more than I was running and I need to make sure I’m in one piece to continue my training!

So, not a good week training wise, but I’m not going to let one failure stop me. I’ll get some rest and go back to training stronger than I was before.

Thankfully, this week hasn’t been all bad. Preparations for my event, Brain Buster, are well underway and I was so excited to finalise my auction listing yesterday! I’m going to be revealing some of the auction lots over the next few days and the full listing will be revealed next weekend! If you want to be in with a chance of buying some of the incredible lots on offer then make sure you sign up to get an email when bidding goes live!

It’s not too late to sponsor me either! After a rough week in training, I could really do with a few of my lovely readers clicking the donate button to spur me on!

 

Writing my own happy ending

This week, I’m going to hit one year post surgery.

One. Whole. Year.

It’s certainly been a whirlwind of a year and every single one of the twelve months that have passed since my surgery has brought a new challenge. I’ve had two surgeries, thirty two nights in hospital and countless outpatient appointments that each involve a seven hour round trip to stay with my parents.

However many hardships I’ve faced, I can’t help but look back at my experiences with a strange sense of pride. I’ve learnt something new every single day and I truly feel like I’ve made something good out of a terrible situation.

Way back in January 2019, I started carving out the new post-brain-injury version of myself by taking to WhatsApp and saying to some of my closest friends “I had surgery this morning, but it’s fine – it was only brain surgery!” Understandably, my friends were quite shocked! Reactions ranged from “Eh??” to “?!” to my personal favourite “😳😳😳😱😱😱”

I think I’d decided even then, just a few hours post surgery, that I wasn’t going to let my injury be something bad. Admittedly, I hadn’t slept in weeks and I’d had a lot of painkillers, but even then, I was determined to use my experiences as a force for good. Twelve months later, and I feel like I’ve achieved this goal. Don’t misunderstand me – I know that some truly awful things have happened to me, but I’ve made the story my own    and turned the experiences in to the year of my life that I’m most proud of rather than a year to look back on with sadness.

I’m not finished yet though. The first chapter of my story has been a rough one, but the next chapter is hopefully going to be a little more stable. It’s less than 100 days to go until the marathon and I feel like I’m spending all of my free time either planning fundraising events or running! I know that I’ve got more surgery to come, but going in to the year knowing what’s coming makes it so much easier to deal with!

So, as I enter year two of recovery, I’m in a positive place, and I can’t wait to continue carving out the happy ending to my story.

Don’t forget, you can support my fundraising by donating online. While you’re here, why not take a few seconds to put your name on the waiting list for my fundraising auction that goes live online in a few weeks?

 

 

 

 

When music hits you, you feel no pain.

I recently launched my fundraising event and pub quiz: Brain Buster. I realised quite early on in the planning of the event that the biggest challenge I’d face would be convincing people to donate items that I could use in an auction or raffle – which is where I’m hoping the event will be most successful.

So last Friday, a friend and I sat down and came up with a list of over 100 local businesses and sent them an email telling them about my story and how they could help. I wasn’t expecting much response, because most of the businesses on the list were small independent shops that probably have far bigger issues in the current political environment than donating to charity. However, I was massively wrong. In the last week, countless businesses have replied to my email and posted me gift vouchers and products that I can use to improve my fundraising. I’m massively overwhelmed by the support that the Oxfordshire community has given me, and I can’t wait to put their generosity to good use on the day of the event!

Obviously, my main fundraising effort is still sponsorship for the London Marathon. I’m training regularly and things are going well. I recently had a major boost to training when I got my hearing device fitted.

Even though I have one ear that works perfectly, I’ve never been able to listen to music when I’ve gone out running because once I put a headphone in my good ear, I couldn’t hear any of my surroundings. Fine for the countryside runs I might do when staying at my parents house, but not safe when the footpath I’m using goes alongside a busy city centre road. Now that I have my hearing device, I can stream music to the deaf ear through my hearing device and keep my good ear free for listening to my surroundings.

During my long run last weekend I found that having music to help me keep my pace was a huge boost and the distance seemed far easier to cover than it had done in the past. Hopefully, the music will continue to help me along the way as I increase the distances I’m running even further. Bob Marley once said that ‘When music hits you, you feel no pain’. I’m not sure that’ll run true at the end of the marathon, but I’m hoping it’ll ease the pain a little. So, if any fellow runners are reading this, let me know what your favourite song to run to is. I’ve got quite a hefty playlist to build up before the 26th April!

I’ve still got a long way to go to reach my fundraising goals, but I’m getting ever closer. You can support my cause by donating online, or by getting in touch and donating an auction lot.

 

New year, same me

The new year has arrived and as usual, it’s been heralded by hoards of people taking to social media to declare that they’re taking part in Dry January and #NewYearNewMe has been trending across all platforms for days.

Whilst it’s admirable to have aspirations for making yourself a better person, I’ve never found New Years Resolutions something that work for me. Last year, my resolution was to become healthier. I think it’s safe to say that I missed the mark on meeting that resolution a little bit.

In 2019, I went through some massive life changes and I definitely ended the year as a different version of myself. Since my recovery, I’ve set myself some pretty big life goals – running a marathon and raising £4,000 for charity to name a few. I’ve decided that, for now, that’s enough change in my life. So, no New Years resolutions for me this year, just a promise to myself to keep getting healthier and to keep up my marathon training and fundraising – both of which are going well.

A year ago from now, I’d spent the first of 28 nights in hospital and things were looking pretty bleak. Fast forward a year and I’ve raised almost £3,000 for Headway and I’m well on the way to being able to run the marathon. If you’ve contributed to getting me this far in my recovery, training or fundraising – thank you.

I’ve got some big fundraising plans coming up, so make sure you keep an eye on my social media to find out more, and don’t forget, you can always donate to Headway through my fundraising page.

Living on a prayer

I’ve had this song stuck in my head all week. Why? Because I’m half way to my fundraising target! (62% of the way there actually, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it). Since I got my London Marathon place in September, friends, family, colleagues and complete strangers have rallied around me and donated an incredible £2,514.10. Even though I set my target quite high, I never expected to raise this much and I’m so grateful for every penny that’s been donated. Particularly to the audience members of a concert I was in last weekend who donated almost £1,000 of this total.

Whilst the dulcet tones of Jon Bon Jovi are particularly relevant to me this week, I really do feel like I’ve been living on a prayer all year.

Last Christmas, I was so depressed that I couldn’t enjoy my time with my family. We were at my aunt and uncle’s house on Christmas Day and I distinctly remember leaving the table midway through lunch. I went to the bathroom and sat on the floor and just cried. I could hear my family downstairs enjoying their meal, but I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t join in. This year, I’ve been given a second chance at life. All the odds were stacked against me in January and I was seconds away from death on several occasions. Despite my chances not looking good, I lived to tell the tale – something that I’m incredibly thankful for.

When you’ve lived through a near death experience such as the one I had, you get a new perspective on life. Suddenly, the important things at this time of year aren’t who gets to eat the last roast potato at Christmas lunch or who gets to decide what telly to watch on Christmas day. Those things are material. What’s important to me is the fact that I get another chance to spend a festive period with my friends and family.

So, I won’t be writing next week. I’ll be busy absorbing all the love my family have to give and getting ready to start the new year off a lot more positively than I did last year.

If you’re reading this, I wish you the happiest of Christmases with your nearest and dearest and, please, don’t forget to let those you are closest to how much you care about them.

 

 

The reason behind my madness

Earlier in the week, I did a pre-work run. For me, training before work means an 05:15 alarm clock and leaving the house at 05:30. It was only just above freezing, it was dark and it was raining, all of which contributed to it being a pretty miserable experience. By 06:15, I was back in my flat hugging a radiator in an attempt to warm myself up and wondering what had possessed me to agree to train for a marathon.

Two things have happened in the last fortnight that have made it abundantly clear to me that however tough training for and eventually running the marathon is going to be, it’s worth every ounce of energy I put in to it.

Firstly, last Thursday my beautiful niece was born. It’s the first time in my life that my behaviour will have a direct impact on that of another person. Obviously, bringing a five month old to London in the cold isn’t a good idea, so she won’t be there when I cross the finish line. However, the idea of her sitting down when she’s older, seeing a photo of me on race day and realising that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it definitely inspires me to run the race. Hopefully her Auntie Amy will one day inspire her in the same way that she’s inspiring me right now.

Secondly, this week I paid a visit to the Headway Oxfordshire activity and rehabilitation centre. I’m incredibly lucky that my brain injury doesn’t mean I need high levels of support. Others aren’t so lucky. Visiting the centre and seeing the high levels of support that survivors less lucky than myself need really hit home how important my fundraising for Headway is. Their centre offers everything from gym equipment for physical rehabilitation, through to art classes so that survivors can spend time with each other and feel less isolated.

So, next time I’m running before the sun comes up, I’ll be thinking of all the Headway service users that I’m raising money to help and the gorgeous Isobel Rose Gordon. Two very worthy inspirations, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I’d love it if you could support my journey by donating or sharing my story on social media, and don’t forget, you can listen to me talking about my journey so far on BBC Radio Oxford at 10am on Tuesday!