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Beat The Beast Challenge

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A Long Way Down From The Cliff Top To The Sea
A Long Way Down From The Cliff Top To The Sea

The American poet Robert Frost once said, “The best way out is always through” and what he meant was simply that when challenged with a difficult situation, you cannot run from it, you must face it and endure to get through it.

As a former infantry officer, I would argue that he is right. We were always taught that the best way out of a well-constructed ambush is completely counter to the burning desire to run away - which would of course take you through the killing zone. Instead one has to have the discipline and courage to turn and face and charge at your attackers, while firing at them, with the intent of charging through their position and out the other side to relative safety. Dangerous yes, but this course of action, attack, significantly enhances one’s chance of survival. Equally, when in the attack we were always taught to fight through an enemy’s position in order to secure the ground in depth to prevent a counter-attack from unexpected directions.

As I discovered with my brain tumour, the only way out, the only way to defeat it was to take the fight to the cancer, and when it appears beaten, to keep fighting to prevent the cancer creeping back and attempting to launch a counter-attack against a body weakened by the cancer and the treatment.

I have kicked the brain tumour into touch but must prevent it from returning as predicted. So I have in the 23 days since my last post, walked 159.9 miles ascending 15,069.25 feet, cycled 23.02 miles ascending 1,149.17 while preparing 3 home-cooked delicious evening meals with Allie preparing the lion’s share of the remainder. Prepared 19 Balanced daily lifestyle lunches and breakfasts, captured 39 smiles, gained 5 additional sponsors and raised £132.08 for the Disasters Emergency Committee. I have been wined and dined by wonderful friends and had nieces visit for a few wonderful days. But despite all the effort to get stronger in mind, I have been struggling.

Smiles No's. 360 and 361 - Verity And Frank From Trinity, Edinburgh
Smiles No's. 360 and 361 - Verity And Frank From Trinity, Edinburgh

Over the last 23 days I have suffered from two SMART attacks which though horrible and render me as nothing more than a twelve-stone two-year-old for a few hours – they do come and go and, with the exception of two particularly vicious ones some years ago which saw me rushed to hospital physically choking on a constricted wind pipe, they are no more serious than rendering me non-effective for the day and exhausted for the following day.
Much more worryingly, I have been noticing increasing circumstances of me just struggling to get things done in my daily life. I am only 48, yes a brain-damaged 48, but despite 8 years of effort to try to retrain and strengthen my brain to enable me to become more productive in life, in paid employment, I appear to be going backwards. I find myself:

Smile No. 362 - Alan From North Berwick
Smile No. 362 - Alan From North Berwick
  • Having to count so very slowly and deliberately letters and numbers in order to correctly enter passwords for certain websites.
  • Getting lefts and rights and ups and downs and forwards and backwards muddled up to see me putting clothes on the wrong way around, walking to the opposite end of the kitchen, away from the toaster, to collect the toast once it pops up.
  • Walking into random rooms with random items in my hands for no apparent reason.
  • Planning a short route to walk around North Berwick only to find myself halfway round on a completely different route.
  • Checking the weather report to discover it was forecasting heavy rain and then finding myself out walking with just a jumper and tabard on when the rain hits.
  • Struggling to find house number 18 in my housing estate which has been laid out and numbered in the traditional way.
  • Struggling to open a simple gate to get into church.
  • Not being able to recognise Allie when she comes out to meet me on a walk. My brain turned her entire face, body and clothing into that of a hugely overweight, aged Mediterranean woman with olive skin wrinkled like a prune and wearing a scarf. It was only that our dog Cocoa recognised her and greeted her with a wagging of her tail that I even conceded that I might know this woman. I quickly realised my failing but it is such a horrible empty place when you cannot recognise who you are with, or where you are.
  • Struggling to look at things without seeing dark shadows flitting in and out of vision, with aura’s rattling through me, carrying anxious thoughts of impending doom.
  • Struggling to find the simplest of words when asked an unexpected yet simple question like, would you like a cup of tea? And when happy with the word I found,
  • struggling to say it without sounding like someone with severe learning disabilities.
  • Struggling to pick things up and put things down, or put things in cupboards or the fridge without frequently misjudging distance, height and depth, and stubbing my fingers or bending back and splitting my nails with the ensuing pain it entails.
  • Struggling to eat without biting my cheeks or lips.
  • Just struggling in some way with nearly every daily task.

YET I HAVE LIFE, A WONDERFUL LIFE, DESPITE ITS FRUSTRATIONS, IN A WONDERFUL PLACE, WITH A WONDERFUL WIFE AND A WONDERFUL DOG, SO I AM HAPPY DESPITE MY INCREASING FEAR AND I CAN GET THINGS DONE, JUST SLOWLY, OH SO FRUSTRATINGLY SLOWLY.

A few years ago my neurologist informed me that I was at the top of the Alzheimer’s risk spectrum. That I should do all that I can to prevent becoming demented. With all that has started to reoccur after some time of stable function, it is natural, I think, to fear early onset Alzheimer’s or Dementia brought on by the damage to the brain done by the tumour, the treatment and each and every one of the more severe epileptic seizures.

If the enemy are on the counterattack – well the best way out is always through. I read an article in the County Walking Magazine the other day that said simply “Walking has time and again been revealed to be the best all-round exercise you can do – strengthening bones, boosting energy and mental function, keeping the most annoying and the most serious ailments at bay, and just bringing out the happiest, healthiest, glowingest version of you. It feeds your mind and starves your insecurities, fills your head with memories and turns back the clock the moment you start doing it.”

I took Cocoa and challenged myself to do a self-supported walk. A 5 mile loop at St Abbs. Not too tough. I’ve walked there before on this challenge. But this time I had to get there and back on public transport while giving me enough time in daylight in winter to complete the walk safely and on a tight budget. The initial planning phase was frying my mind and at risk of triggering another SMART attack as I tried to find the cheapest route out and back. So Allie did the work on the computer to identify and get the tickets, while I plotted the route on the map.

On the day of the walk we had to take a train, then another train, then a bus before then finding my way to the start of the walk and I was delighted to discover that I could do it. Not only that, I managed to navigate around the walk without getting lost and even managed to get myself back home early with a little help from a lawyer on the early train I managed to catch. She identified the platform for the connecting train at Waverley for me. On arrival in Waverley I had four minutes to make the connection. I ran across Waverley to platform 9 and just as Cocoa and I got to the train, the doors closed. However, as I turned, disappointed to miss it, the conductor opened the doors for me and ushered me on. We made it. Most importantly, I had managed to face my fears and put them firmly back in their box.

Rather than wait for Alzheimer’s to start to happen, these recent frustrating neurological misfires are reaffirming my desire to use brain-training like: learning to play the pipe organ, learning to play golf, navigating over the hills, writing posts like this to practice writing sentences that actually make sense. Learning to juggle, learning to act, learning to dance, conducting food shops and cooking to recipes, litter picking and water sports as ways in which to try to retrain and strengthen my brain.

St. Abbs Lighthouse
St. Abbs Lighthouse

The good news is that after consultation with the Alzheimer’s Society website I can confirm that my balanced daily lifestyle is exactly the correct way to live life to try to prevent Alzheimer’s.

I am going to fight through this and emerge victorious over the tumour and any hint of degradation towards Alzheimer’s well and truly defeated. On the way I continue to try to save and rebuild as many lives as I can through the Disasters Emergency Committee.

Please help me to spread a little light into the lives of those that struggle by sending me a photo of your smile that I can publish, with the other 361 smiles so far captured, on the smileometer on my website, and via the Challenge social media channels of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Emailing it to me would be best on archie@beatthebeastchallenge.co.uk or message it to me on Messenger or Instagram.

Sunset Behind A Bridge In Berwick Upon Tweed
Sunset Behind A Bridge In Berwick Upon Tweed

Furthermore I continue to look for sponsorship. Many have suggested that I would find life more comfortable if I was to take a chill pill and just focus on enjoying life. Yet I keep fighting and keep writing despite my neurological challenges, purely and simply to save lives; mine, and those who are starving to death as I write: men, women and children trapped in their millions in the triple whammy of COVID, warfare and climate change related natural disaster around the world in places like the Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and the DR Congo.

There are 64,000,000 active current accounts in the UK. My challenge is to convince just 1% of those account holders to challenge me to keep fighting to achieve success with just £1 per month. If I succeed, I could raise over £640,000 a month with which to help save and rebuild the lives of those most in need through the Disasters Emergency Committee. With 97 sponsors so far obtained I am 0.014% of the way towards my target. It is easy to doubt that I will ever get there, but I refuse to, so please sponsor me, I guarantee, that with the generosity of:

  • The Royal Bank of Scotland.
  • Webb and Wallace Accountants in Doune.
  • MHCreations in Glasgow.
  • Key Facilities Management in Doune.

Every penny raised encourages me to keep fighting to prevent my brain tumour from returning as predicted, and to retrain and strengthen my brain, using my balanced daily lifestyle, the mediums of Golf, Music, Navigating over the Hills, Drama, Dance, Juggling, Litter Picking and Writing, with becoming neurologically and cognitively strong enough to one day be able to sustain myself in some form of future employment being my goal while saving lives through the DEC on the way.

Memorial To Fishermen Lost In S1881 Great Storm
Memorial To Fishermen Lost In S1881 Great Storm

Please sponsor me to make me happy. After all, happiness is the key to success.

Thank you, Keep safe, keep being brilliant. Keeeeeeeeeeeep smiling

Yours aye with love and gratitude,

Archie xx

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