Last weekend leukaemia survivor Michelle Richards completed the London2Brighton challenge in a gruelling 29 hours and 15 minutes. Here, she tells us, in her own words – about her journey from transplant to the finish line.
Michelle at the finishing line with her team – greeted by family and friends
Michelle’s Words: A long way to go, to a seaside town, far, far away…
When sitting in my hospital bed in September 2011, receiving my life-saving stem cells from my anonymous donor, I knew that one day I would have to give something back to the charity and hospital that saved my life. I knew that recovery was a long way away but that day, September 2nd 2011 was the start of the rest of my life. My new birthday!
At a hospital visit to Weston Ward with Rose and my Mum Jackie
Recovery was slow but went well, a few bumps in the road but I got stronger as each day, week and month went by. When I reached my first anniversary (my first birthday!) I knew it was time to think about giving something back. I was sporadically going to the gym but found it hard to sustain. I needed a goal. Then I heard about the 100km hike from London to Brighton and straight away thought, I fancy that! My family and friends tried to talk me out of it, saying that there was no way I was ready for that sort of challenge but as the walk was in May 2013, I had plenty of time to train.
My first training walk was 10km and afterwards, the thought of doing it a further 10 times was very hard to envisage. I mean, I had to come home for a three hour nap to recover! But I’d made it 10km and it was a start. My husband and I signed up for the walk and, as we started talking about it, more and more people began showing interest in our goal. Some of them even fancied doing the walk too and so the LEUKA SKYWALKERS WAS BORN.
Michelle with her husband Chris
The event soon came round and our team, who had all trained hard together, had formed strong bonds and were all dedicated to achieving our goals. At first some of us were worried we were not going to hit our fundraising target, but as time went on, it became clear that the amount of support infact far exceeded our goal. We had gone from hoping to raise £5,000 to almost £19,000 – it was beyond our wildest dreams!
As for the walk itself – what can I say other than – OUCH! It was amazing, emotional and painful.
Mr Motivator lead our warm up (still wearing his trademark dayglo Lycra!) and we set off very enthusiastically. Each ‘rest point’ was a milestone – mentally and physically. Getting to each stop was our way of breaking down our goal into smaller, more manageable chunks. When we reached each stop we checked feet, tended to blisters, grabbed a bite and filled water bottles and then we were off again.
The night section of the walk became very tedious, as your senses are limited in the dark. It was cold, dark, muddy and very quiet… almost eerie. People were exhausted and deprived of sleep. Everyone felt the boost when the morning dawn chorus finally came and the sight of the sun rising was brilliant. Almost instantly we were chatting again – but we couldn’t get too excited – we still had ten hours left to go!
The last 20km was by far the hardest of the course. We were physically in pain and emotionally tired but even through the odd tears of pain and frustration we all kept each other going. Each kilometre was sign posted and seemed to take longer and longer to reach. They also threw in the biggest hills of the whole course – just for added fun!
29 hours and 15 minutes later – we finally saw the finish line. We sucked up the pain and quickened our pace. Our friends and family were there to greet us and already the good memories of what we had experienced were starting to outweigh the bad. Together we crossed the line. We were all so proud of what we had achieved. Our feet were in a bad way – but it was soon forgotten about over a glass (or two!) of champagne…
Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters, without your encouragement we may not have got that far. And most of all – thank you Leuka for saving my life.