Sunday, June 03, 2007

35. Corbett Challenge

Photos - The Corbett has been Conquered; The View; Boys at the Start; The Steep Walk Up; Dawsie hanging on; Me Walking Down; Snow still on the Peak; The View out West; Mum & Dad in Edinburgh...

I feel I’ve only just recovered enough now to recount the adventure in the Scottish west highlands. A few of the boys and I had signed ourselves up for the ‘Conquer a Corbett’ Challenge to be held in May, a challenge placed by MacMillan Cancer Research to climb all 219 Corbett’s (2,500 – 3,000 foot high mountain) in Scotland and raise some much needed cash in the process. The destination we had chosen was Beiin Luibhean, about 2,800 feet high, that was nestled tightly amongst some other giants on the west coast of Scotland. Just to the west of Loch Lomond it began…

The boys arrived early on the Saturday morning and before long, we were packed and on the road. Unfortunately my old man couldn’t make it with us as he’d badly rolled his ankle half way up Queens View (beautiful hill just north of Glasgow) – we’d been talking about it for ages so it’s tough to see him wave us off and not participate. It wasn’t until we actually drove past some spectacularly high mountains near Loch Lomond that we had any idea of what we were getting ourselves in to – the debate started as to guess the height of the surrounding hills, most I’d imagine were exceeding any of our poor estimates. Once we arrived to the location we thought was the correct hill, we were informed that this one didn’t actually have any paths and we were to roam freestyle up the very steep edges.

We gained some height pretty quickly and it was only after 15 minutes that we almost had a few casualties. This climb was seriously, seriously steep – so steep in fact we couldn’t just walk up the side, we all had to traverse up slowly, zigzagging our way up the hill. The ‘challenge’ seemed much harder than any of us had anticipated. We pushed on harder to the next ridge and only then did we realise the scale of the climb, we were only half way! Then finally after two long hours, two Cherry Ripes, 1.5 litres of water and an apple we walked (or stumbled) our way over the last rise and walked around to the very peak, a place marked by a collection of stones piled on top of each other. We didn’t hand around too long, just munched our lunch (Dawsie had munched his on the way up in the car), took a few photos and started the treacherous walk back down to the car…another hour down that transferred the deep burn from the calves to the knees, quads and ankles. At the bottom, we were all pretty knackered and we congratulated each other for a good effort – just under a £1,000 was raised for the charity, money that will now go to helping people with cancer. Not a bad cause…

I’d only started the climb a day after I had commenced the new drug, Sprycel (Desatinib). I was slightly apprehensive about any side-effects I may encounter as it was recommended that I cease to take Gleevec on the Tuesday night, and only start the Sprycel on Friday morning. It was extremely weird not having to take anything for those couple days – trying to break an 18 month habit of a life saving pill wasn’t the easiest on my mind. Seeing I’ve now been taking my new meds for just over a week now, I can say that most of the side-effects have subsided and I’m once again left with a little more energy and a release from the stomach cramps I’ve endured for so long. Chemo tablets aren’t the nicest thing to take but I’d much prefer them in pill form rather than the ‘normal’ intravenous version. I guess the only issue I have left about Sprycel is that even though it has proven in many strict drug trials about it’s amazing effectiveness for people with CML, the NHS has only approved this in Scotland and not England. Its great news for me about the approval but you can’t help but think about the people in England and Wales who are in desperate need of this drug and can’t gain access to it. I know the European CML Support Group have kicked off a campaign to get its use approved in all of UK – I guess it raises more concern over all these new drugs that are currently in Phase 1 and 2 trials for CML. It means that it’s very, very good that these new meds are getting developed but they may not get approved by the NHS due to cost restrictions in the future. Its tough call and an argument I don’t really want to get too involved in but I’d label this as more of an outsider’s perspective…

My folks have now left the bonny shores for a week and are across visiting Paris. I’m so excited for them – to know my mum and dad came over here from country NSW, Australia and are now currently climbing the Eiffel Tower is a great feeling. It’s been great having them here to share our lives, watch the progress of Karen’s growing pregnant belly and cook some comfy meals only your mum can dish up. They’ve given us plenty of stories from back home – my nephew Hayden is growing so fast and lately has been attempting to walk! They’ve also come to a few hospital visits while they’re here and given me some support as the visits increase dramatically.
As I’ve now changed over from Gleevec to Sprycel, the docs want to now see me weekly instead of monthly to keep tabs on my blood count (the same as they did when I started Gleevec in Nov 2005) – they also need to monitor my chest. A few cases in the clinical trials shown signs of Pleural Effusions or fluid on the lungs…not sure why this happens but as they’ve seen it a few times, it’s great to know they’ll keep monitoring me so closely.

And then it’s back to the Glasgow to Loch Lomond Bike Ride next weekend – Mhairi and I took up the 22 mile challenge last year for the Anthony Nolan Trust. We’ll head up from Glasgow city centre next Sunday morning and hopefully an hour or two later, we’ll be meeting up with Kas and my folks in sunny Loch Lomond. Last year I did an interview with BBC Radio Scotland on the way up and I’ll probably be doing the same this weekend. Listen out for the dodgy Aussie on the radio this Sunday morning – what a voice to wake up to! The ride will be good training for the 50 mile Glasgow to Edinburgh, ‘Pedal for Scotland’ in September…

Thanks for all the emails and comments, keep them coming in! It’s great to see the visitor count come from all around the world – England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, USA, Canada, Taiwan, France, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Czech Republic, Bosnia, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, Holland, Indonesia, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, China, Brazil, Turkey, Germany, Israel, Egypt, Austria, Singapore, Tunisia, Hungary, Belgium, Korea, Finland, South Africa, Japan, Kuwait and India…


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

So nice to read your latest entries! Your Italy trip and hiking challenge looked incredible--great photos! Best of luck on dasatinib. I'm glad they're monitoring your lungs carefully; I'm one of the one's who had fluid on the lungs during trials . . . hopefully you'll get your PCR down to 0) and be popping pills for many years to come! Keep up all the activity, I know it makes it easier to beat the cancer!

All the best,


Shira Weisbach
Oakland, CA
United States

Susan Leigh said...

Matt, good luck with the dasatanib, I really hope that it goes very well for you and that the PCR drops and drops and drops. Glad that the side effects are less, I know all about the digestive issues!
I am back on glivec 300mg for a few months until the SCT in October.
Sounds like you had a great time with your family here, enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt, Darryn and Dawsie,

Well done on conquering the corbet guys! and congrats on smiling for a photo at the top! would also like to pass on my congrats to you; Matt and Karen on the wounderful news of the baby.

good luck on the new meds...I'll keep reading

Mel Clark

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt

A quick hello from your old fox studio's buddy Caroline!!! Great to read ya blog! Congrats on becoming a father soon! Spoke to Bryce a little while ago and he gave me the lowdown..from the sounds of it you have been more active in the last coupla months than I have been in my entire life!!! Will send you a proper email soon! I'm still in touch with Christine from Fox too....i still laugh when i think of you doing a Tom Jones 'sex-bomb' impersonation in the lovely 'teal' vest! Speak soon matie and keep up all the positive vibes radiating from your blog site!!

xx Caroline

Caroline Stirling

rob said...

Matt - take it easy

rob -