The Team

Capsize drills, team psych session and deploying the para anchor

This weekend was a busy one for the team.  It really all started on Friday when we had a super exciting meeting with a super exciting new supporter of the Coxless Crew.  Stay posted to find out what that was all about!

Early doors on Saturday morning we arrived at Rossiters in Christchurch to face one of our fears for the row – the capsize!  We got into the cabins, Nats and myself in the stern cabin and Laura in the bow cabin and strapped ourselves in.  The Rossiters team used the crane to tip us over manually.  Inside the cabin it felt like a slow tipping sideways and she sat for quite a while at 90 degrees before needing an extra tip to get her to go over.  This was actually quite comforting as we now know that she can be thrown around in the waves a lot before capsizing.  The roll from 90 degrees back up to upright was surprisingly quick and smooth and before we even had time to think about it we were back the right way up.  The exercise was really useful as we can now have total faith that Doris definitely does self-right and we can also reflect on the experience to help us imagine how it will feel when it happens for real in the middle of the Pacific.

Aft Cabin Capsize

Fore Cabin Capsize

The rest of Saturday was spent in a team session with our performance psychologist Keith.  We thought about how to recognise our warning signs that stress is getting to us before, during and after an event and shared this around the table to help us to recognise the signs in others in order to be able to support the other members of the team as much as possible.  We also completed a separate questionnaire which highlighted to us the importance of keeping social and task related activities separate when we are on the boat as well as making sure that we make time to socialise with each other in a non-row related way before we leave (easier said than done).

Our day ended in what is now becoming a bit of a habit – food and wine in front of The Voice which has replaced the X Factor as the Coxless Crew Saturday night entertainment of choice.

Sunday started windy and cold and after a good breakfast we headed off to visit Doris again.  Top of the list for the day was practising deployment of the para anchor.  After carefully reviewing the instructions (men take note this actually works) and our notes and photos from a previous session with Tony we had a go ourselves.  As it was so windy we just deployed it where we were moored up.  Seemed easy enough but our opinions might change in 40ft waves and high winds!

Para Anchor

The afternoon we spent running through our ‘what if’ scenarios.  This is a really important part of preparation ensuring that we have thought through all the possible problems and situations and know what to do.  As well as the obvious safety requirements of knowing what to do if one of us falls overboard or our water maker stops working it also brought home to us all how real this all is and got us thinking about what life will be like for us aboard the boat.  A useful exercise and the start of some interesting psych homework!

Next weekend we start packing Doris ready for shipping!  So exciting!  Stay posted to see how you fit 6 months of kit into a 29ft boat!

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Doris visits Marlow

On Saturday we brought Doris on a little road trip to Marlow to go for a row on the Thames and introduce her to the town.  She arrived on Friday evening and with a little help from Ella and the Knill family we got her on the water and over the river to the Compleat Angler hotel who had kindly offered her a safe home for the night.

Doris at the Compleat Angler

Sunday morning arrived with sunshine and blue skies.  Our beautiful pink Breast Cancer Care gazebo and the rowing machine were installed in Higginson Park and Doris was rowed over to join in the fun.  With the strong stream and Doris being so much heavier than my usual rowing boats it was the slowest I’ve ever rowed up this stretch of river but pretty special to be showing off Doris where I learnt to row.

Local star Ems

First up was the chance to take some prize winners out for a paddle and the chance to experience life in the aft cabin.  Martin was up first followed by Katie and Ewan and all three had a go at rowing the boat.  It was great to be able to show some of our supporters what life will be like for us when we are out on the ocean.

The Crew, the Mayor and Naomi

For the rest of the day we were inundated with visitors including Suzanne Brown, Mayor of Marlow, the local press and lots of friends, family and supporters.  We were also treated to a visit from Olympic and paralympic rowing stars Naomi Riches, Heather Stanning, Katherine Grainger, Beth Rodford and Sarah Winckless.  Heather kindly christened Doris with some champagne in an official naming ceremony and then came for a row with us.  It was so great to have so much support behind us and we had a really fantastic day talking to so many interested people.

Naming ceremony for Doris

The weekend finished off with a training session at Marlow Rowing Club on Sunday morning followed by the usual logistical fun involved in getting Doris back on the trailer and safely home to Christchurch.  The next few weekends will be spent in final preparations and packing before we put her into a shipping container ready to start the journey to San Francisco.  Stay posted for updates on next weekend’s capsize drills.

The next Coxless Crew event in Marlow will be a talk kindly sponsored by Court Gardens on Wednesday 11th February.  Tickets are £12 and include a buffet provided by Court Gardens and a presentation about the row, the training and preparation so far and the reasons why we are doing it.  To book a place contact Rotarian Sara Bowater on 07850 036236 or Sara@sbowater.co.uk.

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Psych Blog 1

When people find out about the row, the common response is ‘are you crazy?!’. Now ask a crazy person if they think they’re crazy and I’m sure they’ll say no. So naturally of course, we would give it that same response, however, it was pretty apparent from the start, that this row was 90% about controlling the level of ‘crazy’ you become next to the 10% that’s physical strength.

 

The second question is usually then, ‘how’s the training?’ and the expected response is how much volume we’re doing on the ergo (rowing machine), what’s our weights programme, what cross training do we do etc.’
It is definitely more commonly accepted for someone to go to the gym and physically train for an hour a day & that to be part of a healthy well being lifestyle, no injury or illness necessary and it’s socially accepted. However, if you were to say you were heading off to see your psychologist for an hour a day – there is an immediate sense that it’s a taboo subject, people find it difficult to talk about and there is a preconceived idea, that you have an extreme mental health issue that needs attention.

 

What is interesting, is that generally people don’t tend to accept, that WE ALL experience mental health problems throughout our lives, but it doesn’t have to be extreme depression or Schizophrenia for it to be labelled as that, or highlighted that it’s not a ‘normal’ part of life.

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Think of it as a sliding scale, for instance, for physical illness, it’s like having a common cold at one end to terminal cancer the other. We wouldn’t wish that extreme illness on anyone, but we know it unfortunately exists and there is medical support out there to help, compared to the cold which we all now know how to minimise the risk with preventative measures such as vitamin C/ echinacea/ first defense/ adequate rest etc. & the effects (depending on if your male or female ;)!), you can cope with as you know it’ll be over with within a couple of days or a week.

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Mental health is no different, the one end of the scale that everyone associates with mental health or psychology, is being sectioned and whisked off to the Priory, however the common cold end is a day or two or week, of low mood, feeling stressed, being emotionally delicate etc. Now everyone experiences it, but there are very few that actively go out to seek how to cope with those situations/ understand them/ prevent them in a better way & this is where a psychologist can come in.

Keith Goddard is our team psychologist. He works with us on a 1:1 as well as helping us to optimise our team dynamic & understanding of each other as a team. Keith to us, is our rock! He is fundamental to the success of this row (no pressure Keith ;)!). Keith helps us to challenge our thoughts, to recognise that the inner script/ chitter chatter you have with yourself, is exactly that – just a thought. He has taught us how to differentiate between what’s rational or irrational thoughts, to tap into our feelings and emotional responses & recognise how they influence our thought process. He’s shown us how to recognise an emotional response will present itself in each of us; for example, if I’m upset about something, I used to keep it to myself and not want to share it because I wouldn’t want to be an emotional burden, but that emotion has to go somewhere – it’s like energy needing to expand and get out. So in me, I would feel it in my chest becoming tight, my shoulders elevating and feeling stiff & generally my posture would just become more tense. Naturally, you would possibly then go for a massage or see a Physio for acupuncture or ‘posture’ correction – but fundamentally, all that money is wasted unless you address the thought that’s driving that emotional response. The saying and feeling of ‘a weight being lifted off your shoulders’, is exactly that & a heck of a lot cheaper than seeing one of us Physio’s/Osteo’s/ chiropracters for regular treatment and the issue still coming back.

If you take anything away from reading this blog, the main thing is to tap into your mental health and awareness of your thoughts and feelings. There are times when you get an overwhelming feeling that day to day life becomes too much but you continue to try and be a superwoman (or man) and take it all on yourself, well there’s no stronger way than to seek a bit of advice which can be the nugget of information you needed to make life that little bit easier.

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Values and Ethos – S.P.I.R.I.T

S.P.I.R.I.T – Our Values define us

What are our values and how does their importance impact our lives?

I believe that our values define us as an individual and that some are instilled and others developed. They become the underlying essence of what you are, who you will become and affect every area of your personal and working life.
These core beliefs that we have, highlight why we automatically gravitate towards certain people (as they most probably have similar values) and possibly why we choose to follow a particular career path or lifestyle.

Every one of us has values, but maybe not everyone has ever sat down and worked out what their top 5 are. There are literally hundreds to choose from and some resonate stronger than others for each person.

As the COXLESS CREW have become a new team, we have also had to re-evaluate our team dynamic and make sure that everyone has identified their own values. Collectively we need to be aligned in the things we believe in and what will keep driving us forward in our challenge.

These core values will need to be prevalent throughout our process as we work together to get us to the start line, develop our group dynamic and then help us to cross an ocean.

Although we are from varying backgrounds and have slightly different motivations, Laura, Emma, Izzy and I have one very important thing that connects us in this project. S.P.I.R.I.T
We are determined to make this adventure happen.

This S.P.I.R.I.T is the thing that we hold special and represents our key values and ethos.

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SPIRIT

STRENGTH
- Strength of character, purpose and mind.
- There is an inner strength and a physical strength that will be developed and fine-tuned through various training schedules and exercises.
- Strength to face our fears, enter the unknown and prove that anyone can overcome adversity and do anything they set their mind to with the right preparation, support and commitment.
- Strength to keep moving forward when most people around you fail to understand the reason.

PERSEVERANCE
- The determination to get the boat to the start line. To find the sponsors and make this challenge happen so that we can raise the awareness and the support for our charities. To find the media coverage to make this story as big as it can possibly be and thereby generate the excitement for this women’s first attempt and significance for women once it has been achieved.
- That mental resolve to keep pushing through when the body has all but given up hope and the perseverance to keep moving forward however challenging or impossible the task at hand may seem.

INTEGRITY
- Honesty is vital to the success of this project. There needs to be a transparency in what we are doing and how we are going to achieve it in order to capture the hearts of our followers and to ensure that we can maintain a working relationship on our boat.
- There cannot be any secrets now as they will only be exposed and highlighted in a detrimental way on the boat. We need to be truthful and authentic to whom each of us is as a person and how we are feeling at any one time through the process. We need to constantly reflect and share with each other.

RESILIENCE
- There are going to be moments on a daily basis where we will need to find the drive and will to push through.
- During the ‘getting to the start line’ phase, we need to keep pushing to find our sponsors, organise the logistics for the physical training, team meetings, events, media opportunities, mental training, fundraising, coordination of the shipping, food, sea survival skills, DIY courses, the list goes on.
- We will all have our personal fears and doubts that will surface and disappear during the next six months.
- The true test of resilience will come when we’re out on the ocean. This is when we will really have to fight out our demons and push ourselves to our physical, psychological and emotional limits.
- All the women fighting to overcome adversity from our chosen charities Walking With The Wounded and Breast Cancer Care, also show this undeniable resilience. Whether it is a woman overcoming breast cancer or an ex-servicewoman who is learning to be re-introduced into a new life, they will need to bounce back from an extreme hardship.
- Equality and diversity within the workplace and also sport has begun a shift towards change but women still have to fight to be heard and to progress.

INSPIRATION
This is another key value for us.
Life is all about being inspired by amazing people and hoping in return to inspire others. This is a huge part of what our journey is about. We have been truly humbled and amazed by the number of people so far that have willingly donated their time and expertise to the project. We would not be where we are today without them all and they will definitely be a big source of our inspiration out in the Pacific. Our existing sponsors have been amazing and we so greatly appreciate their continual support.

Obviously our charities are our major source of inspiration. They are the very reason we are putting ourselves through the challenge and their stories and journey are the ones we are hoping to share and raise awareness of.
Our Ambassadors are also key. They are pioneers, athletes and great adventurers who we admire, respect and pull great inspiration from.

As will our followers, and through ‘BUY A MILE’ we are excited to have the names of everyone that has contributed to buying a mile for our adventure to actually be there in black and white (as well as in spirit) to travel the journey with us. The more miles you buy, the larger/bolder the name

BUY A MILE – Be Part of our Journey

TRUST

We need to put trust in ourselves, in others, in the ocean and in the universe!
We are going to have to trust each other implicitly as basically our lives will depend on it. If we don’t have this trust, within the immediate team, our support team and our followers, the project will not be a successful one.
We trust fully in this incredible yet long, challenging journey we have embarked upon and will learn from all challenges we will face every step of the way.

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Your values are an amazing driving force in life, so don’t forget to recognise and follow them, then allow them to work their magic.

We wish everyone love and S.P.I.R.I.T x

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The journey of life…

Natalia – The journey of life…

Life is all about choice and having the courage to believe in yourself and follow your passions. At least that’s what I think.

I have never wanted normal, easy, and ordinary – My life has been a series of amazing experiences that have shaped me and inspired me. I believe in living, feeling and breathing all my moments and although ultimately I have no idea what this game of life is all about and where my next, let alone final destination will be, I’m going to make sure that I enjoy every step of the journey.

Cape Town

I am fascinated by people, how we respond to our world, the physical and emotional limits we can push ourselves to and most importantly the strength of the human spirit.

We have only one opportunity in this crazy world, so why not live an extraordinary life; learning from each other and giving love and compassion back in return.

Not dwelling on the past, not worrying about the future, but being fully present in the moment whenever possible.

Tanzania Coast line

I believe that the universe presents events in perfect order and that everything happens for a reason (or that every experience is a learning opportunity and there is always a positive to be taken from a situation). This way of thinking has allowed me to feel comfortable with a free-spirited lifestyle in over 50 countries, immersing myself in different cultures and continuously challenging myself by being outside my comfort zone and entering the unknown.

I have been fortunate enough to have lived all over the world. From walking the Camino de Santiago (800 km walk across Northern Spain), leading adventure tours in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America to operational management, teaching, coordinating volunteer projects, monitoring plastic pollution in the Pacific and eco-lodge management in East Africa. In all of my eras, through the people that cross my path, there is always an underlying awe that I feel: people fighting to overcome their personal hardship on a daily basis.

This wonderful will of spirit, this triumph over adversity, particularly prevalent in the destinations that I have explored deeply, never ceases to amaze me.

It is possibly because I’m open to any opportunity that is thrown my way, and interested in unique experiences, that I have been led to this monumental expedition. Although it is like nothing else I have ever done or will most probably ever do again, the Row is certainly another incredible journey or era.

If the opportunity had presented itself at any other point in my life up until now, I almost certainly would not have been interested but some inexplicable desire draws me to it now.
They say timing is everything.

I have always had a love of water. I am a Pisces, an enthusiastic swimmer, find the sight and sound of the ocean deeply meditative and get a great sense of calm and peace when I am near or around water. It’s where I feel at home. I am intrigued how the Row will challenge me and excited to explore the depth and breadth of my own spirit and mind. I want to use the insight gained from the planning, execution and lessons learnt during this experience to inspire and motivate others after it.

Antarctica

This prevailing essence of human spirit is the same whether it’s a woman fighting with breast cancer, an injured servicewoman battling to find a way back into society, a woman struggling in a male dominated business world, communities in the developing world dealing with daily existence or any human stressed by their own personal demons.
We all have our own Pacific Ocean to cross in whatever form that comes.
My hope is for everyone to learn from and allow the magic of the varying journeys and lessons of life that they encounter to make a profound and positive impact on them and most importantly – to believe in the strength of human spirit that connects us all.

We all have the power to write our own story…so let’s make it an amazing one! x

Camino

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48 hour row out of Falmouth

Last Thursday we headed off for our first 48 hour stint aboard Doris. The original plan had been to row out across the channel but the weather was against us and with 50mph winds predicted we took the advice of Tony who will be our land support when we are out on the Pacific, and changed the plan to stay in more sheltered waters. Although we will deal with tougher conditions out in the Pacific we wouldn’t be able to get far enough away from the coast to be safe out there this week.

Doris meets the BBC cameras

We were up early and headed down to Falmouth Haven to pack up Doris with our supplies for the two days. After a final interview with BBC Spotlight we rowed away from the marina with the legendary Guy in a RIB acting as our support boat. We had decided to head out to Pendennis Point to get a taste of some rough water and it was my first experience of rowing Doris in some proper waves. It was great fun battling the elements although very tough to keep her facing into the waves. It was slightly less fun once we swapped over on the oars and Izzy and I ended up in the cabin experiencing some seasickness symptoms. Stay posted for the BBC footage of us out on the water. After a few hours we headed back to the shelter of Falmouth and bid goodbye to Guy ready to spend the following 42 hours bouncing up and down (and up and down) the River Fal. We now know every twist, turn, mudbank and boat on that stretch of water!

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

We rowed 2 hours on, 2 hours off for the full 48 hours meaning that each of us was on the oars for 24 hours, never getting more than about an hour’s sleep at a time. However, we all seemed to manage it pretty well and in the most part it was really enjoyable. A noticeable exception to this was the 3.30am to 5.30am shift which was definitely the toughest. Especially on the first night where Izzy and I ended up battling against the tide for 2 hours, managing to move nowhere and sitting next to a green buoy for the entire shift. Being the intelligent individuals that we are we decided to keep ourselves awake by playing ‘I spy’. In the dark. Whilst not moving!

Izzy enjoying some sunshine

During the 48 hours we experienced, rain, wind, sunshine, lightning and fog, all of which we dealt with in good spirits, staying dry and warm in our Crewsaver outerwear. We also experienced the challenges of changing in and out of many layers of clothes in a very small cabin, cooking in the footwell, sleep deprivation and use of the bucket! Insight was gained into how careful we are going to have to be when trying to fit all of our kit onto our small boat and how important it is for everything to have a place. However the most important thing that we learnt was how well we have bonded as a team. We looked after each other, entertained each other, sang to each other and laughed a lot. So excited for our next adventure!

Nats getting a bit wet on the oars

Huge thanks need to go to Shaun Pascoe, Falmouth Haven, Guy and all of the other supporters who joined us in Falmouth or came over to say hello on the water.  The Cornish welcome was a huge morale booster and I’m sure we’ll be back!

Some well earned pasties from Laura's Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

Some well earned pasties from Laura’s Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

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The team reunites

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Rowing the solent, photo shoots, The Bornmourth Air Show, and the team reunites. We’ve just had a wonderfully productive weekend down in Christchurch.

After our night on Doris (slept like a baby) and expedition food breakfast, Saturday saw Laura, Izzy and I rowing in the most challenging conditions so far. During the 6 hours we were out, we got our first real feeling for how the boat handles, dealing with seasickness, blisters and using the bucket!

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On Sunday morning, Emma returned from her expedition trip in Brazil and it was very exciting to have the team together. We took the opportunity to take some group shots and then had a team debrief and outlined further training weekends and plan of action for the next month.

Keep following…

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A weekend on Doris

This weekend saw us road tripping down to Christchurch to spend a little time on Doris. After a quick stopover in Bath to meet up with Keith (our sports psychologist), we went through some results from a recent psychometric test and grabbed dinner at a great local pub.

A fundamental part of the row is obviously the mental preparation that the team will have to undergo. A portion of this will involve an in-depth analysis of personality traits and how each individual’s character and behavioural patterns will affect not only their reactions to certain situations, but also team dynamics. This is going to be a fascinating process that will affect the row itself as well as getting the boat to the start line. We will cover this in more depth in a later post.

We arrived into Christchurch late and decided to head straight to bed in preparation for the day of rowing ahead. Izzy and Natalia slept head to toe in close quarters in Doris’ aft cabin, and Laura in the fore-cabin.

In the Aft cabin

In the Aft cabin

To simulate a night on the ocean in a storm scenario (minus the movement), we decided to keep all hatches closed and see how much condensation build up there was and humidity and temperature increase.

We were up bright and early, eating our expedition food (freeze dried) and preparing for our row around Christchurch Bay. It was great to get out for a few hours in the windy conditions with the tail end of hurricane Bertha about to blow through, and giving us the chance to work on some of our boat manoeuvres.

Izzy and Natalia on the oars

Izzy and Natalia on the oars

We would have loved to have gotten further out to sea and played around more in rougher conditions but to do that safely on our next outing, we require a support boat to get us well away from the shoreline.

Even though we were back in port earlier than expected, we made use of the remaining time productively by familiarising ourselves more with Doris, sharpening our rope skills and sampling more expedition food. We’re beginning to rate the meals so we can decide which we want to take with us!

We spent another night all cosy inside Doris while the wind howled and rain lashed the outside. Sunday morning saw another sampling of expedition food breakfast before we said farewell to Doris and headed back to London.
A great weekend had by all!

A blustery morning on Doris

A blustery morning on Doris

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Expedition skills

As an Expedition Leader in Schools projects, I am lucky enough to work with some pretty great groups of teenagers. Once they sign up with us, it is my job to guide them through the process of fundraising, planning their trip and helping them to develop as a team. The idea is that once they are out on expedition they lead and manage their team, look out for each other and work together to make a successful trip. Many of the skills they develop is exactly what we replicate as a team in the Coxless Crew.

First there is the getting to know each other stage. Often the students in my teams are in different year groups and friendship groups and have never spoken before. Similarly our Coxless Crew formed from girls who had never met previously but who all share the passion for our charities and a determination to row the Pacific Ocean. With the schools we run team building sessions, regular team meetings and take them on a UK training weekend. For the Coxless Crew we too have weekly meetings, sea survival, medical and electrical courses to name a few, but our team building is based on weekends of army based training in the Brecons with Fieri (http://fieri.biz/) & bonding with our boat as well as the team, with 24/48/72 + constant hours of rowing in the sea. In both cases though the teams have to help each other through the experience and to successfully complete the challenges thrown at them.

Fundraising! This is the biggest challenge facing us in the Coxless Crew with a massive budget required for our expedition. A lot of the students manage to fundraise for their entire trip, however there’s certainly a difference between raising £2,000 to £200,000! When dealing with a larger budget, for the Coxless Crew, our sponsors are a huge part of the expedition. They are what make the expedition happen, they help us to fund that the best of the best people and equipment is in place, to ensure we are as best prepared as possible. By activating this expedition, our sponsors are the people that will enable over £250,000 to be raised for our charities. But with £100,000 still to raise to get us to the startline, we’re still on the look out for more sponsors to come on board, so please contact us if you’re interested!

Planning is up next and for our school expedition teams this involves choosing the areas they want to visit, the types of project work they want to complete and the activities they want to do. Again team work comes into play as they make sure that everyone’s opinions are heard and that they create an itinerary that works to fit everything in. For our Pacific row the planning is on a whole other level that I had never imagined! There is a seemingly endless numbers of things that have to be organised, co-ordinated and planned each week, let alone the logistics of boat, team, food and equipment shipping, across three different continents.

Finally the actual expedition. The difference between the students we send away and the ones who come back is huge. They come back with new friends for life, a new confidence and independence and more often than not plans for their next adventure! I can’t wait for us as a team, to be out on the ocean in our beautiful boat Doris. We will be well prepared for the journey both in terms of physical training, training in the boat and psychologically trained, thanks to our awesome support team but I have no doubt that the experiences that we will share out in the ocean with only each other to rely on, will cement our teamwork and our friendships to a level that nobody else will ever be able to understand! And who knows what plans for the next adventure we might come back with…

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Patricia

Through my work as a Physio,  there are characteristics that I see in a select few that show the true meaning of mental resilience; the depth, determination and belief in their goal which seems to be drawn on when being faced with adversity. What continues to amaze me, is the fight that people have to overcome it.

Over the next few months, I plan to share with you the stories that are particularly close to me and those people that have truly made an impact on who I am today.

PATRICIA, RASHID & YASIN:

I met Rashid a few years ago when I worked in a private sports clinic & his bubbly, positive nature and love of sports and his family, meant that outside of the therapy room we had become friends. He had just got married and him his wife, Patricia, were expecting their first child. Thinking back to how they were then, I wish I could turn back the clock for them.

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After spending a recent evening with Rashid and his son Yasin, it was the first time where he shared with me photos of his wedding day to Patricia, photos of the birth of their son Yasin and the most poignant of all, a video taken with Patricia just 2 days before she died. The overwhelming emotion that I felt isn’t even a scratch on what Rashid is going through and it highlighted to me that their story is one to be shared. This is one of the most heart wrenching stories that I’ve ever experienced and it’s the fact that it’s reality, it’s not a film or a fictional story, but this is a close friend of mines’ real life story.

2 years ago, nearly to the day, Rashid and Patricia couldn’t have been happier, they had reached where most of us dream of, to find true love in a sole mate, in someone that gets you, in someone that you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with. It was 2012 and they had just got married which was a beautiful family affair and was everything they had wished for. On the return from their honeymoon, they found out the exciting news that they were pregnant, and for them if ever ‘perfect’ existed, then now was the time.

However for Trish and Rashid, pure happiness was short lived. Just 3 months later, Patricia got the devastating news that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer and in order to treat it, she would need radical surgery along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy which wouldn’t be suitable for their unborn child. They had a tough decision to make, to save Patricia’s life or their unborn baby. A decision that you can never wish on anyone. However they were given a reprieve of a ’2 week’ window which became to be quite pertinent in a number of situations, but those 2 weeks meant that their little baby boy  Yasin could be delivered by C-section at 28 weeks old, weighing in at a weighty 2 pounds!

patricia & faily

The delivery was the Friday and the following Monday Patricia commenced the arduous journey of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Their days/ weeks/months blurred into one, with Rashids’ days spent morning and night in the ITU with Yasin, then by his wife’s bedside, whilst still being dedicated to stay focussed as a school teacher at work in the day. Whilst he was doing that, Patricia who had just had a C-section, was going through all the chemotherapy and radiotherapy, followed by radical chest surgery. Yet Trish would take herself into ITU, to spend the day with Yasin, wanting to feed/ wash/ change him,  regardless of how weak she may have felt.

However this was the pinnacle reflection point that Rashid kept highlighting to me, both himself, the family and even Patricia herself were amazed at where she got her strength from. Patricia would openly say that she was a ‘girly girl’, loved her heels, her hair being immaculate and presenting herself & would previously have complained about any ache or pain or a small scratch on her knee. But yet during this, something just switched on, everyone around her saw this inner strength that just ignited, to the point where she’d even turned to Rashid to say ‘this isn’t me, I don’t know where this is coming from….’. When faced with the adversity of loosing the love of her life, the newborn gorgeous baby boy that she’d just carried, natural instinct and inner strength told her to fight. The astounding thing with Tricia, is that she did it all with a smile on her face & humour throughout, refusing to ever complain.

Tricia_Yasin

I have only ever loved watching films that have a happy ending, where regardless of what adversity people have faced you wish only the best to come out of it, for them to overcome it and live a happily ever after life, because to me that’s what people like Rashid and Patricia deserve.

However this was one of those cases that fate/ faith whichever you want to believe, had taken that opportunity away from them. After 3 months of treatment, battling against the odds, Patricia was diagnosed with secondaries in her spine. She was given 3 months prognosis to live which was cut short to surviving only a few weeks.

elouahabi family photo

The other night Rashid showed me a video that he took of Patricia by her bed side 2 days before she passed away. It was a video where she could barely open her eyes, she went through giving each member of the family a message, reminiscing of funny anecdotes fluctuating between moments of hallucinations to clear lucid strong messages, expressing her desires of Yasin to be cared for and brought up within their tight family with only memories of joy and happiness.

Whilst I sat trying to control the tears that were rolling down my face, not only did I feel the sadness for Patricia trying to fight for her life, for the life that she’d so desperately wished for and had in her hands for such a short period of time, but I’m sitting here watching it with Rashid. Her husband who is now left to care for their child after loosing the love of his life. To care for a beautiful child Yasin who is a spitting image of his mum, a reminder on a daily basis of her presence.  A man that has all these memories, these pictures and videos that he’s watching knowing how happy they once were and that he will never see or feel that happiness again.

Rash_Yasin1

If there was something we could do to bring Patricia back for Rashid, Yasin and their family, I would do it in a flash, but instead the only way we can help, is by keeping her memory and story alive.

By making this row a success, it gives a platform to share this story and many others that Breast Cancer Care provide the support for. This row is not about us, it is about those women & families that have had to face and fight adversity but don’t get a chance for their voice to be heard.

‘Live and laugh every day, spend time with your family and love your family, live with nothing left un-said or undone, knowing that if today was your last there would be no regrets.’ Patricia Elouahabi

Patricia

 

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