If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same

Running at dawn on a silent Copacabana beach. Land sailing the Pampas of Barreal, at the foot of the Andes mountains. Snowboarding high in the Swiss Alps. Cross country skiing through Norwegian snow fields. Offshore yacht racing on an angry Atlantic Ocean.These experiences defined the first six months of 2010. It’s weird now that I’ve written this down, but the first half of 2010 was pretty good. I’m not sure I really took it all in at the time. Either way, the second half of the year has clouded my memory of how life was. I have spent the second half of the year almost exclusively flat on my back in hospital. Paralysed, blind and broken…

I haven’t written a blog since the 14th of October because I didn’t know what to say. I thought things were getting better. I thought the infections were behind me and I could just get on with rehab.

But as the tide of positivity was rising, I was hit with another infection. And then another. And another. IV drips, fluids, antibiotics, fevers, vomiting and a couple of weeks in bed each time. I had lost three stone and with it the will to go on. It was too exhausting to experience, never mind to write about.

Often I couldn’t even bring myself to explain to my family what was going on. Shortly before I was due for some rehab leave I had a couple of procedures to try and sort out the cause of the repeat infections, which were followed by sudden chest pain. I was diagnosed with a swollen heart lining and blood clots on my lungs. This was subsequently corrected – a misdiagnosis. Oh, and nearly forgot about the painful lump that appeared just under a scar on the back of my head where I fractured my skull in the fall.

The last six months have been truly torturous and until now I have been unable or unwilling to look to the future. I spent twelve years filling my life with experiences that would sweep the blindness to the side. And I know if I don’t do the same with this paralysis then it will dominate me.

It is time to give myself a reason to push on. A dream, a goal and a plan. It took a decade to find something to finally deal with the demons of
blindness. 43 days in Antarctica and a race to the South Pole did it for me that time.

This day two years ago I remember sitting in our tent on the Polar plateau in blizzard conditions. Simone had downloaded a poem onto my iPod: ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. Different lines meant different things to me on the way to the South Pole. Now I am drawing from it again as I look to the future.

I’m not sure what my next South Pole will be to beat my paralysis, but the search has started and a life of sitting in my house with periodic visits from a carer is not an option.

(Go to this link for the poem on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpcNFll5yOM)

If By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!


X (Twitter)