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A man, woman and dog on a hike look out over a hill towards a vast green landscape with mountains and rivers.

Challenges and Contentment

After I was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer in May 2017 and told I may only have 2 years to live, life went into a form of meltdown.

Expecting to die

I fully expected to die the next day and, if not then, it would definitely be next week. I’d cry myself to sleep with horrible thoughts that I wouldn’t get to walk my daughter down the aisle or see my 3-year-old grandson, who I dote on and he on me, become a teenager.

Emerging from the fear

Well here I am 3 years later still stable and not doing too badly. I know that, at the time, it was probably quite normal to have those thoughts. But now I look back and think, "You idiot. You wasted months of your life dying of cancer instead of living with cancer."

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Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t a bed of roses now by any stretch of the imagination. But I am blessed at being able to do nearly everything that I used to be able to do just not as well, as hard, or as fast.

Leaning on exercise

While I’m still relatively fit, I like to keep pushing the boundaries of my strength and endurance. Back on the 1st of May, I decided to see if I could run at least a 5k every day in May. I ended up running 113 miles in the month and hiking hard for 17 miles.

I knew that that wasn’t sustainable long-term. So from the first of June, I decided to either run or hike hard every day. This was normally a tough hike on a Monday, 3 days of running a short distance (usually 1.5 miles), and 3 days of longer runs up to 10 miles. By mid-October, I’d run 519 miles and hiked 189 miles and run or hiked every day, and some days both!

Staying fit with prostate cancer

People think I’m mad! "Why on earth do you do that," they ask?

I’ll tell you why. I firmly believe that staying as fit as I possibly can will extend my prognosis, and it’s as simple as that. I want to live longer!

I’ve wanted to take my wife to the Scottish Highlands for ages, and then covid gave me the opportunity. Our holiday to Spain had to be postponed, so off we went to Scotland, a 6-hour and very tiring drive away.

Giving myself a challenge

This is where the challenge comes in. Could I possibly scale the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis? I’d done it my 40s, and it was brutal. But could I do it now with much reduced muscle mass thanks to hormone therapy, as well as weight gain and fatigue?

Ben Nevis is 4,500 feet high, and the hike up it is 4.5 miles. It's 4,500 feet up and then down again, and over 9 miles in total.

At several points I nearly gave up. It was so tough.

We were blessed with okay weather and got some stunning views at 3,000 feet, and we finally made the summit after 3.5 hours. It took nearly 3 hours to descend, and I was absolutely shattered but totally elated. I’d taken on a massive challenge and proved that I could still do it.

Tony and his wife at the top of the mountain

Feeling content

The following day neither of us could walk properly, although the dog was full of life! We decided we should do a very easy and flat walk along the Caledonian Canal. This is where the contentment comes in. The scenery was stunning in its raw Autumnal beauty.

There was just my wife and I and our dog. We virtually didn’t come across another soul. We heard the birds singing, stags in rut bellowing, saw a huge grey heron, rivers rushing along and oh, yes, sheep (there are lots of sheep in Scotland). I felt a deep air of contentment, a realization that I can live with my lot and still be happy.

Tony's view from the top of the mountain

Keep pushing your limits

What can the reader take from this? My potted summary would be to keep pushing your own limits as much as you can. They may be greater or lesser limits than mine, and that’s fine; we can’t all climb mountains, I know.

Look to find that air of contentment, whether that be by being out in nature or getting a runners high.

Keep on keeping on folk KOKO.

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