Jonathan is taking part in a Level 3 programme this year – a wilderness canoeing expedition around the Isles of Scilly. Here he shares his journey to date, and how his confidence has been built back up with Climbing Out.
Back in November 2014 at the age of 22 I was diagnosed with cancer. More specifically Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which is a type of blood cancer. This diagnosis came following around 6 months of my health deteriorating quite drastically.
The symptoms started out around 15 months before being diagnosed and were very mild and I just brushed them off as they went away quickly. The months preceding the Big C being confirmed included symptoms such as chest pains, itchy skin, lower back pain, weight loss and fatigue.
There were some days following work, after getting home I would go straight to bed as I couldn’t stay awake any longer. On a couple of these occasions I slept through the night and only woke up thanks to my alarm to go back to work again. This wasn’t normal for a 22 year old. Alongside the fatigue came the drastic weight loss. At the time of my diagnosis I weighed 9 stone. This was 3 stone lighter than I was just 3 months earlier. At its worst I managed to lose a stone in 3 weeks.
The final straw came when I had to take time off due to lower back pain. Following an appointment with my GP, I was sent for an X-ray. Later that evening while waiting for a call to discuss my results I was asked to go straight to hospital and to take an overnight bag.
Even as I walked through the hospital passing all the departments names, I never once realised I was in the Cancer end of the hospital. I was that tired I wasn’t taking anything in, all I wanted was to lie down and go to sleep.
After meeting with the registrar on the ward, she said they had found a lump in my chest on the X-ray, and although she couldn’t say for definite, I knew it was cancer. More tests were needed which led to me staying in hospital for over 2 weeks before my diagnosis was confirmed. Once this was put into black and white, my treatment plan was laid in front of me which consisted of 6 cycles of chemotherapy which would take approximately 6 months to complete.
The “Big C” being confirmed is a huge life changing moment, but it came as a relief. At least then I knew what had been wrong with me for the past year and a bit. I had all but one of the symptoms linked to my cancer across that time period and my consultant was amazed I had managed to keep working a full-time job, especially when my tumour was one the largest they had ever seen. Which I took as a compliment!
The 6 cycles of chemotherapy, although it had a great potential success rate, wasn't without its challenges including hair loss, losing my sense of taste, increased risk of infection and severe fatigue.
At the end of the treatment I achieved a full remission in May 2015 and then was later discharged in 2018. Although treatment had finished the side effects such as fatigue still remained prominent for 2 further years.
It was at this time I was invited to attend a week-long outdoor activity programme with a charity called ‘Climbing Out’ in the Lake District. I was hesitant to go as I was still suffering from tiredness on a daily basis and felt as though I wouldn't be able to enjoy it. I was wrong.
What followed was one of the best weeks I have ever had. On the trip being able to mix with other people that have been in the same position made things far more comfortable, even though these were people you had never met before. We all had an amazing time and had some great laughs. I have made a couple of really great friends off that trip, for which I will be forever grateful.
Climbing Out teaches you how to adapt to different situations and move past them. The motto of “it's not I can’t, it's how can I?” really does hit home of what you are actually capable of doing regardless of limitations because of a traumatic experience.
After attending the week Climbing Out continues to offer opportunities for self development and improvement. Through the help of the charity it gave me the belief and confidence to challenge myself into climbing Mount Snowdon, a 24 mile hike in the peak district as well as the Yorkshire 3 peaks.
This has led me to take on the next challenge of the wilderness canoeing expedition. I want to show other people who have been in a similar situation to myself that they can do something when they put their mind to it. I hope my actions can help push people to make a positive change in their own life and show them that it is possible.