Family is always most important

IMG_0342.pngIt has been another productive week!  I must admit I am enjoying the challenge of constantly having things to do and people to go and see.  To put it in context, this time a year ago, when I wasn’t working I wasn’t doing anything really.  It wasn’t good for me in any way and by setting this goal of trying to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK I have found a renewed purpose in a lot of ways.  It sounds strange but I had gotten to the point of work being the highlight of the week because it gave me something to do.  Whilst I still enjoy work on the whole, I now have other things to do out with it and it has meant I have a far better work/life balance in my mind.

As this post goes live I will have just arrived in Madrid to visit my sister for the week who is studying there as part of her degree.  It’ll hopefully be a fairly cheap trip away with the only real expense being the travel there and if I want to do things.  But at the end of the day family is always the most important thing to me.  It is something that I have come to realise in these last few years as mum and others have fought through less than perfect situations.  When you have watched them struggle through these times and come out the other side fighting and remaining positive it  really does give you a whole new perspective on life.  Far too often, we fail appreciate what we have and how easy it can be lost.  Your family are precious and I’d ask you to never forget that.

With the job that I have, I am privy to the fact that the lives of ordinary people can be thrown into turmoil at anytime of any day of the week.  I hold a position where I see people in their darkest hours fighting some of the most difficult sets of circumstances that anyone can face.  But ultimately it is family and a belief that things will get better which sees them through.  I like to find a positive in every situation, regardless of how small it may be.  At the end of the day, a positive is a positive and that allows me to have hope.  Positivity and hope will help you through any bad situation; I can guarantee that.

So, as much as I am getting a cheap holiday to Madrid, ultimately it is really to visit my sister who I haven’t seen for around a month.  I am not entirely sure when I will see her next after I come home to be honest.  She has become a bid of a nomad in recent years and is always on the move.  If I could speak different languages and spend lots of my time abroad in the sun then I probably would as well!  It will be a good week in Madrid I am sure, despite the fact that it looks likely that the weather won’t be all that great whilst I am there.  Although that will mean that I can go running without a guarantee of being tortured by the sun.  We can’t have everything in life though I suppose.

The ‘Evening Telegraph’ ran the story that we did with Cancer Research UK this week and it seems to have had a pretty positive response which me and mum are both extremely thankful for.  If you are new to my page, this blog and what I am trying to achieve – welcome!  It is good to know that  the publicity has helped to bring people on board and we can share our story a little bit further.  My thinking is that if a million people can donate £1 then raising £1 million is actually quite easy!  At least that is how I like to think about it!

I’m feeling good about how my running is progressing.  I am by no mean the fastest runner out there, but I am building up the distance and for me that is a really positive step.  For me, exercise is 20% about what your body feels like it is capable of and 80% about how mentally tough you are.  If your mind stays strong you can achieve far more than you maybe feel like you can.  Over the last year in a lot of ways I let my fitness slip and its something that has genuinely frustrated me.  My fitness certainly wasn’t where it once was.  But, taking on all of these challenges is helping me get back to where I was and hopefully go well beyond that.  That is certainly a goal of mine.  I want to finish this year significantly fitter than how I started it.  But I think that is more than achievable if I stick to all of the various challenges I have organised for this year.  They are forcing me to get out and do exercise where in recent times I would have maybe avoided a training session and become somewhat lazy.  But I have identified a problem and I am working to fix it.  Improving your fitness takes time however and I have to be patient.  If I keep plugging away then I am sure I will get back to where I was!

I had a really positive meeting this week about the possibility of getting to speak to some school assemblies about what I am doing and the mindset that I have for achieving my goals.  I think it is a really good opportunity to spread the word and help get more people on board with this fundraising.  The more people we speak to and spread this message of positivity, the greater our chances of hitting the target are.  I still don’t doubt for one minute however that we will not hit the mark.  I know we will.  Lots of little actions can combine to effect real change in this world.  Donating £1, clicking that like and share button. It’s all it takes to make a difference.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny” – C.S Lewis

Thank you all as always.

J.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

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A busy month ahead

World Cancer Day was on Saturday past (4/2/17) and I spent the day in Edinburgh for the RBS 6 nations match between Scotland and Ireland.  I was quite surprised with how well Scotland performed and I was super happy that they managed to get the win!  The atmosphere inside BT Murrayfield was incredible and it looks set to be a really interesting 6 nations tournament.  Scotland have definitely made significant improvements in a positive direction and as someone who has experienced a huge amount of heartbreak inside that stadium it is good to see the team performing as well as we all know they can!

With it being World Cancer Day I made sure I was wearing my ‘Unity Band’ to show support for those who have had to deal with the disease.  All those who I know that have been effected by the disease were firmly in my thoughts throughout the day.  We are slowly making some progress with the fundraising and starting to manage to get the word out to some more people which is always encouraging.  I am in this for the long haul however and I never thought that the money would be raised overnight.  It is taking time just as I thought but progress is progress and we are definitely moving in the right direction towards achieving this goal.  Folk still say I am crazy but I am getting pretty used to that now!  However;

“The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones that do”

Last Sunday was Superbowl 51 between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons and I am sure to a lot of you that doesn’t mean much.  But for me it was a pretty big deal.  I have been a New England Patriots fan for my entire life and for them to be in the Superbowl was pretty exciting.  You may have heard about it in the news, but I really couldn’t quite believe the outcome of the game never mind how it played out.  If I am totally honest I gave up when the Atlanta Falcons went 28-3 up.  I genuinely couldn’t see how my team could get back into the game and avoid a complete whitewash.  Having now watched the entire match after discovering the somewhat remarkable result in the morning I am confident it has to be one of the greatest comebacks in all of sport.  New England won the game in overtime having tied the game up at 28-28 with under a minute left on the clock.  It showed the importance of never giving up on a goal or dream even when everything seems against you.  New England never gave up despite being so far behind and engineered the most amazing 4th quarter I have ever seen.  I can understand all of this will mean absolutely nothing if you don’t follow American Football, but I would recommend that you watch the highlights at the very least.  It really was an extremely special display of the sport.

I have been looking at my calendar and I have realised that the next month or so is going to be extremely busy indeed.  We are heading into the final stretch before the Inverness Half Marathon now and I now know that their will be 2 of my colleagues running with me.  Next Friday (the 17th) I fly out to Madrid for a week to see my sister (taking full advantage of free accommodation!), the day after I get back I have an ISAR training day and then the day after is the next 6 nations match at BT Murrayfield betweens Scotland and Wales.  I think that could be an absolute cracker of a game!    The day after that I will be back to work again, 2 weeks before Inverness.  Hopefully I will be able to see a lot of Madrid since I am going to have to keep running while I am there, it should be a good way to explore the city!  I generally have a fairly good sense of direction so I will hopefully not get lost.  If all else fails I have a sister who speaks fluent Spanish so I should never really get into too many problems.  Albeit her sense of direction is virtually non existent!  I’ll stick to the map and she can translate for me – I think that’s quite a good deal in my opinion.

I have noticed that the speed of my typing has increased since I started writing this blog, although I guess practice makes perfect.  I never considered myself to be an overly slow typer but I am confident that I have improved at it.  Mainly the fact that I can now touch type which helps speed up the process.  I still spend a good while each week on this blog but that is mainly due to thinking about what I will write about.  The physical production of it takes a lot less time now than it did when I first started writing these a whole 4 months ago.

In a lot of ways I really can’t believe that a whole four months have past since I decided to start writing this blog.  The time really has flown by however I have enjoyed every minute of it so far.  At the time I really did need a new challenge in my life and this is living up to the expectation I had of it.  In all honesty if I had set a ‘normal’ target then I probably would have already hit it.  Trying to raise £1 million brings with it its own unique set of challenges and I am discovering them one by one as I go.  But that is what I really wanted; a challenge, so I am by no means complaining.

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.  Hard work is the price we must pay for success.  I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price” – Vince Lombardi

Thank you all as ever, the support really is fantastic!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

J.

I’m going to Africa!

After what seems like an extremely long wait I have finally been allocated my holidays for the rest of the year.  We are transferring to a new shift system at work in April and our holidays are linked to the watch that we are assigned to.  Until we knew our shift postings we didn’t know when our holidays would land post April.  I am remaining on the watch which I am currently assigned too as are some of my colleagues.  However, some of my colleagues and good friends are moving watches which is a shame, but it is just the way things go at work.  They are all remaining at the station though and I will seem them about the place.

What does this mean then?  Well now that I know all of my leave periods for the rest of the year I have been able to make some progress with the planning of my challenges.  Kilimanjaro is booked and I will be travelling to Tanzania on September the 16th with ‘Jagged Globe’ to take on Africas highest peak.  Jagged Globe are a British company based in Sheffield who regularly lead expeditions and climbs all over the world to some of the most sought after and dangerous mountain summits on earth.  Fundamentally, they really know what they are doing and have the experience that I lack for tackling high altitude summits.  It will be a 10 day trip returning on the 25th of September.  It certainly makes it a little more real!  I am sure you know the feel of having an ambition but it seeming like you will never get the chance to fulfil it.  For me, Kilimanjaro was just that, it is something that I have wanted to do for a while now but I didn’t think that I would ever get the opportunity.  To know that I now have  a place on a trip and I will be going there this year has got me excited.

It looks ever more likely that the ‘North Coast 500’ will take place in early July and the rest of the planning for this trip should be completed in the next few weeks to a month I hope.  So some important planning needs to be done in the coming month or two and by then we will be seriously underway with my challenges.

I think I have a few companions from work possibly running the Inverness Half Marathon with me which will be a good support.  I reckon we will head up to Inverness on the 11th and stay over with the event at mid day on the 12th.  The support that I have had from everyone has been absolutely amazing and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.  I think I mentioned in a previous blog that the promotion of my challenge was going to be one of the most difficult aspects of what it is I am trying to do.  It most definitely is but I think that we are making the move in the right direction and I have now got an established relationship with a number of people at Cancer Research UK and they have been unbelievably supportive of everything that I am trying to achieve.  I am remaining positive however and I know that we will get there in time.

I have really gotten into the routine of writing this blog now.  This is my fifteenth entry and next week will mark four months since I started writing my weekly entries.  I can’t quite believe that so much time has past since I decided that I would start writing.  All through my life writing a piece of content regardless of what it was for was always a struggle for me.  English and writing just wasn’t something that my brain liked or found easy.  In many ways it still doesn’t!  But unlike normal I am enjoying the challenge of writing this blog and thinking of what content I can produce for the week.  I look forward to the weekly challenge now, I just hope that you find it in some way interesting!

I am a great believer in the need to challenge yourself and do things that are out with your comfort zone.  The problem I often find it is that my comfort zone is generally extremely small.  Once I am familiar with something then there is never really an issue but up until then I find most situations quite stressful.  I just know that if I am going to improve or enjoy an experience that I need to get on with it.  I would suggest that the phrase “quiet until you get to know me” almost certainly applies to me.  On the whole I just keep things to myself, but I really like the fact that this blog gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts and tell you a little bit about who I really am I guess.

Whilst the roads have been extremely icy I have been getting some more time in on my turbo trainer as well as attending spinning classes at the gym.  For me spinning is the perfect exercise, cycling with good music.  It’s hard going though and I always know I’ve worked pretty hard when I leave.  My legs usually feel pretty hollow when I jump off the bike but I guess that means the training is working!  Building up my running distances is also on the agenda for the coming weeks in the build up to the Inverness Half Marathon.

This coming Saturday is World Cancer Day and I will be sporting my ‘Unity Bands’ at the RBS 6 nations game between Scotland and Ireland.  Rugby has always been one of the main sports I have been a fan of along with American football and cycling.  My dad played rugby when he was younger and it was the sport which he always followed so I guess I just followed in his footsteps.  Football was rarely on the TV in our house and therefore I never began following any of the local teams.  I suppose I am slightly biased but I have always maintained that rugby is a better sport than football.  I know that is maybe a slightly controversial statement and I know that football has a much bigger following across the world.  But, for me, rugby is a sport which has a very powerful set of values at its core and is a sport that promotes respect, discipline and sportsmanship.  Unfortunately a lot of people these days don’t seem to be able to respect one and other and it really does frustrate me.  At a rugby match there is never any trouble and fans from both teams sit side by side with the ability to have a great laugh and enjoy the game in each others company.  If you have never been to an international rugby match I would highly recommend it!  I must apologise, I have gotten sidetracked again…  But on World Cancer Day I will be thinking of everyone I know who has been affected by cancer while I am enjoying the rugby at BT Murrayfield and hopefully Scotland comes away with an upset victory over Ireland.

“If you really want to do something, You’ll find a way.  If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse” – Jim Rohn

Thank you as always and I hope you have a fantastic week.

J.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

Keeping an open mind

“If you don’t go through life with an open mind, you will find a lot of closed doors” –

Mark W. Perrett

This week I most definitely learned the importance of maintaining an open mind.  On Saturday past I took part in a ‘photoshoot’ with my mum and two of my colleagues for Cancer Research UK.  The photos were taken to accompany a piece for the media about World Cancer Day on the 4th of February and it also gave some coverage for the fundraising which I am doing.  If I am totally honest the word ‘photoshoot’ intimidates me a little.  I’m not entirely sure why but I am not exactly the most photogenic person on this earth.  I agreed to take part though and I am glad that I did.  It was a very enjoyable experience and I felt a lot more comfortable than I thought I would.  We also did a little interview I guess which was something I have never done before.  It took me a bit to relax and try and forget there was a camera focusing on me, but after that it was fine.

I would suggest that not too long ago I would have refused to do things like this, but I guess that is one of the hidden positives of doing this fundraising; I am exposing myself to new experiences that I would likely have turned down in the past.  I guess it is good to keep an open mind!  I can’t think of a single negative thing during the first part of this journey towards trying to raise £1 million.

The one thing that can be difficult from time to time is convincing people that it is possible.  The vast majority of people are pretty surprised when I tell them exactly what it is I am trying to do.  I understand why, setting big targets like I have done isn’t exactly a common thing to do and people are often sceptical that my target can be reached.  What I always try and do though is encourage them to keep an open mind.  If you don’t attempt something then you will never know whether it is possible.  I know that raising £1 million is possible, I often struggle to give a quantitive time when people ask me because I genuinely don’t know.  But I know that with the help of others and through lots of little donations then the target is more than possible.

The ability to keep an open mind can be extremely useful in virtually every situation.  I guess it isn’t alway possible but I find it often vastly reduces the stress that I am feeling at any given time.  Things usually work themselves out and by keeping an open mind we remain positive of a successful outcome.  When my mum was first diagnosed with cancer I think it helped me more than anything else.  I couldn’t treat her, I suppose I never really knew the true intricacies of the treatments that she was having.  But what I did know was that the doctors and nurses were doing everything within their power to try and make her better.  Keeping an open mind gave me the ability to reduce the amount of anxiety that the diagnosis had given us all.  Mum kept an open mind too and rather than being upset at the prospect of loosing her hair she used it as an opportunity to try out a variety of different hair styles as her hair slowly came out; which we all found quite amusing and helped relieve a bit of stress for us all!

Last year when mum was diagnosed for the second time it was a shock.  No one was expecting the news that we were given and at first we were of course upset about the diagnosis.  But when we looked at the situation that we were in as a family it became apparent quickly that it was a far more manageable set of circumstance than the first time round.  I have found through experience that failure to maintain an open mind makes difficult situations harder to deal with.  I am not claiming that an open mind will cure every bad situation, but the positivity will help you deal with the process of working through it.  At least it certainly does for me.

This week is a busy one, writing this blog, spinning classes, running and the gym.  Along with this I have work and a training day with the International Search and Rescue team which is always good.  My team’s rota group goes back on call on the 1st of February so we will be on call for 4 months to respond to disasters around the world.  There’s two rota groups made up of teams from 15 fire services around the UK as well as engineers, doctors and vets who work a 4 month on/4 month off rota.  I hope that makes sense!  It wasn’t all that long ago that when I wasn’t at work I was literally doing nothing and I am glad that I am keeping busy and enjoying myself a bit more!  My consumption of pointless tv has gone down and I think that is certainly for the better.  I only watch the ‘good stuff’ now and I am feeling better for it.  My consumption of Youtube (not prank videos) has gone up a bit I suppose but I find the content far more interesting and worth while.  For me it’s far more creative and that gets me thinking which is always good!  If you don’t know what I am on about check out some of these people: Casey Neistat, Mr Ben Brown, Jon Olsson, Sawyer Hartman and Sara Dietschy.  I find them all interesting at least!

This week I launched a twitter account for my fundraising and you can find me ‘@jdcancermission’  – there wasn’t enough characters to put the ‘e’ in as well… But if your on twitter check it out, *DISCLAIMER* – I am by no means a twitter pro!  I will get there eventually but at the minute retweeting is my thing!  Hopefully twitter will give a more instant up to date version of what I am doing and when.  I just need to suss it all out first.

“Everything will be okay in the end.  If it’s not okay, it’s not the end” – John Lennon

Remember donating is both quick and easy just follow the link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

Thank you all as always,

J.

Back to work

This week I went back to work after 12 days off.  I must admit that the first day back after being on annual leave is always difficult to get up for.  It generally means getting up at 0630 ish and I am not by any means a morning person.  I don’t think I really ever have been and I reckon it usually takes me a good hour to wake up properly.  It’s especially hard when the sun doesn’t rise until later which only compounds my problem of getting out of bed!

Winter is a season that I do generally enjoy however and in the past year I tried to make an effort to try and learn how to ski.  Whilst I am still very much a beginner I can actually turn and stop which for me is quite an achievement.  Skiing is something that I would like to get better at and I would like to get back out on the slopes sometime soon this winter.  I took lessons at the Snowfactor at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow which seemed reasonably priced and it gives you the chance to learn indoors on real snow.  I took the 4 hour fast track lesson which covers most of the basics and by the end of the 4 hours we were introduced to the main slope.  I definitely need a lot more practice if I am going to improve at all so a trip to one of the Scottish ski resorts or back to Snowfactor has to be worked into the coming weeks and months!  I am keen to go ice climbing again too.  I went ice climbing in Kinlochleven (a town near Glen Coe) a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it.  I suppose its a somewhat strange sport to get into but the centre in Kinlochleven  is fantastic and there is also an ice wall at Snowfactor.  They are fairly accessible and I didn’t think that it was overly expensive!  Anyway, I have gotten sidetracked!

Having spent some more time looking at the North Coast 500 route I think I may make a trip up north at some point before the actual trip to get some scouting in on the roads.  I am really keen to get up there and cycle the pass over to Applecross which will be without a doubt one of the hardest climbs I have ever tackled on my bike.  Given that during the North Coast 500 I will be taking on that climb after around 100KM on the bike I reckon it is probably sensible to head up do some training on the roads on that area and take on the climb itself.  I think that will allow me to judge where my fitness is at and allow me to make any adjustments in my training plan that I need to.  My preparation for all of my different challenges is going to be really important especially the ability to recover quickly and tackle multiple long days of exertion.  The date for the North Coast 500 isn’t definite but I am aiming to ride it around the 8th of July.  My holidays for April and beyond should be released by the end of this month or early February at the latest and as soon as I have them I will be confirming everything in my diary.  I am really looking forward to being able to firm everything up and share it all with you.  It feels like a while since I decided to start this challenge and I told you all that I was just waiting on my holidays!  Unfortunately I am still waiting but it shouldn’t be too much longer now!  As the saying goes – ‘Good things come to those who wait’.  I really hope that this is true!

I am sure that you can all sympathise with the back to work blues and I do definitely experience them if I am honest.  But on the flip side, I am lucky to have a job that on the whole I enjoy and which has given me a number of fantastic opportunities.  They have been incredibly supportive from the minute that I told them about my plans and I am always extremely thankful for that!  This coming Saturday I am going to be doing a bit of work with Cancer Research UK as part of a press release for World Cancer Day on the 4th of February.  The day is billed as a ‘photoshoot’ but I just keep telling myself it’s for a few photos!  If you have ever met me you will know that I am by no means a model!  But I am keen to be involved and if it helps promote World Cancer Day and gets some more people on board and willing to support my challenge then I am all for it.

With World Cancer Day now fast approaching I would ask that you help support Cancer Research UK in one incredible ‘Act of Unity’ by purchasing and wearing a ‘Unity Band’ in support of those who have suffered and those are currently suffering from cancer.  The recommended donation is £2 albeit you can donate more if you would like (The pictures below shows what they look like!).    The more people get on board and help discuss cancer and it the need for continuing research and funding will hopefully bring forward that the day that we make all cancers curable.

Taking on the 3 peaks challenge is also going to form part of my summer.  Planning is in its very earliest stages but it is something that I definitely want to complete.  I think I might be able to convince some others to come along with me so we will maybe have a small team to attempt this challenge.  I reckon summer is the best time to go for it though using the longer days and nicer weather to our advantage.  Saying that, there is every chance that it could rain through an entire attempt during the summer, we’ll just have to take it as it comes.

Have a look out for the press release in the coming week with Cancer Research UK, hopefully it will help boost the reach of my challenge and help raise more vital money for this charity.

“Where there is unity there is always victory” – Publius Syrus

J.

Creating memories

phone-photos-762There are so many opportunities to create memories as we go about our everyday lives.  I have a huge number of fantastic memories from when I was growing up and I had the chance to travel to some amazing places and meet some incredible people.  What I have discovered recently is that I am terrible at documenting these adventures that I have embarked on.  As much as I can remember the experiences I have had, I don’t have photos or videos of these times.  I think I mentioned it in a previous blog post but as I start to get my challenges underway it is something that I really want to make an effort to do.  This is an amazing journey towards raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK and I really want to be able to look back at it and remember it all.

With the Inverness Half Marathon not too far off now I am looking to start making a vlog.  If you have never heard of a vlog it is short for ‘videoblog’.  I know that I write this blog once a week and there are a number of people who read it, but I know that not everyone enjoys reading and also that a picture can paint a thousand words.  So in making a vlog I will be able to physically take you along on this journey towards raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK.  It’s something that I have been putting some thought into for a while now and something that I am really keen to try and suss out.  I have absolutely no background in film or media and to produce a vlog will be a completely new challenge for me.  However, I think I have taken a lot on now so I probably need to stop giving myself new challenges for a little while and work towards the ones that I currently have set!  A vlog will give you far more insight into who I am, the things I get up to and allow you to follow my challenge in much more depth.

I am quite happy with how my blog is progressing though.  For someone who failed his higher english at the first attempt and scraped a C the second time round I am pretty pleased with the amount of content that I have been able to make.  I hope that you are enjoying reading it and understand how I am thinking about this whole thing.  English was never a great subject for me; I was always far better at physics and music – a strange combination I know!

I have received an invitation to attend an interactive day at Cancer Research UKs Beatson institute in Bearsden, Glasgow in April and I am already looking forward to it.  The day will give me the opportunity to see the impact of fundraising on research and meet others who are supporting Cancer Research UK with fundraising.

I am generally a quiet person and I just keep myself to myself.  This challenge is forcing me to get out and about, to speak to lots of different people and engage with people in a way that I don’t think I have ever done before.  I enjoy giving talks to large groups of people and trying to pass on advice and share my experiences with others.  I am lucky that I get to do this through my work.  This is something I would like to start doing more with my challenges in mind as a way of speaking about the things that me and my family have been through, how we dealt with them and why I am trying to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK.  If there is a group that you think would like to hear about my challenges and how I approach my day to day life then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, while I am generally a quiet person I really enjoy speaking to people about my challenge and the things that I am getting up to.

With the weather here in Scotland now heading into deep winter I have set up one of my road bikes on my turbo trainer (a device that allows you to cycle on your bike while staying stationary) so that I can maintain my training on the bike whilst the weather is at its worst.  I always prefer to take the bike out on the open road, but from experience, cycling when the weather is really bad just isn’t worth it.  You end up spending the entire ride worrying about the bike going from underneath you on ice and when you are clipped into the pedals that never ends well!  With so much planned for this year the last thing I want is to get injured while training.

You may have noticed that I slightly rebranded my blog and have began using a logo that I designed in order to give my challenge a bit of identity.  It’s fairly simple but took me forever to make!  I am not particularly savvy at design – I’d love to be able to draw but I guess you can either be good at music or art, and I was good at music… At least that is what I am going to put it down to!  I hope you like it and as always if you have any suggestions of things to do or ways to improve it don’t hesitate to get in touch – positive criticism is always welcome.

This blog is helping me create memories though.  I have never kept any sort of diary before and while this doesn’t document every day of my life I think it captures the things that I am thinking from week to week and will be good to look back upon further down the line.  Whilst I think there are lots of opportunities for me to get better at documenting my memories, I think this is a pretty good start and I really hope that you all enjoy it and take a little something from the words that I write each and every week.  The support I have had has been nothing short of amazing and everyone who I meet has so many kind words to say.  I truly can’t thank you all enough for all that you have done to help me so far!

I think this entire experience is going to be one amazing memory!

“Ambition is the path to success.  Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in” – Bill Bradley

J.

Finding inspiration in others

img_0740“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

I am in need of your help.  Approximately four months ago I made the decision that I was going to try and raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK and it is a decision that I am extremely glad I made.  I have taken time to evaluate my objections and set goals to help me on my way towards the £1 million mark.  But we are now truly underway and have approximately 9 weeks until I run in the Inverness Half Marathon, the first significant event on my list of goals and objectives along the way.

https://www.facebook.com/jedscancermission/

I want to do my utmost and very best to help Cancer Research UK work towards improving the chances of survival for cancer patients and help maintain the rapid advancements in treatment and care for those who suffer from this disease.  I just need two minutes of your time to like and share my page and help spread the word.  The more people that we get on board and spread the word the better chance we have of helping to raise all of this money.  As a result we have the opportunity to make a really significant difference in helping Cancer Research UK.  If you can spare £1 then I’d be more than grateful and I know that Cancer Research UK are extremely thankful for every pound that is donated to them to help advance their research.

Cancer Research UK is a very big charity and they do receive a lot of donations; however we have to remember that the research into cancer is unbelievably expensive and they really do need every penny they can get to help fight this battle.  I can say first hand that their research has saved the lives of a number of my family members and the lives of a great number of friends as well.  I don’t think there is anything more cruel than becoming ill and having the ability to go about your everyday life taken away from you.  We all know that our time here is limited and cancer can take that away from people who are only just getting started with their lives.

I take a huge amount of inspiration from Stephen Sutton, a teenager who you might remember from ‘Stephens’ Story’ which followed him as he battled with terminal cancer.  Unfortunately Stephen lost his battle with cancer in 2014, but before he did he made a massive impact upon improving the way that people perceive cancer and how they go about their everyday lives.  There are a number of speeches that Stephen gave during his battle with cancer which I watch regularly and I would urge you to watch them on Youtube if you can.  Stephen often spoke of the true value of the number 86400.  If someone gifted you £86400 at midnight every night and told you that you had 24 hours to spend it before you were given another £86400, you would more than likely find a way to spend it.  What so many of us don’t realise is that we are gifted 86400 seconds every day to meet new people, appreciate those around us, to enjoy new experiences and appreciate the lives that we are given.  So many of us fail to spend the vast majority of those seconds that we are given and waste them away.

Stephen had a huge impact on me, at the time my mum was fighting with breast cancer and Stephen always had the ability to make you positive about the situations that life deals you.  I truly wish that I had had the opportunity to meet him and thank him for giving me an improved outlook on my life and a better appreciation for everyone around me.  I nominated Stephen along with many others for a ‘Pride of Britain’ award in recognition of everything that he did during his short but full life and was extremely happy when I heard that he was to receive one.  I just wish that he had been able to receive the award which was presented to his mum in his memory.

I doubt that I will ever be able to achieve in the way that Stephen did, but almost three years on from his death he is always in my thoughts as I set out to try and help finance new research into the disease that claimed his life.

“From someone who wants more time in this world, please don’t waste yours, you’d be amazed what you can achieve when you try” – Stephen Sutton

As well as trying to fit in my runs as I build up to the Inverness Half Marathon in March, I am going to be getting on the bike just about everyday in order to start putting the miles into my legs ahead of riding the North Coast 500 and then from John O’Groats to Lands End.  Ideally I’d prefer to get out on the road but for days when I am working and it will be dark before I am home I have a turbo trainer that I can use to keep logging time on the bike.  I think I may have a companion for the North Coast 500 in the form of a colleague whom I have worked with for almost the last 5 years and who works on the International Search and Rescue team with me.  I think it’s going to help a lot having Steve riding with me; I always find it easier to dig a little deeper when I am riding with someone else!  The offer to join me on any of my trips or outings is always there and if you fancy giving something a try and raising some money for Cancer Research UK I’d be more than happy to have you join me!

As I said at the start of this weeks piece, if you could spare me two minutes of your time to help promote what I am doing I would massively appreciate it!

Many thanks as always.

J.

Getting Started

Christmas has passed and I hope that you all had a great day!  Thankfully work was quiet and I had my meal with my family when I got in from work.  As always I received so many fantastic gifts and despite having to work it was a really good Christmas.  Hogmanay is this Saturday but I don’t think I will be up to too much due to being back at work on the 1st.  To me, Sunday the 1st is the true start.  As much as we have talked about doing this and setting out a bit of a plan, the start of the new year to me marks the beginning properly.

Getting started is often one of the hardest things to do.  Talking about doing something is pretty easy, but committing to it and putting it in motion is the complete opposite.  I’ve spent a couple if months looking into things, picking out the events that I would like to take part in and speaking to people about what I would like to do.  Now we have to get going and for me the New Year signals the crossing of that start line.  While there is an enormous mountain laid before us to climb, it can be climbed and we will hit that target of £1 million.  I know we will.

The 4th of February every year is World Cancer Day and if you can help me promote what I am doing and the incredible work that Cancer Research UK do I would be extremely grateful.  Cancer Research UK run a campaign of wearing a ‘unity band’ on the 4th and I will be taking part this year.  They have also asked if myself and mum would be happy to be part of an article talking about what mum has been through and what it is I am trying to do.  Hopefully that will help earn my challenge a bit more support.  I feel that I am continually asking the same people to support me and I know that so many of you have already donated very generously to what I am doing.  I’d really like to try and grow the support in the early part of the year and encourage more people to donate a little to Cancer Research UK.

I can’t remember if I had mentioned in a previous blog post about the possibility of going to visit one of the experimental cancer research facilities in Edinburgh, in order to better understand what the money is actually used for and to gain an understanding of the kinds of research that are being done into cancer.  I am really keen to do this and meet the people who are doing this amazing research and saving so many lives.  I have no idea when that will be but it is something I would like to try and fit in.

I have been speaking with my dad about him supporting my cycling ventures, I know for sure that the last thing I will want to do after cycling 100 miles on my bike will be standing cleaning and servicing it.  My dad works as teacher and I will need to try and plan these trips during his holiday periods.  But that shouldn’t be too hard I don’t think, it might mean that I have to swap a couple shifts at work but we will get that organised.  The North Coast 500 will probably be the first cycling trip of the year and I reckon will likely be around late spring.  I have spent this week doing a bit more planning for this trip and realised that google lied to me a bit.  It told me that the second day of the trip (Applecross to Ullapool) would be around 85 miles or 136 KM in length, it is, but to follow the North Coast 500 route you must travel via Gairloch (a town my dad used to teach in actually!) which adds quite a bit of distance and climbing to the day.  Day 2 of this trip will actually be 117 miles or 187 KM in length.  I think this is probably going to be the hardest day of what I am hoping will be a 5 day trip.  This will come the day after a particularly hard climb on the road over to Applecross.  But it is what needs doing so we will get it done I am sure!  I have put the routes for days one and two below along with the elevation charts so you can see what the route looks like if you weren’t sure.  I think this trip will definetly serve as pretty good training for John O’Groats to Lands End and I think it will also do my legs good for climbing Kilimanjaro.

day-1-north-coast-500-pic

Day 2 North Coast 500 - pic.png

I’ve got a trip to Kilimanjaro picked out so booking that is going to be a priority in the coming weeks.  It is my intention to get back out on the hills soon, it has been a manic few weeks with lots on and I am conscious that I haven’t managed to get out on the hills as much as I would have liked.  The other thing which is now an added issue is that the Scottish winter has arrived and the weather on the hills is far more volatile than usual.  I’d therefore ideally only head into the mountains with a climbing partner, purely for safety and I hope you all appreciate that.  As much as I want to raise all this money and complete as many challenges as I physically can I’d rather not kill myself in the process!  The mountains in Scotland are often a far more dangerous place than people give them credit for and unfortunately deaths are reported every year which are caused by a number of different factors.  I love climbing in Scotland in the winter and I reckon we probably we have some of the most pristine mountains in the world, but I don’t love it enough to take massive risks.

“There’s a way to do it better – find it” – Thomas A. Edison

Its just about time to start off the new year and get going proper, I am really looking forward to it all now.  I hope all have an enjoyable Hogmanay and get a good start to the New Year.  Thank you all for your support, it is hugely appreciated as always!

J.

It’s Christmas!

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Christmas is almost upon us and hopefully you are all enjoying some time with family and friends!  My sister is now home from France, the first time I’ve seen her for about four months now.  Unfortunately this year I am working right through Christmas but that’s just the way it is at my work, sometimes you land lucky with shifts and get it all off, other times you work a bit of it and then there’s other times when you seem to work right through.  So when you’re tucking into your Christmas dinner and opening your presents from Santa please spare a thought for all the people who are at their work and not with their families.  I’ll get my Christmas dinner when I get in from work sometime after six o’clock.  Hopefully it’s a quiet shift and everyone has a quiet, safe Christmas.

For me this year Christmas will probably end up just being another day but it means I’ll be able to try and keep my training on track, I’ll maybe ease off a little and give myself a small break though.  It’s at this time of the year that I realise more than ever just how thankful I am to still have so many of my family and friends still around because of the research that has gone into cancer.  I do sometimes feel like I repeat myself on this subject or harp on about it, but the more I think about it and the more I look into the subject the more I am understanding about how true it is.  Around 40 years ago if you were given a cancer diagnosis it often meant only one thing.  There was only a 1 in 4 chance that you would survive.  Now though, survival rates have been doubled and that is down to research.  With Cancer Research UKs vision to improve them by half again we are edging closer and closer to the day when all cancers will be beatable and I really hope that I am around to see that day.

With two members of my family still battling with cancer my thoughts will definitely be with them through the holidays as they continue to fight with the disease.  I know I keep saying that my family has had ‘a number’ of battles with cancer through the years but to put a number to it is 8.  8 times that my family has fought with cancer.  For me it is 8 times too many.  But there is only one way that we will be able to put a stop to it and that is through research.  It wasn’t until my mum was diagnosed for the second time this year that we realised just how many times cancer had appeared in the family.  Up until then I never had a true appreciation of how widespread it had been.

For me personally, 2016 was going to be a fresh start and a year of opportunity and experience.  I have had that I think however once again cancer came back into my life and gave the year a slight negative undertone.  I have travelled a fair amount in 2016 and had one of the most brilliant weeks in Spain with friends.  I made the decision to start up this fundraising and to re-evaluate my goals and ambitions.  It has been a year of reflection for me and I am excited about what this next year will bring – hopefully no cancer!  But what I am sure of is that I am planning possibly one of the busiest years of my life and it will be like no other year I have ever had.  I am hoping to do a tonne of travelling for my fundraising and will be able to achieve lots of my ambitions along the way.  I think I’ve said it before, but raising money for charity is totally underrated!  It gives you so many opportunities and in my case is forcing me to go out and organise and and complete things when I’m not working.  It has done me the world of good already and there is still such a long way to go!

One thing that I have noticed recently is that my photo archive is pretty poor.  I seem to take hardly any pictures when I am doing things and I need to change that for documenting this entire challenge.  That has got to be a new years resolution for me – take more photos and document my experiences better.  I’ll see how I get on!  I’m off to Madrid for a week in February so hopefully I’ll manage to get some good photos while I’m there.

Hopefully 2016 has been a good year for you all and I hope that you enjoy the holiday season and enjoy the time with your family and friends.  We’ve got to remember how lucky we are to have them around us, supporting us and sharing our lives with.  I know more than ever right now how lucky I have been and I know that things this year could have taken a very different path and I could have lost more of my family.  We didn’t though so I am considering 2016 to be a somewhat small success.

I keep getting asked when I am aiming to hit my target of raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK.  To be honest it is a bit of an open ended schedule just now.  I am planning many things for 2017 but if I need more time I will look at that as the year goes on.  I’d love to get to the end of next year knowing that I had hit my target and raised the money.  A lot of people have told me that raising it all next year will be virtually impossible.  It won’t be easy, I completely agree with that, but what I keep trying to tell people is that nothing is impossible.  I just need to captivate the imagination of the public, to get them on board and gain their support.  There are some 60 million people in the UK, so I only need one sixtieth of the population to donate £1 and we will get there.  I think that is very much possible.  If I don’t manage to hit the £1 million mark next year then it won’t be a failure because I am sure we will have come a long way towards achieving this goal.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible” – Tony Robbins

Thank you all again for your support and I hope you have a great Christmas with your family and friends.

J.

 

Work.

Work is a funny thing.  It is something almost all of us will do for the largest part of our lives.  But some of us live to work and others work to live.  In the fast paced world that we now live in, work defines who we are.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have gained full time employment at the age of 18 and had the ability to earn my own money and to enjoy it how I see fit.  My move from university to a uniformed  service forced me to grow up and learn new things.  From the start I always felt that I had the attributes to be there and do the job but I have to admit, it did force me to learn how to iron properly!

I enjoy work on the whole.  At my work, no two days are ever the same and that keeps it interesting.  When I start a day or a nightshift quite literally anything could happen.  I have served with the fire service for almost 5 years now and I have been to plenty of strange incidents I can assure you.  If you can think of it, its probably happened somewhere!  I think there is a common misconception about what we do.  A huge number of people don’t realise the vast array of skills and specialisms a modern firefighter now has.  We aren’t as busy as we used to be, but that is thanks to the hard work that firefighters have put in to stop traumatic incidents occurring.

I would suggest that shifts tend to know each other better than the average colleagues ever do.  We are in each others company for around 50 hours a week so watches almost become secondary families and the station becomes a secondary home where we cook for each other, clean and train together.  I guess that’s part of what makes the fire service unique and sometimes hard to understand for people who don’t work there.  For me you should never live to work, you can still enjoy what you do, but I have been faced with the fact that life can be all too short.  There is an amazing world out there with so many incredible experiences waiting to be had.  Living purely for  work is a very narrow life.

What a lot of people don’t realise about firefighting is that it puts you at a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer because of the work we do.  The extreme heat you are subjected to affects your body, it thickens your blood and can cause significant dehydration.  Modern synthetic manufacturing materials contain carcinogens which are released in smoke when they burn.  Follow this link if you would to know more:

‘The Atlantic: How Modern Furniture Endangers Firefighters’

My family has been affected a number of times over the years, indeed the disease has been widespread in a number of different forms, which I would suggest raise the chances of me developing this disease.  When you also take into account my line of work I suppose my chances of developing cancer are fairly high.  But, I don’t spend every minute of every day worrying that I am going to get it.  I understand that risk is there and I should take the appropriate measures to try and lower that risk where I can.

Unfortunately though that risk is there for all of us.  No one is immune from developing cancer and that is why research is so important.  It’s why I believe in it so much.  It’s why I decided to try and raise £1 million.  Researching cancer, understanding it and developing new drugs takes time and a lot of money.  In the last 40 years research into cancer has doubled survival rates and Cancer Research UK want to improve those chances by half again.  But it will only happen if we all pledge to support them and pledge a pound to ensure that their vital life saving research continues at the same pace.

I have been working on a logo of sorts for the past few weeks so that I can give this ‘mission’ an identity of sorts and I will hopefully be able to publish it soon!

I had a good chat today (12/12/16) with Sarah who is my local fundraising manager for Cancer Research UK and we discussed what it is that I am trying to do and how the charity can help me work towards my goal.  I left feeling super positive and ready to take this challenge head on as the new year starts.  Positivity is something that I usually have a lot of but I am more positive than ever about what I am trying to do after my chat with Sarah today.  I’m trying to pack a huge amount into 2017 to try and raise as much money as I can and I know that the year will just fly by.  It wont be long until I’m running my first half marathon on behalf of Cancer Research UK and I can’t wait for that day to come.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney

Just follow the link below to donate if you haven’t already it’s quick and easy:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

J.