My trip around Britain, in words: Eyemouth to Stonehaven

East Coast: Eyemouth to Stonehaven – A passage of reflection

I don’t think there is a shade of orange to adequately describe the colour of a sunset. Google claims that sunsets are a “pale tint of orange”, however I believe that is much too vague! Mind, what do I know, I am by no means an artist of any sort! Hence why I would much rather concentrate on the meaning of sunsets, because, to me, they are so much more than a pretty sight you get on a clear evening. Sunsets welcome the end of a day and the start of a new night. For the Homo Sapiens of the world, this indicates a time to take shelter, a time to not be outside. We are not rulers of the night, we are creatures of the day (and this doesn’t change even if you do eat more carrots!). So, you could argue that for us, sunsets are a time reserved to reflect on the day that has passed, a time for our minds to reset, prepared for another day and more challenges.

This was what I was doing as the sun was dipping below the sea and we sailed into the night on a 70 nautical mile passage to Stonehaven, having left Eyemouth that afternoon.

My time in Eyemouth had been thought-provoking. Not only because I had reached Scotland, a real milestone of the trip, but also because during my time there I by chance met a couple whose daughter had been on a trip with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust – the charity I was raising money for. As soon as they mentioned this the dynamic of our conversation completely changed, as I went from answering their questions about my story, to asking them about their story. I was so intrigued. I wanted to find out more about their experience with the Cancer Trust and the impact it had had on their lives and their daughter’s life. Their explanation is why I had such a intriguing time In Eyemouth. I was truly blown away by what they said.

As a result of this, in the middle of my passage to Stonehaven, I found myself in a deep moment of reflection; I was watching the sun set and it was just me and the boat skimming along the surface of the water. In that moment, I was reflecting about the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, I was thinking about what they do and how they are changing so many people’s lives. I was also starting to learn that the charity was about so much more than just taking young people, recovering from cancer, out sailing in order to boost their confidence.

Only now have I fully learnt and understood what the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust really does, so let me try to explain it you:

From the day that you are diagnosed with cancer your life as you know it is put on hold, whether you are a child or young adult. You are plunged into a new world of treatment which for many lasts not months but years. It is something that you have to adapt to, so you get used to a new routine of treatment, where you “go to the doctors on Tuesdays”, “have injections on Wednesdays” etc., which you have no choice other than to follow. Then, one day, your treatment ends, you have “recovered”. The cancer has gone.  You are told that you can move ahead with your life. Inside, though, you can feel empty, because suddenly the routine, and a lot of the people who were so vital in helping you recover, are gone. You come back to school, University or work but now you have fundamentally changed and, in the time since your life was put on hold, the world around you has moved on.

Then, one day, you are asked whether you want to go on a sailing trip, with a group of other people who have all had cancer, for four days, away from your parents. It’s a daunting prospect to say the least, however somehow you are convinced by someone and, perhaps reluctantly, you go.  Four days later you come back and you have absolutely loved it, you’ve completely changed and suddenly you are so much more like “you” again.

This is because the trips the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust run allow people to mentally recover from cancer. Unlike the physical recovery where you are surrounded with people who are helping you, recovering mentally is solely done by you. To put it simply, this is because only you can control your brain. However, it is very difficult to do this in the wrong environment and this is where the Trust comes in. The Trust provides these young people with a totally new environment. The people are new, the place is new, sailing for most of them… is new! It is so new, they even have to learn how to work the toilet again (toilets on boats are very different to ones on land)! This completely new environment means that suddenly they are free! They can actually talk to other young people about their treatment in a completely normal way, and these other young people understand. They are given a choice to try out something completely different. For so long before this they didn’t have many choices, in treatment they had no choices whatsoever, so having a choice to do something new and exciting, is magical.

Although sailing forms the basis for this experience and new environment, It is fundamentally the people who are at the heart of it. The other young people on the trip have all been through cancer, as have many of the trip volunteers. This means the trip volunteers are able to connect with the young people. As well as this they also serve as role models because the ones on the trip can look up to them and see how far they have come. Going on one of these trips means you also join a whole community which you are part of for life. When you go back home after those four days you have new friends and a whole new adventure to tell everyone about. You go back home starting to feel like “you” again.

And the best thing?  They then get to do it all over again for a number of years.