Following her husband's MS diagnosis in 2017, Lisa Brinicombe and her family were touched by the "invaluable support and information" they received from the MS Trust. Determined to ensure others could receive the same support that they had, Lisa and three friends (The Walkie Talkies) pledged to take on a 100km trek along the Jurassic coast to raise vital funds for the MS Trust. This is their story.
In December 2017 our life took an unexpected turn when my husband Tom at 41 was diagnosed with MS. It was just before Christmas Day and a day before our eldest son's 11th Birthday when Tom called me from the hospital in complete shock at the news that the tingling in his legs; the occasional wobbly walk he had when he got tired after a long dog walk; the black spot in his eye on a very hot day; and the overwhelming tiredness that hit him on the weekend weren't just a collection of little things, but in actual fact pointed to the very clear diagnosis of relapsing remitting MS.
Looking back on things now, we believe that Tom was probably suffering for three years without knowing it and just putting the tiredness down to long working hours. Christmas 2017 was a blur but we managed to get through it with our family around us and the kids to keep us grounded and smiling.
In January 2018 following Tom’s diagnosis, we both did a lot of research, we read up about all the symptoms, spoke to other people with MS and carers and met up with our MS specialist nurse, Richard, who recommended that Tom got in contact with the MS Trust. The charity seemed to dispel a lot of myths about the disease and gave us hope that Tom’s prognosis was not all bad. With their advice and the support of Richard we both started to realise that there is a life with MS, we just need to be organised with what we do and adaptable to what the disease may throw at us. Whilst coming to terms with living with this disease, the MS Trust have been there for us with invaluable information, support and guidance. They helped us to explain to our two children what MS was and how it would affect their Dad. As children they took the news in their stride with a nod and quick request to go and play Minecraft!
The MS Trust also help fund specialist nurses across the country just like Richard. Knowing how invaluable he has been to us, we realise how important the fundraising work they do now is. With this in mind, both Tom and I wanted to raise some money for them but weren’t sure how to go about it.
I am a keen dog walker and living just outside Cheltenham, in the backdrop of the beautiful Cleeve Hill, I have been very lucky to be able to take our beloved Jessie for some stunning walks up and down the hill. These walks were especially important to me during the early days of diagnosis as they gave me perspective and calmness about how best to move forward. When I met up with my old university friend Emma we would talk about how amazing a simple walk was for the soul, how just being outside was a blessing and gave us space and time to think about our busy lives. We would often say on return from our beloved dog walks how all our little niggles or worries seem to disappear or be put into perspective. Several times we spoke of signing up for a longer walk or a hike to challenge us and enable us to see another part of the UK that we were not familiar with. Following Tom’s diagnosis, Emma suggested: “Why don’t we look into doing a challenging walk and raise money for the MS Trust as they have been so supportive to both you and Tom?”. That’s when the idea was born, on a cold January day in 2019 to Walk 100km along the beautiful Jurassic Coast.
The MS Trust also help fund specialist nurses across the country just like Richard. Knowing how invaluable he has been to us, we realise how important the fundraising work they do now is
We looked into what it would take and different training schedules we would need to implement, Emma living near Reading and me in Cheltenham, we decided that we should meet every month to walk together and in the meantime track all our other walks via the Map My Walk app. This app soon became our motivation for our training walks. Emma would go out one weekend and do 10km and then I had the need to go out and do 11 km, we managed to recruit two other members to the Walkie Talkies team, Nicki and Grainne, who also joined our training schedule and every weekend it would be great to see how far we had gone out for and what distances we were all covering. The number of calories we burned meant that Mondays became known as 'eat anything day'!
Emma was the queen of speed with the fastest pace among us, Nicki was the first to advocate the use of poles and loved to model them on all of her walks and Grainne had a steely determination about completing the challenge that was truly inspiring. As the months passed to weeks, the elevation of each hike also became important to us as the Jurassic Coast is no mean feat with several sharp inclines across the two day hike. We carried out training walks in the Chilterns, Box Hill in Surrey, Arborfield, and along the Cotswold Way to Broadway Tower.
Finally our challenge was upon us with six months of training under our belts. The Walkie Talkies WhatsApp group chat had been never-ending with questions about what type of walking shoes we all needed, should we use poles or not, what hydration bladder were we going to get. The research into the different types of socks that would save our feet from blisters was extremely thorough. So by the time June 8, 2019 came around, we were ready for it!
At 8.40am on June 8, 2019, the Walkie Talkies team set off to complete the long hike from Poole to the finish line in Bridport, that included over 2600m of steep climb. It took us just over 26 hours 35 minutes with only three hours sleep on the Saturday night. We were lucky to have two dry days albeit one of them with 50mph winds along the cliffs of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. The second day was full of gorgeous sunshine with awe inspiring coastline views and the sea that looked like the Mediterranean not the English Channel!
That beach was like wading through mud, a strong reminder of the silent symptoms that Tom and other people with MS have to endure day in day out
As our name suggests, we all love to chat and despite having seven hill climbs that make Cleeve hill look like a molehill, the most infamous being aptly named 'The Wall' we kept on going walking and talking! Nearly 3,000 people took part in the Jurassic Coast Challenge event this year with only 400 people signed up to the full two day hiking challenge. During the walk, the hills reminded me of the challenges that face Tom everyday for I have seen just how hard it can be to go for a simple walk due to the ongoing fatigue. The fact that I was lucky enough to be able to make it up and down those hills spurred me on to complete the 100km ultra challenge. The many messages of support across the weekend really helped each of us to persevere even when the number of blisters was increasing for all of us! Each team member had a wobble and a cry during the 26 hours, mine being with only 8km left to the finish line when we had to endure 3km of shingle underfoot on Chesil beach near WestBay. That beach was like wading through mud, a strong reminder of the silent symptoms that Tom and other people with MS have to endure day in day out.
I am proud to say that the Walkie Talkies Team completed the 100km Ultra Challenge along the beautiful Jurassic Coast in Dorset. We also smashed our original target of £5,000, with our team total now standing at over £6,000! The sense of achievement and pride to have completed such an ultra challenge has been immense so the only thing we’re left with now is …. which ultra challenge is going to be next?
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