stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


The highs and lows of Andean trekking

Since returning from Peru on Saturday, I have been asked so many times, “How did it go?”, What was it like?”, “Did you make it??”

It is hard to describe quite what trekking in the Andes was like. For me I think the best way to describe it is that is was wonderful and yet so very hard at the same time. Like many things in life I suppose, and especially things worth doing… Wonderful and so very hard all mixed together!

First, some of the hard bits… The altitude absolutely and literally took my breath away! I found breathing so tough at altitude and I was surprised at how little things left me completely out of breath. Things like brushing my teeth or getting dressed. No wonder you have to walk so slowly!!

The walking was gruelling (maybe not for everyone, but let’s face it I am not all that fit and on the walk I regretted every slice of chocolate cake I had ever eaten!) and consequently (and coupled with jet lag, general lack of sleep and altitude) I felt absolutely flattened every evening! Oh my goodness, I was usually in bed by 8pm… Completely unheard of for a night owl like me, but by the time dinner rolled around I usually felt like I could barely string a sentence together!

But in amongst the challenges there were some beautiful gifts too… One of these gifts came as something of a surprise for a raging extrovert like me. Despite going on this trip in a group of 28, for some time each day I would find myself walking alone (usually because I was slower than most). This time was so precious to me, I soaked in the beauty and complete stillness of the surroundings and I relished in the opportunity to quiet my soul and enjoy God’s glory. What a gift this was and what a contrast to the constant noise and busyness of my daily life.

Probably the most amazing and emotional moment for me was reaching our highest point on day three of the trek. We had steadily gained altitude since starting the trek and the third day was the pinnacle and saw us reaching an altitude of about 4,450m (about 13,500ft) above sea level (to give you a feel for how high this is, people sky dive at 11,000ft).

As I walked that morning I knew this moment was coming and for about half an hour before reaching this point I found myself walking by myself. For this half an hour I kept welling up just thinking about the road I have walked over the past two and a half years and by the time I reached the top I completely dissolved in tears…

But they were not tears of sadness, they were tears of gratitude.

I remembered how this time two years ago I was in the middle of active treatment, I had just had a mastectomy and axillary clearance and was waiting for my radiotherapy to start. I was so weak and tired and could barely walk around the block. I felt like I was hanging in there for dear life, fervently praying for a brighter day. At that time, if you had said to me that I would trek in the Andes just two years later I would have probably wept for different reasons and I would never have believed you!

As I ascended that hill on that third day, the words, “I am back! Thank you Lord that I am back!” ran through my mind and I was overcome with gratitude. Our guide, Mayra invited us each to choose a rock and to put all of these rocks together into a pile (which reminded me of this similar imagery in the Bible of people piling up stones as memorials and as thanksgiving). As we put our rocks in that pile we were encouraged to say a prayer. That was a really special moment for me and I thanked God for his faithfulness and for my restoration so far and I prayed for my family for the future. It was such a special moment, one I was privileged to share with others and one I shall always cherish.

There is so much more to say as it is impossible to reflect on all that has happened and all that God has spoken to me about in one go… But I will say this! Wow! What an experience! Thank you to all of you who have sponsored me, supported me and cared for Joel and Jonts while I was away. I am truly grateful!

I know I haven’t said anything about climbing Machu Picchu itself, but I will. 🙂 Look out for that post coming soon!



1 Comment

New seasons – from Cambridge to London!

It has been a very long time since I wrote anything on this blog, and for good reason. In my mind, this blog was about cancer, my treatment and how I coped with all of the physical and emotional effects of cancer. Since my active treatment finished just over a year ago, cancer has played a smaller and smaller part in my everyday life. I am EXTREMELY grateful for this, but it also meant I didn’t have too much to say on the topic, hence my silence. 🙂

Anyway, so much has changed since I last wrote that I thought it was seriously about time for a little update on what team Sales are up to!

Just over two weeks ago we left Cambridge (*sobs*) and moved down to London (*cheers*) as Joel had finished his degree. On Saturday Joel was ordained in St Paul’s Cathedral, which was amazing, and he is now a Rev (major proud wife moment!!) Yeaterday he started work as a curate in a fantastic church in South West London.

And so, the next chapter of our life has begun.

Leaving Cambridge was bittersweet for me. Cambridge was for us, to misquote Dickens, both the best of times and the worst of times. It was where my beautiful son was born, it was a place where we forged deep friendships and where we were privileged to be part of an amazing community. But it was also the place where I had all of my cancer treatment, where I grappled with my own mortality and fallibility. Spiritually it was both rich and desolate, full of joy and sorrow… So leaving all of that behind has stirred up a mixture of emotions.

Similarly, starting over in a new place is a bittersweet experience. I have no doubt in my mind that we are in the right place for us as a family, and I am excited for what I am going to see God doing here. Yet, I am mourning the rhythms of my old life, the familiar places and people, not just for myself, but for little Jonty too. He is missing his little friends! 😦

But…in this bittersweet time, I remain so thankful! I am thankful that I am still here! I am thankful for my beautiful family and precious friends. I am thankful for the kindness of the Lord and for his provision!

I am thankful that I am well, so well in fact that I have (in a moment of madness probably) joined a group that is trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru in September for the charity CoppaFeel! (the breast cancer awareness charity that I volunteer for – CoppaFeel.org).

This is SUCH a huge milestone for me, as two years ago I was so poorly I could barely walk around the block. Then a multi-day trek would have seemed like an impossible reality! But, my training has begun and I am walking up any hill I can find!! Who would have thought I would be thankful to walk up hills! 😉 (Should you want to sponsor me, I would so appreciate it. You can do so by clicking here )

In all of it, God continues to restore me and my hope for the future! The future is bright and I am so excited to see what is in store!


Some of the Machu Picchu team!