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Why did we decide to take part in The MoonWalk Iceland?

As friendships formed we had an amazing full-packed Itinerary in glorious sunshine that included minke-whale and puffin watching, climbing up and down a volcano, and viewing boiling mud pools and Europe’s most powerful waterfall.

So why did we decide to take part in The MoonWalk Iceland?

Five years ago, after agreeing to take part in the MoonWalk London, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer and a carrier of the BRCA2 Gene. Five Chemotherapy treatments and a sixth yet to go at the time of the Walk, I completed all 26.2 miles. It was my challenge to overcome, but collapsing at the end I met Nina and have since had 2 articles printed in Good Housekeeping Magazine and raised approx £6K. It has been a long journey, but Phil, my husband, and I felt the need for an appropriate celebration ending further treatment, 4 operations and being discharged from the Douglas MacMillan Oncology Unit at Yeovil District Hospital. So taking part in another MoonWalk not only gave us the opportunity to visit Iceland, but to give something back in return by raising valuable funds to a very worthy charity Walk the Walk, especially as I underwent the cold cap whilst having chemotherapy.

Having registered our interest and with my recovery going well our delayed applications were confirmed! The excitement of receiving various goodies in the post, whether it was the training plan, our walk numbers (amusingly Phil’s no was 118), t-shirts and even the midge hats, all helped to support the realisation of what we were taking part in. Our 13 weeks of training started on Mothering Sunday and I’ll admit there were days where I could have used any excuse not to go out walking as the route had started to become repetitive! So one day I decided I would walk to visit a friend who was very poorly with breast cancer. Her husband offered me a lift back home, but I felt so inspired that I knew and I should walk the journey home, so I did. With my friend in mind, I also started a photo training diary which motivated me and made me appreciate the area where we live and I would include for others to see on our fundraising page. In doing so it encouraged us to find different routes and not just locally. Phil was unable to join me for the walks during the week, but continued to cycle every week including a 140 mile cycle ride in Majorca! Most of the training I did by myself to fit it in and around work, I was so grateful to Ali and Jack her dog who accompanied me on many miles.

Unfortunately, a month before Iceland with training in full swing I developed an eye ulcer which meant I was advised not to train for a few days and with regular trips back and forth to hospital, we thought our MoonWalk adventure was not going to happen. So you can imagine how frustrated we felt, but not only did we have incredible support and encouragement from my walking buddy, but we really appreciated the positive comments from our Iceland friends on Facebook. As our departure for Iceland rapidly approached we took part in a momentous walk lead by Nina around London. What a great opportunity to meet some of our Iceland friends. Then following several reminders and encouraging emails from Eppy, the day finally arrived where we nervously all met in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport and our adventure began. 60 people in bra t-shirts warmly greeted by Sally, Guy, Holly and Tom. After lots of excited ‘hellos’, ‘how’s your training been going’ and ‘it’s so lovely to meet you in person and not just a Facebook name’, we took off!

We flew to Keflavik and then boarded a coach to the Blue Lagoon for a dip in the warm waters of the geo-thermal pool, then a short flight to Akureyi in the north, and a coach trip to the hotel where we were met by Kate and Hannah who showed us to our room. Well what a view we had, Lake Myvatn, pronounced Meevatn, the Lake we will walk our 26.2 marathon around in 2 days time!

As friendships formed we had an amazing full-packed Itinerary in glorious sunshine that included minke-whale and puffin watching, climbing up and down a volcano, and viewing boiling mud pools and Europe’s most powerful waterfall.

Saturday and after some quiet time in our room, we joined the others for a pasta meal where the atmosphere was buzzing. All donned in our sequin bras, yes Phil as well, with a pink ribbon for myself and each of our friends who have suffered or are still suffering this disease and combined with flags of Iceland and England. As the mist rolled in we boarded our not so aptly named bus Midnight Sun. With lots of giggles and waving of flags, Phil held the camera up to take a selfie of us all whilst on our way to the Nature Baths for a hokey kokey warm-up and then following Kate and Sally who were probably the only ones braving the cold in their bras piled out as they lead us the half-mile to the start line. An emotional minute’s silence and a few hugs, off we marched!

It was a chilly night, but still daylight as we stopped to take a photo and pleased to be joined by Helen and Sue who kept us company for the remaining 25 miles. We became the Quick Quads as jokes and banter and dancing to Guy’s Abba music helped pass the miles and miles, plus the support vehicles containing the amazing WTW Team and those volunteers dressed as Vikings and Puffins with a welcome mug of hot tomato soup, made the aches and pains seem less. The miles and hours passed and counting down the kilometre markers so helped, particularly as we were convinced that the final flag was moving further away, but the welcome of the finish pink ribbon and those volunteers and the WTW team to cheer us over the line at last was overwhelming.

Day 2 of being home and finding it just a little difficult to concentrate on anything other than all the wonderful posts on Facebook. Yesterday morning we were both emotional especially after reading Michelle’s post as like a lot of us we felt the same and she couldn’t have worded it more perfectly. Not only have we been constantly surprised and uplifted by comments and donations by our friends and some of Phil’s customers, but we are also proud to have some amazing friends and now new friends. We also have to let you know that we were both overcome with emotion at the boarding gate at Kevlavik when a kind lady passenger from Ireland asked us what our medals were for and then whilst on the bus to the plane she handed us £20. We were both so overwhelmed and can’t thank people enough for their generosity and kindness.

Everybody has a story and why they took part in this Challenge, but for Phil and I Iceland was a great tonic and what we both needed as we have not laughed nor cried good tears at the same time in a long time and to have met such special people who are just the best and incredibly inspirational and so positive and encouraging, who we will hold very dear to us for a long time to come. Some had also taken part in the 3 Land Challenge. Such an incredible experience that will always be cherished and we both feel privileged to have taken part. Sadly since returning from Iceland I have attended the funeral of my friend who I will never forget her enthusiasm for encouraging me and her smiles and reminding me how fortunate I am to be where I am today.

Just one final thank you to the 2 volunteers Puffin Judith and Viking Andy who somehow lifted me up in the air, but especially to the Walk the Walk team for their tireless enthusiasm, encouragement, smiles, laughter and hugs our Midnight Sun leaders Sally (what happened to the burger & ice-cream ?) and Tom (shy?? never), Kate (loved our room wow + Phil did keep the flag up all the way!!), Guy (Abba fan ?? really), Holly (Marco Polo yay!)  and Hannah (always smiling), not forgetting Nina and Eppy for their amazing encouragement and support during the London Training Walk, plus of course all the team we have not personally met but also do their bit behind the scenes. Truly special people. What a brilliantly well-organised event from the fantastic trips to the marathon itself ~ we are SO proud of our medals. Thank you and to ALL our MoonWalking friends so very much, but especially to our daughter Sarah and son Stephen who have been such an incredible support.

Finally, a thought for those of you who may be going through ‘it’. The training and challenge of a Walk the Walk event definitely helped me through those early days and so If you’re not sure – Can I do it? Should I do it? Definitely do it!

Philip and Julie

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