Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

This has been, without doubt, the hardest week on the road since I started. I can handle the rain, I can battle on through the wind, I can wear three pairs of gloves and a woolly when it’s cold, and I can see where I’m going (just) in the dark cos wee Oscar lights the way. But what I cannae have any control over is my health. When that goes, I’m struggling bigtime. And that’s been the story of week 64…

The sore throat kicked in in double quick time last Saturday afternoon after the Baggies had succumbed to Arsenal at the Hawthorns. By Sunday I felt utterly miserable and knew that an imminent decision was on the cards. Park the bike and do what most people would do, or give it a go and, to use that time honoured expression, take each day as it comes. Now there were several things to consider: bunged up head, with associated headache, horrible throat, tendency to get sinus infections (although touch wood I haven’t had one for a few years), the possibility of a chest infection (got pleurisy once by continuing to run 80 miles a week in the winter with a cold), and last but by no means least my stubborn desire to see how I would shape up against the odds. After all, I thought, I must surely have built up some reserves of strength these past 15 months. “Let’s see what you’ve got son” I thought.

Sunday night was the worst night. I reckon I must have got up about four times because I couldn’t sleep and that because I couldn’t breath properly. Total sleep: hmm, probably about four hours, despite being in the nest for at least double that. Jane was away in God’s country (Inverness) so at least I didn’t wake anyone (except the cat). That merely laid the foundation for a dreadful day at work. You know that nodding head syndrome? Well I must have had it for about five of the eight hours I was in the office. The after effect of a bad night, a streaming cold, tired eyes and a hot stuffy office made for an unbearable day. But see the best bit… despite my tiredness, those two hours each end in the freezing cold did at least mean that I could breathe: I just shoved a hankie under the cuff of my jacket to wipe away the vapour trail.

Tuesday: Groundhog Day.

Wednesday: Groundhog Day.

As tired as I was , I realised that despite getting up in the morning, and coming out of work at night with a thumping great headache, two hours on the bike just about cleared it (only for it to return when I retreated indoors). But the tiredness was killing me. I resorted to breaking the journey down into tiny wee steps: “let’s ride to that junction”; “Now let’s ride to those traffic lights”; “Now to that bridge”… and so on. In the evenings, that was the only thing that got me home through those first three days. That, and wee Oscar’s motto about never giving up. Never, in all the time I’ve been on the road, and this was the 64th week, have I needed his inspiration more than I needed it this week. I said on Twitter on Monday that it would take a miracle to get me through the week unscathed, and today I reported that Vanessa and Mackenzie are living proof that miracles do happen. I normally do extra miles on a Friday but not today. I just slogged it out every day and did what I could to keep a healthy bank balance of miles: 221 was an unbelievable achievement, even if I do say it myself. This week, I  understood just a wee bit more about how to deal with everything that comes my way. I came back off the ropes and lived to fight another day…

And so to the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday are normally 100% off the bike days to allow the poor old body to recover before Monday. But not this time. If there was one weekend in the year when I needed the time off, it was this one, but neuroblastoma waits for no man, and certainly no child. Sunday will be spent in the company of around 25 Santas cycling from the Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh to Yorkhill Children’s Hospital in Glasgow. At each end, the Santas will do what Santa does best, and that’s deliver presents to children, but of course in this case, it’s rather more important than that, because these children are unwell, very, very unwell. It will be a particularly poignant moment for me when the journey reaches Yorkhill because I’ve noted before in this blog about how I believe that each of our lives is mapped out for us and we are merely acting out the script according to the master plan. So how ironic, or perhaps apt, is it that my Twitter name is Von Schiehallion (I dropped the Baron bit off the front to make it easier) and the oncology ward at Yorkhill is the Schiehallion ward. It’s gonna feel like all this time and all these miles on the bike have a real purpose, and that I’m kind of coming home. And home is precisely what that ward was for Vanessa for over a year of her life. In terms of the LIfeCycle challenge, Sunday is going to bring home what this is really all about. It will be a new experience for me and one I doubt that I will ever forget.

But that’s not all…

For shortly after leaving Yorkhill and briefly meeting the families who are supporting Cycling Santas on its arrival in Glasgow, including I believe both the Riddle and Furniss clans, Mouldy and I have have an appointment with a boat in Stranraer. For the two of us, Glasgow is not the end of the line because we are heading to Belfast to do it all over again on Monday. I’ve only been to Belfast once for a good mooch around and I loved the place. I loved the people, I loved their warmth, and I especially loved the spirit of the city. To be able to go back less than a year later will be very special, and I sincerely hope that Mouldy and Dafty (as Tynie No. 1 called me earlier) get to meet up with Stephen and Leona. I know that Stephen and Mouldy go back to the wee Oscar fundraising days so they’ve got previous but for me this is new territory. Stephen has followed my story on Facebook for some time, and I really appreciate that. And I suspect that Leona really connects with the struggle that I’m going through because of the support she gives me on Twitter. I guess that if there was ever a time to meet the First Couple of never giving up, that time would be now after the week I’ve just had. I am so looking forward to it.

These next 72 hours are going to be a journey into the unknown. The last time I was in a cancer ward was 1972 to see my dad. He didn’t make it: I was 19. He was fiercely competitive and always used to say that you can’t always do the things that you like in life. Sometimes you’ve got to do the things that you don’t like. Through being a clone of my dad, I’ve managed to turn a lot of the things that I don’t like into challenges that I relish to get done. And the sooner they are done, then the sooner I can get on with enjoying life. But when you enjoy the challenges, then you really do have the best of both worlds. I have that.

The enjoyment of the next three days will be seeing the look of joy on the faces of some little ones, for…

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.

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