Made My Bed

There was a video doing the rounds on Facebook this week, featuring a former US Navy Admiral, about the things that shaped his professional life. I guess I know I’m in good company with my FB friend list because I shared it from two people and folk have been sharing it since. I just tagged my kids in it. If you missed the short version on Facebook, then watch this: 20 minutes that might just change your outlook on (your) life…

The simple message is that if you don’t get the little things right, then you’ll never be able to get the big things right.

Stuff like leaving your top drawer wide open with clothes hanging out because you couldn’t be arsed…. #Teenager

Stuff like preparing your meal and leaving all the dirty dishes in the sink for someone else to tidy up… #Teenager

But more than that, this wee video is about getting yersel’ sorted: mentally, physically and wholly. It’s ironic that it appeared this week because tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of LCFN: 19th August 2013, the day that changed my life…

Forever (five).

“A day survived because you did your best will make tomorrow possible”.

I think of Eileidh every day. I think of Eileidh ten times a day. No, make that twenty, because when I’m out there on the road, on my own, risking my own life versus idiot drivers, I think of Eileidh. She should have started school this week. The fact that she didn’t will drive this journey on for a good few miles yet.

Let me roll the clock back four years (and a bit). We were on Tiree on holiday in 2013 and Celtic were away to Cliftonville in the Champions League (the qualifiers, not the group stages). We managed to pick up a Northern Ireland feed for the game. A week later the return leg was at Celtic Park and this happened:

That was what started LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

I wasn’t even a Celtic supporter. All I saw was a wee bhoy for whom a quarter of a million pounds had been raised in three months simply because wee Oscar needed it. Desperately and urgently.

That was the image, that was the video, that got me started.

Do the small things right…

On that first day of LCFN, I just wanted to make a difference. I had this idea that if I cycled to and from my work in Glasgow, then people might sponsor me at a penny a mile: and the pennies add up. That was my driving force.

And I’m a stubborn old sod. I already knew, because I have previous, that when the going gets tough, I’m not for giving up. Ever.

In that first week, I bagged 116 miles and I had a day off: don’t remember why. Maybe I took the car, I don’t know. The second week was 122, followed by a couple of 127’s. This was all on a folding bike remember: I was a novice.

But back to the Admiral…

“If you make your bed, it will give you a sense a pride, and encourage you to do another task, and another…”

I didn’t know it then then, but those words mirrored my next four years.

“A made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better….”

The video then goes on to describe how US Navy Seals are taught how to survive, and even thrive, in shark infested waters. For LCFN, they were the Fenwick Muir in winter: six months without daylight, in temperatures as low as -9C. Wind howling. Rain lashing. For three winters, I lived the Admiral’s survival story. Every day that I got to work, and got home again, was rewarded by getting into my bed: just so I could do it again the next day.

I’ll tell you how difficult that was: I couldn’t do it now. Because now I have a choice. Stephen, Oscar’s dad, used to say back then that I had a choice, but in reality, I didn’t. I had nailed my sails to the mast in honour of his son, and the very next day after Oscar gained his angel wings, Eileidh was diagnosed.

That is why this matters.

Wee Oscar passed the baton of hope to Eileidh and she ran with it. She ran everywhere with that baton. Even into Puddles. She ran into my life, and I cycled into hers. Forget all the stuff you see on the telly about the Tour De France. All cyclists are called Steve. If you’re reading this and you cycle and you’re not called Steve, you know what to do: deed poll.

But back to the Admiral…

There’s a cameo about the Munchkin crew: no one was over five foot five. They were the best crew: the big guys couldn’t touch them paddling a boat on the open sea. Shit happens: I’m five six.

The Munchkin crew had an American Indian, an African American, a Polish American, a Greek American, and Italian American and two tough kids from the Midwest.

When I hit 25,000 miles, I started the LCFN club on Strava to try and hit a million miles, and by doing so further spread awareness of neuroblastoma. Today, that Munchkin LCFN crew boasts riders in Brazil, Mexico, the USA, Canada, the UK, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Australia and New Zealand. And I’ve probably forgotten a few. You see, when you’re in the business of surviving, no matter what, every little helps. Nationality does not matter: humanity does.

“Nothing matters but your will to succeed. Not your colour, not your ethnic background, not your education, not your social status”.

There, in a nutshell, you have LCFN. Four years down the road from that very first day (is it really only four years?), the journey remains the pivotal focus of my life. Work happens, but the bike ride defines me. And in any case, time spent on the bike defines the next round of development work in my software life.

I got back on the bike at 7pm on the evening of 18th July, having just driven 250 miles back up the road from Englandshire in 28C with no air con. I was 121 miles away from a 32K mile cake day, but more importantly 1,121 miles shy of 33K. I knew two things: the passing, in quick succession, of our mam followed by Eileidh, had knocked me for six. Motivation in the basement.

I also knew that four years and the memory of what got me started on this journey was coming up…

Get yer arse in gear…

32 days: 1,121 miles: no passes: job done.

This hasn’t been just a physical thing. This has been mental, absolutely mental..

Hell, I remember those first three or four days. Body fired up with fuel but soon to be drained. All I wanted was to be able to work from home through August so I could attack the record of 28 thirty milers in a row. As it turns out, I’m not away until the 29th. Today makes 32 and counting. Legs knackered: body empty, but a mind that’s still buzzing for more.

Of all the LCFN Cake days, today has been the most low key. But I did it for Eileidh. I attacked the challenge for Eileidh. I think she would have liked that.

And so to the other focus of my life just now: SNOMED…

Four weeks ago this Sunday, I sat through the first of twelve ninety minute presentations in Module D of the implementation course (they’re only ninety minutes because I keep stopping the video to make notes). When it was finished, I went into the kitchen where Jane was making dinner and I said “I didn’t understand a word of that. It went straight over my head. I fear that this is the end of the road”. It’s the medical stuff y’see. It always leaves me feeling like I’m on the outside of the tent pissing in. So the next day I went back and I watched it again. Then the next one. And the next. Over the course of the next ten days, I watched them all. And I started to relax a little. Not so scared. Not so belittled.

I wanted the homework assignment. It may not be the brain numbing exam that closes each module, but it scores towards your final grade nonetheless. And this was the first to be marked by the tutors (as opposed to a computer word app scanning your answers). Nervous times….

I spent three days over that homework. The brief was to use six different SNOMED-CT browsers to investigate, compare and contrast across a range of medical conditions (none of which I’d ever heard of). Strange as it may seem, I felt at home, almost relaxed even. For once, my medical knowledge was only as good as the tool I was using.

I submitted my homework ten days ago, then waited: and waited: and waited…

I even installed the SNOMED course page as a bookmark on my phone so I could check every day whether they’d marked it.


Until yesterday…

The first I knew was when I saw that the progress bar was reporting 16/16. The day before it was still sitting at 15.

Nervously, I opened the Module D assignment…


Knock me over with a feather. In my entire professional training career, I have never scored 100% at anything.

But back to the Admiral…

This is but a battle in the war.

Module D still has a exam to come, an exam I view with trepidation as an opportunity to fail against the clock.

If I prevail, there are still two more modules: but Development is up next, and that’s why I’m here. I still intend to do my best to change the world: it would have been Eileidh’s world but now she’s just helping me: driving me on.

Y’see this journey started with one small task…

I made my bed (by getting on my bike). And I’ve been lying on it every day since.

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