It was nerve-racking but exhilarating for me last week as I took myself (and my feet) out of my comfort zone. I, along with 10 other girls of whom I knew 5, ventured down to Angourie to begin a 3 day Yuraygir Coastal Walk .
I must admit, part of me was looking for an excuse to pull out in the weeks leading up to this walk. So many things were holding me back – I had never done a bushwalk/hike before which involved carrying my gear (how would my chest cope?); I was going with people I didn’t know; I was sharing a 2 man tent with a lady I had met once!!! Isn’t that enough of a reason to pull the pin?
But another part of me was craving a new and challenging experience. That part of me, while it gave me butterflies, made me curious, keen and even a little excited to take on this venture (as crazy as that sounded to my normal unadventurous self).
I was incredibly naïve when I first signed up to do this, as I didn’t realise how much was involved in preparing for one of these multi-day hikes and I can’t thank our fearless leader Sandy (and my sister-in-law Regina who loaned me my gear) enough for having me (and the rest of the gang) well-equipped and organised for this journey.
So as the preparation began, I knew that one of the most important parts of equipment in one of these hikes is the pack you carry on your back (I have since learnt that the second most important piece of equipment is your shoes in which I will be investing next!). I was however a little bit nervous about shopping for a pack that would fit me well and not cause grief for my breastless chest.
While I don’t feel pain across my mastectomy area, it is still a delicate area as it lacks tissue and the fear of rubbing on an already tender area of my body gave me hesitations about following through with the walk. I was worried that half way through I wouldn’t be able to carry on and I didn’t want to let the team down.
To combat this concern, I was recommended by the fearless leader again to visit Paddy Pallin in Brisbane to get accurately fitted for a pack. Paddy Pallin concentrates on supplying bushwalkers, trekkers and travellers with the highest quality and most advanced products, not only from the Pallin clothing and Paddy Pallin equipment labels, but also by sourcing a broad range of equipment from some of the world’s leading manufacturers. I knew that it was a sensible choice to go there knowing that I would be in good hands and could work out prior to going whether my chest could withstand the weight of a pack. Without a doubt, they did not fail to impress me.
They tried a number of different packs on me, discussing with me different aspects of comfort surrounding my chest and I felt really comfortable discussing this all with them knowing that they had expertise in fitting more challenging body shapes. On this occasion, the best pack to suit me was the Osprey Xena 70L pack and after 3 days of solid walking, the proof was in the pudding. I could not fault the pack or the expert fitting from Paddy Pallin. I didn’t suffer any chest, back or shoulder pain and managed the weight easily. The pack was fitted to me just perfectly and it was brilliant that they discussed with me that their packs are gender specific, to cater for the different physical needs of men and women.
Paddy Pallin’s Osprey Xena Backpack in action
So the best features for my chest with the Osprey backpack was that the straps were perfectly positioned to avoid the tender chest area and there was an extra strap that went across the front which could sit higher or lower on the chest area and it suited me to sit it higher which alleviated any discomfort in that area – where others may have sat theirs lower.
Without question, my walk was more enjoyable and comfortable because I was fitted with the best pack for me, by experts in the field and I am grateful for this.
While the Yuraygir coastal walk would not be classed as a difficult walk, like anything depending on weather and tides, it did pose a few challenges along the way which made it extremely funny, exciting and adventurous. Here are some memories of our hike.
The most amazing part of this whole experience for me though was the comradery and mateship that formed through the shared challenges. We laughed, we whinged and we commiserated with each other over various mishaps…which path to take, wet shoes, blisters, broken shoes, lost thongs, no sleep mat, leaches, high tide, missing wallets, missing sunglasses, mosquitos, no more water, never ending paths, dry reaching pit toilets, our secret talents, you name it… it happened.
Over the course of the walk, we walked in different combinations of people for long periods of time which gave us the opportunity to really get to know one another and my tent buddy Rachel ended up being such a lovely girl that I didn’t know what I was worried about.
Rachel and I (during & after)
But above all else, there was something absolutely amazing about getting away and being with nature. I must admit that I love to camp but I’m usually with my husband or in-laws who are generally the more experienced decision makers when it comes to camping. For once, I had to show some initiative and do things for myself and while at first that was scary, I was so pleased with myself when I realised I could do it all (pitch the tent, light the fire etc.) and felt an enormous sense of achievement at the end of it all.
While physically the hiking was somewhat challenging, looking out at the ocean, sitting by the campfire telling stories and toasting marshmallows, staring at the sky full of stars – that’s when I really wound down, truly relaxed and appreciated being on this fabulous earth. It was in these diverse but poignant experiences that memories were made and friendships were formed.
In childhood you are out in nature playing games, climbing trees and having fun with your friends. But somehow that all seems to stop or certainly become less frequent in adulthood. We live so much of life in the hum drum of work, kids and chores that regularly being out with nature doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should. Yet there is such restorative power in nature that would benefit adults with busy lives immensely and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to rekindle this connection and have lit the fire of nature back in my belly. Here are some of the amazing sites we saw.
I know that personally part of me post-cancer felt broken – like I didn’t quite feel capable of doing things that took me out of my comfort zone anymore. But as time has gone on, I have regained my confidence and courage to do things. I have realised that I am a warrior (was the Xena backpack talking to me?). I am still strong and capable of physically strenuous things, it has just taken a little while for me to flap my wings and fly again.
Cancer is just one part of my life journey and there is so much more. It doesn’t define who I am and what my future holds or what I am able to do. Life is fragile and no one knows what tomorrow brings. It has taught me to never be complacent about what I have in my life and not to put off things I really want to do. I am grateful that this amazing hike opened my eyes again to the beauty of nature and while it might take me a while to find my feet, I can’t wait to get out there and do it all over again.
Whilst neither of them want any acknowledgement for the trip, we could not have been as well prepared and had nearly as many beautiful photos without these two Sandy and Ness. We are all truly grateful for what they did for us.
I guess with this organic experience still so fresh in my mind and pumping through my veins, I feel inspired to encourage you to do that thing that scares you.
If there is something you have wanted to do, even just contemplated doing but perhaps you felt nervous or afraid of failure…I say take that plunge. Dive into the unknown – it’s exhilarating and exciting. I am so glad that I can tick off something that I have never done before, something I was cautious about doing. I came out the other side full of vim and vigour ready to take on new challenges! The Xena in me was definitely back!
Have a wonderful week planning your next adventure.
I am breastless and beautiful.
Love, Gen x