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A Long Walk Up a Mountain

On Saturday 23rd June I joined 56 walkers journeying up and down Snowdon in north Wales, to raise money for the Pituitary Foundation. There were four in our little team, all of us friends from yoga class: Sarah Rickwood, Sam Reynolds, Rebecca Overy, myself, oh…. and Holly the dog! I’d love to share something about this fantastic experience, hopefully it resonates with you in some way.

A huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who donated. Your donations are to a great cause, and really will make a difference where needed. Still time to donate if you can spare a couple of quid, all makes a difference - our donations started from as little as £2 but it all counts.

You can see our fundraising page and total here . This has been the biggest and most successful fundraiser for the Pituitary Foundation. Having spent time with the fundraising manager, I can see that all the money raised will go directly towards helping where it’s really needed, rather than being lost in admin costs.

I knew nothing of pituitary conditions until I met Sarah who has an inoperable pituitary tumour. Sarah was not diagnosed for years, in fact misdiagnosed, causing further stress. When she finally saw an endocrinologist and had MRI, a malignant tumour was detected, necessitating radio & chemotherapy. Whilst these treatments have undoubtedly helped in destroying the cancer, the tumour remains inoperable and Sarah has maintain ongoing drug treatment to manage her condition. Side effects have included various hormonal issues, infertility, early menopause and osteoporosis. Despite this, Sarah maintains a positive outlook, and her dedicated yoga practice helps her to accept each challenge, adapt accordingly, stay physically strong and mobile, and maintain inner peace and connection to her spiritual self, beyond the limitations of the physical body.

The pituitary gland is often called the master gland as it controls several other hormonal glands in the body including the thyroid and adrenals, the ovaries and testicles. There are many different conditions which can be a result of abnormalities in the pituitary gland. The Pituitary Foundation provide reliable information about all pituitary conditions, and play an important role in helping people come to terms with and manage these differing illnesses.

There were 56 walkers on our expedition, 15 of whom had pituitary

conditions. I chatted to some very inspirational people, who refused to be beaten by illness and were determined to raise money so that others can be better informed and hopefully have successful diagnosis. The charity produce lots of information for doctors as well as patient, and provide support with trained specialist endocrine nurses.

One of our party was Chloe, just 26 years old with a brilliant determined spirit and a fantastic gang of friends there supporting her. As with Sarah, diagnosis was quite slow, and resulted in brain surgery to remove the tumour. Her story is really interesting and you can read more here .

It was a big walk, harder for some of us than others, and walkers from ages 10 to 70. Unfortunately Sarah couldn't walk, after sustaining a knee injury in training. Another blow for Sarah, another disappointment, luckily we chose a mountain with a train to the top! In true Sarah style, she joined us at the summit, briefly reuniting our team, looking beautiful and happy to be there with a big smile and lots of encouragement. The views were spectacular, the weather was luckily perfect, and I can’t wait to return to try the other routes up the mountain!! Holly was a trooper, in her little orange sweat band -tail wagging all the way! Her little paws were fine I’m pleased to report! I however (although thinking I was super fit) was super tired and aching afterwards! It was a very special experience with very special friends.

How yoga helps during challenging times

A few words on how this all relates to YOGA. The practice of yoga is a life practice. It is about being completely engaged and intimate with the wild force that runs through everything if we stop to notice it. It is beyond the limitations of the body, and beyond the burden of illness. It offers us a connection to our experience of aliveness. The techniques of “yoga practice” offer us one way to taste this life force, but we are not limited to these formal practices. Trudging up a mountain, with a group of people joined in collective aim, sharing life stories, feeling the buzz of achieving the goal - that’s another way of being in “Yoga”. I met some wonderful people, some had been presented with pretty horrible illness. They chose to see themselves as more than their illness, more than their bodies. It would be understandable to feel anger, shame and resentment towards illness. Yet we have to take what we’ve got, learn from it, and use that as a way to live the best life. Clinging on to the source of our misery creates suffering, and that’s self-generated. By transforming negative thoughts and emotions, we transcend beyond to something more powerful and useful. Cultivating resilience and tenacity, coupled with self-care and kindness we live a more powerful life, and want to make it better for others. A desire to practise yoga, to achieve the state of being “in yoga” is about seeing what you have as a beautiful opportunity to realise what else is possible, beyond suffering and limitation.

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