I was lucky enough as a child to have a Grandmother who was one of those strong 'horsey' people. She had many, and much of my childhood was spent on her farm riding, mucking out or repairing fences. If I wasn't doing that I was stealing one of her 60 a day supply of Berkeley Red Superkings and sneaking off to the hay barn for a quick puff! One of her horses was called Bonny. She was a horse with spirit and a bit of a handful to say the least! She was my favourite and I was the only person who really got on with her. She would throw others off regularly. She would throw ME off regularly, but between those times we would ride together like we were soul mates. We galloped on the beach together, we rode cross country, we entered many competitions together. If Bonny was having a bad day, she would throw me off. My Grandmother would give me a shot of whiskey from her hip flask (for medicinal purposes) before I'd climb back on with a new found energy and determination. We would be working together as one again. At the age of 15, at the end of a successful jumping competition, my Grandmother turned to me and said 'The reason you two get on so well is because there is a bit of the devil in both of you'. She was right!
That little devil has stayed with me. As a teenager and young adult, I allowed that little devil to control me. He was an angry, mischievous devil who got me in to so much trouble that it's a wonder I survived my younger years! After a few hard falls in life, where a shot of whiskey from Grandmas hip flask no longer cut it, I learned it was time to take control and use that little devil to my advantage. I had to make friends with him and harness his strength, just like with Bonny. I had to drive that energy in the opposite direction. At the age of 41, that drive is still going so hard that sometimes I find it hard to stop. I want to chase my dreams and ideas. I want to keep growing and experiencing. I want to keep moving and trying new things. Sometimes I fall off and I flail around on the floor like a freshly caught fish gasping for air. These are the times, as my friends keep telling me, when I can be my own worst enemy as the internal battle rages. One thing I have learnt though, is that I always jump back on and just like with Bonny, I jump back on with a refreshed drive and passion for life. That's me!
The last few months has seen my toughest challenge yet. Right up until I cried with Pete, I was trying to hold that metaphoric horse back with all my strength whilst simultaneously beating it with a big stick to move forward. At that moment I let go of the big stick AND the rope and let the horse go graze for a while. It really wasn't that important!
So where does that all leave me in my journey? Am I letting the horse graze and going home or am I catching it again and pushing on in my attempt to to ride to all 7 continents? Does the 'mission' even matter anymore? Have I not done enough? There is certainly no glory seeking here. It's about not giving up on my dream. It's about seeing through what I started to the end.
My condition has been so bad at times that it has put me in hospital. On several occasions my body has gone in to full shock mode and panic attacks with uncontrollable shaking and surging nerve pain. Episodes that can last an hour at a time as my nerves rage along my spinal cord and send shock waves and surging feelings through my body as my spine shifts and compresses further. The treatment alone has been so aggressive in an attempt to get me back on the road quickly, that my body and mind have felt like they were on the edge of just shutting down. I have so far had Physio, Chiropractors, Massage, Tens, Ultrasound, heat, cold treatment, Plasma injections, Prolotherapy and IMS. A total of 50 injections in my shoulder, neck, spine and groin, with another 20 to go! I felt there would never be a day without pain again or restless nights. I spent all my money on medical treatment and back home my house sale fell through adding more stress to the situation. It has been pretty intense to say the least! Still I could not accept the idea of going home. To go home would be to accept defeat! It also meant a very long and painful plane ride!
3 days ago I tried to ride. I managed 3 hours before I ended up on my knees on the side of the road and had to be rescued by my wonderful friends and temporary support crew (in every way). I was twitching rather strangely and breathing like I was about to run out of air. Without fuss, and even throwing in a touch of humour, they congratulated me on managing 3 hours, before lifting me up and putting me in the car. It took 24 hours to recover from that but I did it. Since then I have managed a long car ride without fuss or painkillers. I had maybe 2mm more movement in my shoulder too (which has been frozen for 7 months now). I had a full day yesterday without having to go lie down, and today - well today I am writing again and that means my old self is returning. The smallest improvements mean the world to me right now.
So many people have listened to me, given their support, a place to stay or just been a friend since all this started. Being on the road, even amongst friends, when you feel this bad is hard. Sometimes you feel so weak mentally and physically that you have nothing to give back - barely even a smile let alone conversation! They have given me this time without question or demands. Back home my parents have bought a caravan so I have some space if I decide I need to be in Wales. My sister offered to help towards the costs of flying me back, my friends Skyped and one even drank a shit load of beer and turned the cans in to a new top yolk with built in anti-vibration technology in case I made it back on the road (seriously)! Honda Canada have even stepped in with a budget to make some improvements to the bike that might just make my ride a little smoother. I cannot thank you all enough. These friendships will be the only thing that remain of this chapter before long. With their help I HAVE accepted that whatever will be will be. Going home for a month or two may just be what I need to fully recover once my treatment is over. This may be what I need to avoid further damage down the line. It doesn't mean the end of the road! It just gives my body time to catch up so I can continue where I left off later on. I have finally come to terms with this. I'm OK with it at long last! IT DOESN'T MEAN THE END!
It doesn't mean I actually HAVE to go home either of course! Come on! Did you think it was that easy? I'm still that driven person and the horse is still waiting for me to get back on. I'm itching to get back on! Acceptance has given me strength and control - as backwards as that may sound.
With an inner calm, a few tiny signs of improvement and a new improved Rhonda in the pipeline, I will either ride or fly out of here in 2 weeks time. I will do it with a smile on my face.
Watch this space.