Path To China: Meet Evie

On the run up to our epic trek of the Great Wall of China, we will be speaking to our supporters who have bravely decided to join us! Our first blog is from Evie Thomas, who works in the Radiotherapy Department at Velindre Cancer Centre (which is partly funded by Cancer Research Wales).

My name is Evie Thomas, I am 26 years old and in May 2016 I signed up to take part in this year’s ‘China: Walk the Wall’ trek to raise a significant amount of money for Cancer Research Wales (CRW).
I decided to sign up to Walk the Wall for many reasons. For those who are close to me – they will know that I am definitely a ‘Yes’ person, and there are not many things that I wouldn’t try!

So firstly, I have never done anything quite like this before – I think with regards to challenging myself, the closest thing that I have taken part in similar to this was to attend a Medical Stretch Army weekend away, which consisted of multiple activities over a 10k walking course designed to build my teamworking, problem solving and communication skills. This was followed by a military style assault course and a 5k stretcher run (which was not the most enjoyable experience, I definitely hadn’t trained my biceps enough for this!)

Therefore, this is a huge step up for me with regards to the fundraising target and the challenge I will be faced with. It took me a whole 4 hours, from talking to one of the fundraising team about this trek and discussing it with family and friends, to making the decision that yes: I wanted to take the opportunity and do this! To be able to say that I have raised over £3000 for CRW is going to be such a rewarding feeling, and it will be incredible to know that I will have supported CRW colleagues to continue the essential research that is needed to ensure that Wales is always providing the highest level of care to all of its cancer patients.

Following from this – I work in the Radiotherapy Department at Velindre Cancer Centre so am heavily involved in the treatment of and communication with cancer patients. I am a therapy radiographer – This involves delivering the radiation treatment to cancer patients. It is a hugely rewarding, but sometimes emotional job. We can see patients on a one-off basis, but will often see them every day for up to six weeks – therefore, we tend to build a strong rapport with our patients and become very involved in their treatment pathway, and often need to react to their emotional and practical needs.

My granddad and I

I have worked at Velindre for almost 6 years, and have treated many relatives and friends – the most emotional moment being when I treated my granddad. Unfortunately, he was undergoing palliative treatment so it was very hard for me to deal with, but the smile on his face when I called him from the waiting room made up for it all! Sadly, he passed away on my birthday in 2012. Although it was a horrible time, it was a relief to know that the pain had stopped for him.

The appreciation we receive from patients is priceless, and it is so lovely to know we are making a difference. As a result, I want to do this on behalf of all of the patients I see, and my family and friends that have suffered at the hands of this cruel disease.

My job is developing every day, with new techniques and advanced treatment pathways, and without the research and increased knowledge that CRW support this would never be possible. Fortunately, due to the numerous treatment options offered at Velindre, most of my relatives and friends I have treated have been faced with a positive outcome. However, in Wales we are constantly striving for an overall higher percentage of positive outcomes, so I want to support CRW on their mission to do this. This is why I have chosen to take this specific challenge on – to help this wonderful charity!

I have finally made a start on my training – Christmas festivities held me back a little too much! But I am really getting into the swing of it now and enjoying it, and I am trying to get to grips with the kit I need and I’m enjoying spending lots of money on lots of new things!

Luckily my job is very active and I am constantly on my feet, but as well as this I am trying to go to the gym once or twice a week, with the aim of mainly using the cross trainer/step machines to strengthen my legs ready for the thousands of steps on the wall. I’m also trying to do a long walk every weekend – so far I have climbed Pen Y Fan three times, and on my most recent walk I added a 5kg weight to my rucksack – usually, my partner even carries my drink so I really need to practice being a bit more self-sufficient! I have also recently taken part in a lovely 5 mile walk behind Castell Coch with the Welsh Women Walking.

I really want to ensure that my fitness is up to a level that I will be able to enjoy the trek and not struggle too much – It is going to be tough but I’m sure that the incredible things that we will be seeing and doing will get me through (and I MUST remember blister plasters!).

 

I am so looking forward to making memories and gaining new friends on this trek. I decided to sign up to this challenge on my own – It is quite daunting as I have no idea who I will end up sharing rooms with, but it is also really exciting as I think I will more likely make better and longer lasting relationships than if I was with friends or family. I have briefly met some of my fellow trekkers, but can’t wait to get to know them better and I’m feeling positive that we will make a fun and supportive team while we are on the wall. I am excited to experience some of the Chinese culture – I have never been so far away from home before, and I can’t wait for everything! The food, talking to the locals, the history… And of course the toboggan ride down the wall on the last day! It will also be a humbling experience to be able to help in a small way to rebuild the Great Wall – I am still trying to think of ideas of a personal token to mix with the cement. I think this is going to be such an emotional day due to the many personal reasons everyone will have for taking part in the trek. This will also mean a finishing point which could be a huge relief or may leave me feeling quite sad! But I’m sure most of all; we will all feel a huge sense of achievement.

 

Me and my dad

Amazingly, I have already reached my fundraising target of £3000, and I have thoroughly enjoyed raising the money through different events and activities. The main bulk of donations came from a charity pub night that I held on my birthday (I had the idea that family and friends couldn’t really refuse the invite on this date…!) This turned out to be the most perfect evening – the turnout was brilliant, the band (The People The Poet) had everyone singing and dancing, and thanks to so many local businesses, I was able to offer a huge range of amazing raffle prizes. This night raised a massive £1600 and Barclays offered match funding of £1000 so I was off to a great start! The bar tab was also quite large at the end of the night…

 

Me and my partner Scott

Another charity night I organised was a pub quiz with a raffle alongside it at the Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd – this raised over £300 and was a very successful evening. For fitness and fun, a charity rounders match was organised by some of my colleagues which raised over £100, and they chose my fundraising page to donate to which was fantastic!

I have also held two bake sales in work, a summer and a  Christmas themed one – From both combined I raised around £400 (Radiotherapists will do absolutely anything for cake!)

I have found the fundraising so much fun and would definitely encourage others to give it a go! I am incredibly lucky to have had so much support from all my lovely family, friends and colleagues – Without them; this would not have been as easy or enjoyable.

There’s less than 4 months to go, and I’m looking forward to continuing with the training and fundraising, and the trek will be here before I know it. The one and only problem I have is knowing how to smuggle this little one through customs…!

Do you want to join us on one of our treks? Check out MACHU PICCHU 2018.