Later this week, Team Shomelanoma (Shiona, Dave, Liz, Johnny, Clem, Paula, Phil, Natasha, Adrian, Tony, Sam, Molly and Ollie) are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime climbing Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s Highest Mountain standing at a majestic 4167m. The excitement is building amongst the team with nerves starting to build as we realise how close we are to flying to Morocco ready for a team talk and meal on Thursday evening. After a night in Marrakesh to readjust to the 90 degree temperatures we make our way to the Atlas Mountains on Friday to begin the 6 – 7 hr trek to the basecamp at 3000m.
We will be staying in a basic mountain refuge and rising ready for our summit attempt at 3 am on Saturday morning. The steep climb to the summit before the sun rises will see us climbing and scrambling over the huge boulders and rock’s of North Africa’s tallest peak. With altitude, weather and terrain to contend to make this challenge extremely tough. The summit day is a long 12 to 14 hour day in very exposed conditions. Even as I am writing this thinking about it, I am wondering if Morrocan Madness has come over us taking on this daunting adventure. We will all be digging really deep to succeed in this challenge
The team is taking on this challenge to raise funds for melanoma research at the Royal Marsden where I am treated for stage 4 melanoma. Less than 10 years ago someone with my prognosis where melanoma has travelled to the brain would survive on average 6 to 9 months’ as there were no effective treatments available. The fact that I am here 5.5 years after a melanoma tumour was diagnosed in the brain is nothing short of incredible and in large part due to the significant advances in drug treatment (immunotherapy and targeted therapy), which have transformed the treatment of advanced melanoma. However over 50% of patients do not respond to current treatments or the cancer develops resistance and they run out of options. We lose 7 people a day to melanoma in the UK and this is why we are so passionate to continue funding melanoma research to stop so many people losing their lives to this devastating disease. On summit night, when the climb is getting really tough I will be remembering all of the lives lost to help motivate, dig deep and drive us to the summit.
On a personal note, the Team Shomelanoma fundraising challenges help to give back to the fabulous melanoma team at the Royal Marsden who have been at the forefront of melanoma research including translational research, running clinical trials and developing new treatments to extend the lives of cancer patients. The staff at the Royal Marsden hospital that care for you as you are going through such a deeply traumatic and emotional experience are outstanding. They go above and beyond to care not just for you as a patient but also your family and become like an extended part of your family.
Whilst melanoma has been at the forefront of immunotherapy, its use has subsequently extended to many other cancer types. The funds we raise are explicitly used to further understand immunotherapy treatments and the evolution of cancer as it metastases and spreads around the body, in the hope that further breakthroughs and improvements in cancer treatments emerge.
Taking on these challenges while living with stage 4 cancer has also given me a sense of purpose, motivation and they have helped keep me healthy not just physically but also mentally. We have also been fortunate to be on many adventures from the Jurassic Coast 100km to The Welsh 3000’s to the Giants Causeway Marathon Trek they have all raised lots of funds for melanoma research but also created very special memories with the gorgeous group of friends who take part and also support the fundraising. This means a huge amount to me personally and I just want to say a massive than you to everyone who has taken part in the Team Shomelanoma challenges you are all absolute superstars, I will remind you of this next Saturday as we are struggling up Mount Toubkal in the dark at 3am.
All of the team have been out training for the trek throughout the summer from the Malvern Hills, Brecon Beacons to The Alps to the Scottish Highlands and more. Here are just a few photos from the training hikes. I also just want to say a big thank you to Jen and Immy Clark who were both also signed up to take part on the Toubkal Trek but are both injured so have had to drop out. You will both be very much missed and we will have a toast to you both at the summit.
If you would like to support the team in their Toubkal challenge we would be hugely grateful and thank you as always for your continued support.
I will be detailing the Team Shomelanoma Morroco adventure on the blog and on all social channels so look out for more details on over the coming weeks
In addition to the Team Shomelanoma Toubkal Trek, we also have my gorgeous friend Melissa Tarver who is taking part in the Serpentine Swim Challenge on Saturday 17 September. She will be swimming a mile in the Uk’s largest openwater swim and raising funds for melanoma research at The Royal Marsden.
In addition, Chris Lloyd and Becky Pearce will be taking on the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Team Shomelanoma on Sunday October 9. We will be there supporting them running through the royal parks. As some of you know Dave normally runs The Royal Parks Half Marathon too but this year it was just too close to Mount Toubkal but he will be back next year.
Thank you again to everyone who has supported the Team Shomelanoma fundraising challenges and we look forward to updating you on the Mount Toubkal Trek next month when we are safely back from Morroco.