London to Brighton. 100km in 29 hours!

To all of our amazing friends, family and others who donated money to us,

WE DID IT. We walked 100km. ONE HUNDRED KILOMETRES. And for every 1km we walked we earned £40.22 culminating in a massive £4,022 raised for MRKH Connect.

Neither Charlie or I have enough words to express how thankful we are. For every £1 donated, every message of support, every person that came out to cheer us on or bring us sandwiches, and everyone who believed in our lunacy.

We have raised over double what we thought we would, and the support along our entire journey, from blog to finish line, has been incredible.

So thank you, a million times. Your support won’t just make a different to those that MRKH Connect touches, but it will also stay with us for a long, long time.

Lots of love

The both of us xxx

Jen & Charlie’s post-walk debrief

What was your best bit of the walk?

Charlie: Can I say peanuts? But seriously, aside from peanuts it was walking over that finish line, it was the most incredible feeling, the emotion had been building, well for 100km it had, but to finish just felt incredible, I was so proud, bloody tired, but proud and very overwhelmed

Jen: The finish line. There were so many wonderful, fun and funny moments in those 29 hours, but nothing can beat the feeling of crossing that line. 29 hours and 19 minutes after you started, tired and beaten up but so incredibly proud.

What was the worst bit of the walk?

Charlie: The nighttime, that period from the 67km stop to 80km was just awful, worse than awful. Nothing prepared me for walking in a wood in the dark after already having walked for some 16 hours. The pace was slow, my muscles were ceasing and the endless 13km which took over 4 hours seemed never ending.

Jen: 67km – 99.9km. I’d love to sit here and say ‘it was all amazing’, but the hamstring in my left knee gave out at 67km and after that I was progressively using my walking poles as walking sticks. At 90km the right knee went and I was alternating limping for the last 10km. It was some of the most pain I have ever been in, the most pain I have ever pushed through. I wasn’t giving up, but that f*cking hurt.

Were you ever tempted to give up?

Charlie: Never, even at the 80km breakfast stop where we sat the lowest we probably felt the whole walk, despondent and force feeding ourselves porridge. I always knew we were going to do it, not sure in what state or how long but we were always going to get to the end.

Jen: No. I was getting over that finish line if I had to crawl. Knees or no knees.

What did it feel like crossing the finish?

Charlie: Like I had opened the emotional flood gates, I cried a lot. It was quite indescribable to finish I couldn’t at that point get my head around the fact we had walked for so long, so far and my family were there at the end, so proud. Really was incredible.

Jen: The first thing I said to Becky as I collapsed on her was, whilst crying, ‘that was a really long way!’. It felt surreal, and amazing, and ridiculous. There were really no words to describe it, so I think I just talked a lot about how far it was. Because I think that’s what you get stuck on – ‘I can’t believe I just did that, did I just do that?’.

What were the things that got you through it?

Charlie: peanuts, marmite sandwiches, hula hoops, the endless support and messages all day/night, Jen selfie bombing, Justin Timberlake, sheer grit and stubbornness not to give up when it felt so hard we wanted to cry and of course each other

Jen: The absolute and indubitable knowledge that I was going to finish whatever the cost. That resolve really can get you places. Also, the small luxuries. Yummy snacks, changing socks and clean clothes at 56km. The people that came out to surprise us that gave us a boost to carry on during our low moments. My walking buddies.

Would you do it again?

Charlie: No, not because I hated it (although I can’t say I enjoyed all of it at the time) but because I want to do a different challenge now 🙂

Jen: I loved it. If you want to do it, you should definitely do it. Train though, A LOT. But no, I am not doing it again any time soon. I want to focus on different challenges. But you know, never say never.

 

 

 

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Did we pass a km marker? I am sure we must have

To walk over that finish line was the most indescribable feeling, the emotion, the achievement and the sheer grit and determination that got us there. Seeing my mum standing in the middle of the finish line so proud was just a wonderful feeling, I’d spot that coat a mile off almost as distinctive as my offensively bright leggings  but I wouldn’t have changed that moment for the world.

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Things that got me through the walk

  • The reason for doing it – In many ways I needed no better reason to get to the end than the cause we were walking for and the condition we all share
  • The shoes – no blisters, no strapping for 100km now of course I am sure the training helped but the shoes were awesome. So awesome I am sad enough that I emailed Hi-tec to tell them how great their shoes were…and I got a response. 🙂
  • Peanuts – I just like them
  • Laura’s head torch – without which when Jen’s broke at 2am we would have been a bit stuffed. The headtorch that I am pretty sure could be seen from space was an absolute godsend, even if it did mean I was at the front ‘finding’ the swampy mud bits before Jen and Laura
  • Shelley’s letters – these made me cry before the walk, just as I was about to embark on the nighttime section (always embarrassing when I read that one in front of her brother) and then at the end. Your support and your calls at random times (despite being on holiday in the sun…not that I was jealous at all) were a really awesome boost. Love you
  • My goddaughters pledging their pocketmoney – this made me cry at about 5km, I am sure however when I next see them I will get the same question I have had from other little people in my life – ‘but why didn’t you just get the train auntie charlotte?’
  • Cheese and marmite sandwiches – The best sandwiches known to man, ever
  • Banoffee Pie – the local support was amazing and the house somewhere in Sussex who were offering banoffee pie totally won the award for best local 🙂
  • Double socks – oh how people laughed, and it probably did contribute to my heat rash but it worked 🙂
  • The endless messages of support at all times of the day and night – you guys got me through, thank you to Rob who was ready to give me a pep talk at 11.30pm if needed, although I decided not to take my friend Ondrej’s advice to ‘break a leg’
  • Surprise visitors along the walk – you know who you are and it was awesome thank you
  • Laura and Jen – we did it together and for something so important to all of us…I couldn’t be prouder

It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, much much harder than I imagined, the physical strain of walking for so long as well as the mental will to keep yourself going, even in the dark, when most of the paths are single file was quite frankly horrific.

When I signed up to this I initially thought, walking, well that can’t be that hard right? But I quickly realised that whilst very difficult to train for because endurance walking takes a physically long time.  You absolutely do have to train, you have to condition your muscles, build your stamina and endurance, and soak your feet in surgical spirit to harden the skin and prevent blisters – I’ve got great ‘summer feet’ right now.

The feeling at the start is something in between excitement with a tinge of trepidation. Spirits are high and those first miles seemed to fly by as we talked through all the gossip we had been saving up for the walk. Passing many people along the path to Kingston who kept saying ‘I wonder what they are up to, there must be an event on’…no shit, what gave it away the rucksacks

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with our bib numbers on or the fact there were literally thousands of us doing the same thing?

In any case the first quarter seemed to go quite well, I saw parts of London and the suburbs I have never seen (that could be considered good or bad). My friend Andrew timed it perfectly for a quick hello as he cheered us on through Nonsuch Park and then we were on to Oaks Park for our lunch stop where I was the first of us to require the medics having taken my shoes and socks off to find immense heat rash on my feet and ankles. Now I was prepared for this a

s it happened the weekend before but still even preempting it with antihistamine hadn’t stopped it happening.

As we left the urban jungle at Coulsdon and started to go over the downs it was hot, like really hot, but we started to see greenery (yay) and hear the dulcet tones of the M25 (always a delight). We soon realized that there were actually a number of stiles on our route…and not just a few, someone told us there were 56!! I am sure there wasn’t quite that many.  We did start counting them but that got pretty dull quite quickly. It was interesting that when people have already been walking for many hours getting over a stile is, it appears, frustratingly slow.  Watching people so tentatively getting their leg over the stile was tedio20160528_202236us to say the least but just shows how used to a certain motion your legs get into.

Arriving to the half way point at 10pm, in the dark, borderline requiring head torches (in fact we probably should have as woods are really quite dark) it was a relief to see our family and friends and have a much needed hot meal, get some hydrocortisone cream on my heat rash (finally) and prepare for the onslaught of the evening. None of us had any idea what walking in the dark, through woods would be like. I can tell you now I really didn’t like it very much, in fact it was horrible. We set off glow sticks in hand and head torches ready but nothing really prepared us for it – I am not even sure a training night walk would have helped, unless it had also been in a wood.

About 1.30am Jen’s knee, which we knew was dodgy, gave out.  In fact both knees weren’t having the best time but after that point the pace slowed, coupled with Laura having some horrible blisters the next 10km…which took 4 hours…..in the dark…largely in single file….with only 2/3 head torches working…..were easily the hardest of the whole walk. Whilst I didn’t have any ailments per se the stopping and starting and slow pace was making my muscles cease up and I was really struggling to will my legs on. We arrived at some school in what I am sure is a pretty village somewhere about 20km north of Brighton about 6am, by this point I think its fair to say we were all rather despondent, tired, in pain and the prospect of even daylight wasn’t lifting our moods. We sat in that tent on a massive table not talking to each other and trying to make ourselves eat the porridge that was in front of us. It was a low point, I am not even a massive fan of porridge but the prospect of bacon (which was also on offer) made me feel sick.

Then we had a massive energy boost in the form of Jen’s sister Louise and Louise’s brother Richard. Louise and Richard having completed the 100km the year before knew how bad it can be, Louise felt every ounce of pain that Jen did at that point having been injured herself last year and that positivity from them not only that we could do it but that they would take our bags off us and drop them at the end (which was an amazing feeling by the way) and walk the next 10km with us to get us up Ditchling Beacon.  This filled us all with an overwhelming sense of joy and relief, the boost we absolutely needed. With extra support for Jen and Laura I was also able to stretch my legs out walking to the next stops at a faster pace and waiting for them with Richard without them feeling I was having to keep stopping and with me being able to stretch out my aching muscles.

At 90km we regrouped, the three of us, back on the path for the last 10km, whilst the pace was slow the reality that we only had a few hours left and we were there was the boost, the motivation to keep going. The family whatsapp group I had set up being used almost continuously by my parents at this point to find out where I was, mum got obsessed with location pins which for a large proportion of the walk seemed to keep telling them I was in Teddington.

At 92km I had a message from my brother asking where I was, my family waiting at the end enjoying the sunshine. I had no idea that he would come and meet uIMG-20160529-WA0005s, I didn’t think he would even make it to the end as we ended up being later than we thought.  But he did, resourceful as ever (lol) he found the nearest rest stop to us and worked out about how far we would be away from it.  I am genuinely impressed by this particularly given my brother is notoriously shit at geography so I am surprised he even made it to Brighton (its near Bath right bro?) and I have never been so pleased to see his smiling face shouting to me as he walked up this stupid uneven path down from the beacon. He ended up walking 8km with us coordinating with my boyfriend too who couldn’t make it to the end but surprised me by joining us for a couple of km – James I owe you that was literally awesome.

I have never been so pleased to see the end of anything, the endless ‘its just around the corner’ did get rather tiresome and given a lot of the rest stops weren’t quite at the km mark that we were being told it felt like the marshalls were lying to us.  Seems stupid but when it gets to the point that the main way we were measuring time was in km the excitement to get to that next marker was what kept us going. That great feeling seeing the pink square signs you knew to be km markers only to find out they were in fact hazard markers, often with no obvious hazard, were becoming mightily frustrating. That last bit…on the grass of the racecourse walking to the end we were all on the verge of tears, Jen also because her knee was spasming by this point, my dad meeting us with about 50m to go before running back to meet my mum.

I collapsed on my mum in tears that I couldn’t stop, I think my mum was crying too, it all seems a bit of a blur. It was the relief and happiness that we had actually done it and I didn’t have to walk anymore plus I knew my mum had sausage sandwiches (she could have fed half the racecourse) and champagne for me :).

I always knew I would complete it but nothing quite prepared me how amazing that feeling was. My aunt and uncle also coming down to the end and I apologise to my uncle Mike when he asked me ‘how was it’ and I replied ‘f***ing horrible’ that was just the emotion…I promise 🙂 but thank you for going to retrieve my tshirt and other free things at the end whilst pretending to be Charlie Bishop.

We have raised more awareness than I ever thought possible, we have raised so much money (£3,761) for a cause designed to help connect people and get them to the much needed support groups and I couldn’t be prouder or more overwhelmed by what we have achieved. Whilst the best foot forward challenge is over and Jen and I put this blog to rest, the awareness raising doesn’t stop and I rather enjoy blogging so I will continue to do so under https://mrkhmakingmymark.wordpress.com so watch out for more posts 🙂

Thank you doesn’t really seem ‘enough’ to say for all the support we have had but thank you, it has been incredible and something I really will never forget.

THIS was more important than fear and we only went and bloody did it 🙂

love you all

Charlie xx

 

It’s the final countdown… na na na naaaah…

For the past week I’ve been singing this in my head. Constantly. I wake up humming it. And what makes it even worse is that I don’t know any of the other lyrics.

I’ve been approaching Saturday with a vague sense of hysteria. From bouncing around in my chair at work to staring out the bus window with a mild sense of fear..

What if I trip on a pothole on mile 3 and break my ankle?

What if my hamstring tendon finally gives way?

What if my sports bra breaks?! (No really, this happened to my sister).

But broken bones, ridiculous fears and pre-Christmas style excitement aside the day is almost finally here. Charlie and I are packed and ready to go. No more training, no more planning, no more blogging.

Just a whole lot of walking.

100km to be precise.

I didn’t know what to write in this last blog before the big walk. I’ve said my thank you’s, although I’m sure I’ll be saying more in the coming days. I’ve told you the whys and what fors, I’ve talked about my feelings on the internet, I said the word vagina on and off the television and I posted a photo of my dad in a bowler hat. So what’s left?

In pondering that question, I came across a poem written by a lady in Australia with MRKH.

Her words touched me, and I wanted to share a few verses with you before Charlie and I set off. Proud to be walking for those with MRKH with our very best feet forward.

Jen x

 

I am not broken,

My body does not need

To emerge

From a cocoon.

Less tarnished

And more beautiful.

 

I am not a fighter

A warrior battling foes

Praised because

She survived despite

Her never ending woes.

 

I do not need pity

When I tell my story

Or my path to be

Paved with delicate china

Filled with weak tea of sympathy.

 

I am not over emotional

Unable to stop my voice

Before it ruptures the truth.

I speak my dignity like a

Sword slicing through flesh

And I am proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courage

Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all

Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries.

 I would like to thank Steve for the inspiration for this blog. Who sent me the above quote a while back subsequently telling me I personified courage. He is clearly an avid reader of The Princess Diaries or a fan of the movie, or just the lovely guy I know him to be, or all of those things, who knows. Steve, this one is for you and for the delight it has given me that I have inspired your daughter with what I have been doing :).

Lots of people have said to me how brave and courageous I have been over these last few months to share such personal things in such an open way. In many ways I have never really seen it as being brave or courageous although it probably is, that’s not to say that like Jen on that cold October afternoon I wasn’t quite frankly shitting myself when we hit ‘Go’ on that first blog and the posts that we subsequently shared on Facebook but it was more anxiety / excitement about the response than braveness to actually do it. I have wanted to be open with the condition for such a long time but just hadn’t found the right way to do it. The right way to share my thoughts and feelings and ultimately try and help others to come to terms with the condition.

I have gone much further than I ever thought possible since Jen asked all that time ago if I would join her on this mental challenge to walk from London to Brighton. Not only has it brought us closer together but I feel that we have done something truly amazing, if for no one else then ourselves. The start of the blog for me has made a massive difference to how I feel about myself I have a sense of pride and empowerment with being able to share my feelings in this way even if I am the only one that ever reads them. I have been able to engage and interact with my family and friends in a different way than before.  Its come up at conferences when some people I have been talking to have asked about how its all going and others didn’t know and I have explained what I have been doing and why, I never would have been so open about it in that context in the past. I have been able to reconnect with people I haven’t spoken to for years because they have been able to find something in my writing that has either touched them or made them want to share their stories with me. It’s amazing what you don’t know about people and this blog has highlighted that specifically for people who maybe thought they knew me but didn’t appreciate all that goes on in this crazy head of mine and what it has taken to get to where I am today.

I am not ashamed to say that there have been some bad times, some really shit times to be honest but I got through that, I had to because that wasn’t me and I didn’t want to feel like that but you have to be able to realize that you are in that position, that it does happen, maybe more than once in your lifetime and that there is support if you are willing to find it. Being able to share my experiences and support a cause so close to our hearts with such a wonderful friend IS that important thing to me. Together we have pushed each other, consciously and subconsciously, to go that extra step on our respective journeys through life.  During the last year there have been many many whatsapps, much wine (sometimes foolishly on a schoolnight), emails, lengthy calls as we laugh and sometimes cried our way through the moments of the last year.   I am cautious about so many things in life but this for me was never something to be cautious about. If I was cautious then it either wouldn’t happen or it wouldn’t be true to me which is exactly what I wanted it to be. This blog for the most part was a way to document my feelings in a way I hoped to educate others as well as provide help and support to people going through the same things to show that life can actually be ok despite being hit with a bombshell like this in those scary teenage years.

Over these last few months I have walked further than I ever have done in my life, I have injured myself in ways I never actually thought possible (bruise caused by iPod to the back of the knee, really?) but I have explored parts of where I live like I never have before (probably a good and bad thing). Whilst for the most part I mainly walked alone the combination of dance music, waaayyy too much Justin Bieber and One Direction, singing (when no one was around) the right snacks and the constant thought of why I am doing this have helped to pull me through.2016-05-25 10.16.09

I have accidentally walked to Ash, I have walked around Woking more times than is probably normal, I have walked in the Surrey Hills in the sleet and freezing cold in January where I ate a Cadbury’s crème egg at the bottom of Leith Hill Tower whilst shivering at -5 degrees barely able to hold it long enough to open the wrapper to lastly, the pre-challenge tip of the iceberg I walked from my house to Waterloo station.  London it turns out is a really rather long walk, 30miles in fact but I got to take in some sights like Hampton Court, Kingston (that’s a delight on a Saturday morning I can tell you), Putney, Battersea and the London skyline along the river but I have never been so pleased to see Waterloo in my entire life, I nearly cried and I can now only imagine the elation and emotion I will feel when I get to the end on Sunday, because I will get to the end, we will get to the end Jen. We are in this together and I am so so proud of what we have both achieved and so thankful for all the support from so many people to help us to get there.

I can’t possibly thank you all in a fitting way through this particular blog (unless it was several pages long) but know that it will come and that I love you all very much. I am eternally grateful for your support and help whether you are my family, friends, colleagues, ex-teachers or even clients I cannot explain how important your words and support have been.

This is not the end of the blog for me, this is only the start. It’s been the springboard I wanted to start raising awareness and I have every intention of continuing it.

THIS is more important than fear

See you on the other side….

Love Charlie xx

You can follow our walk progress at the weekend via:

  • The blog
  • Instagram (@charlieabishop)
  • Facebook
  • Twitter (@Charliebishop84)
  • #bestfootforward
  • #bestfootforwardmrkh

1 week to go… time to thank a few people.

I’m walking 100km next week. And I am really excited.

I’m excited to strap my boots on. I’m excited to get started. I’m excited to be part of something, to walk next to one of my best friends for something we both truly believe in. I’m excited for the great moments, and for the really tough moments.

I’m excited for the moments we show ourselves what we’re made of, when we’re faced with the feeling we can’t go on, and keep putting one foot in front of the other anyway.

After a year of planning this really is the final countdown to what will be the biggest physical challenge of my life to date. I’ve climbed the Inca trail, trekked mountains in Africa, bungee jumped with a fear of heights, dived with sharks, been through dilation treatment (!) but this is by far the toughest thing I’ve ever attempted.

And I cannot wait.

But the 100km that I’m walking next week is only a piece of this journey. It began almost a year ago to the day as I stood in a field in Sussex waiting for my sister Louise to arrive at the London to Brighton half way point.

As I stood waiting, I found the atmosphere of it all intoxicating. I wanted to be part of it. The cheers of encouragement, the live music, the sheer hard work and perseverance that was so clear on the faces of everyone crossing the half way line. Half way! These people still had 50k to walk. Through the dark! Through the woods!

Nutters.

Or were they?

A year later and here I am. Ready with my very own walking boots.

And all this time I’ve been referring to the walk itself as the challenge, but really the whole journey, right from that moment a year ago to this day, has been part of the challenge too.

From recruiting Charlie and partnering with MRKH Connect, to creating the blog and publishing our first story on Facebook – they were my first steps. And some were easier than others.

Getting Charlie involved with surprisingly easy. All agreed over Whatsapp, I expected a little more of a fight – but, as it turns out, she’s just as nuts as me, and as the other 2,500 people that attempt this each May.

Putting our blog on Facebook, sending that very first story out into the world – that was far more nerve wracking, and I can tell you, my hands were shaking as I pressed ‘publish’ that very first time.

It’s turned out to be a journey full of firsts. For the first time in my career I’ve been open about MRKH at work. In January I went to Sweden with the BBC to interview the team behind the first successful uterine transplants. I started running, (running!), walking, gym-ming, trampolining – I feel strong, able, fit.

Fit! And I love it.

I have loved so much about this road to our 100km. I’ve done so many things in this past year that a decade ago I never would have thought possible.

So before I start the final piece of this journey I want to say a big thank you to all of those people who have been with me along the way, without whose encouragement over the years I would not have got to the start line, let alone the finish line.

To Charlie, who agreed to walk the walk with me. Who thinks I’m mental but who likes me anyway. You are my partner in crime, and my designated map-reader.

A truly heartfelt shout-out to Becky Glass who I just adore, and who has accompanied me to every MRKH meeting in years. You have been my wise words and my most trusted confidante for over a decade. There aren’t enough words to tell you how lucky I feel to call you my friend. Above everything else, above the support, the fun, the laughter, the dancing and all of the memories – you simply get it, you understand. Thank you.

To Jane, who has a heart of gold and who has been my biggest cheerleader. For always, always being there when I needed a friend. Every girl needs a Jane in her life. I get to be the lucky one!

My parents. My Dad who gave me a love for music that carries me through the toughest moments. My Mum who raised a girl who keeps on going. For always being there at the beginning, at the half way-point, at the finish line.

My big sister Clare, who sat with me on the bathroom floor that first night after diagnosis and has walked beside me every day since. Who is always there with a life-pause button, an 80’s playlist and a bottle of wine.

My bigger sister Louise, who has more grit, more courage and more determination than most people. For always giving it to me straight, and for always offering me refuge.

Nathan, who opened the doors to exercise and always encourages me to keep going. For helping me see what MRKH brings to me, and for being the first person to celebrate it. For pushing me forwards, even when I push back, and for always trying so hard for us. You are the voice in my head that makes me train when I want to sit in my pyjamas.

To all my friends and family who have been there along the way. Life has bumps and potholes, and MRKH hasn’t been the only one, but it sure was a bit of a bumpy ride for a while. I am so grateful for all the hugs, the listeners, the encouragers, the friends that got drunk and danced with me, the ones that ranted with me over tea, and to the people that were just quietly there if I needed them.

Because of you this journey has had far more light and laughter than difficulty. Because of you I know that no matter what happens I will always keep going, because I have the strength of an army in my corner.

I am so grateful for you all.

Thank you.

Jen x

We are family

I am very lucky to have a family like mine. Our relationships might be quirky in part but I couldn’t hope for anything else. You might look at the 4 of us and think happy family, long marriage and two wonderful (I might be biased) children. We always had a good relationship with our grandparents growing up and our aunts, uncles and cousins this has extended into adult life too. I spend a lot of time with my cousin Hannah for instance which even when you don’t ‘have’ to see each other shows that we do actually like each other, get on well and support each other etc. That doesn’t mean there aren’t underlying family problems.

I always thought we were a close family growing up and in many ways we are, but just not in the way many of my friends’ families are.  We have never been very open about feelings, we didn’t talk openly about personal things. I would at no point go to my mum and share my boyfriend woes or issues with MRKH or anything that was remotely personal. I have probably talked more to my aunt about those things than I did my mum. We just didn’t do that. I don’t resent that at all because that’s just the way it was. The way of dealing with these ‘taboos’ was to be rather jokey (not in a maliciously intended way) and then they wouldn’t be talked about again for a while. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything because of it but it was contrary to what I know a lot of my friends were doing who were very close to their mums. My mum was always the one with the hard exterior, the strict one. The one that if you wanted something, a lift or whatever you would go and ask Dad, who would often then tell you to ask Mum first. My Mum is a complicated person on many levels but undeniably loveable particularly now she has found her inner soft and squidgy side and for the first time in 32 years I saw her cry…in public. My Dad on the flip side is the quiet one (until a ‘megadrive’ incident occurs, which is awesome), the passive one the one you could always go to for a hug, not that we often did but still we often wouldn’t confide in our parents about things, it just wasn’t what we did as a family.14

My brother, James, and I have almost always been close with only 18 months between us we spent a lot of time together as children and apart from a period of a few years in our teens when we didn’t get on and we used to argue a lot and fight we have always got on pretty well. My brother the loud, impulsive, most laid back guy you will meet who used to be this shy little boy who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, has a heart of gold and I have always been able to rely on him, when he answers his phone that is which is easier said than done at times. On a serious note though he has always been supportive of me, will give advice where he can and likewise I do the same for him. He and his girlfriend Izzy have dropped plans to make sure I am ok and I am very very grateful for their support.

More interestingly, and something I only really thought about yesterday, is that each of us have incurable medical conditions which are completely unrelated to each other.

For the most part, none of these conditions are visible but they are still serious in their own way to us or indeed medically and have impacted our lives personally as well as had an impact on the family either now or in the past. We probably won’t ever understand the full impact of our conditions on each other, in some cases the impact is pretty minimal because of the nature of the condition but we know that we are there for each other. Whilst we deal with these situations in very different ways I think this has also become much easier for us as a family over the last few years as I feel we have become more connected in an emotional way than we ever were before. Whilst I don’t like to blow my own trumpet very often I think the blog has had a massive impact on being able to talk to my parents about MRKH and for them to be able to engage with me on it as well.  Its been nice after all these years to have those types of conversations together without the awkwardness.

But really nothing has highlighted this improved closeness than recently where the family has pulled together for the legend that is my Dad as he fights with an auto-immune condition which he was diagnosed with last year, the severity of the symptoms we certainly hadn’t comprehended (largely because the parents thought it was easier not to tell us) until we finally learned what it was. My Dad, one of the happiest, kindest most amazing people you will ever meet has found it very hard to come to terms with his condition not least because the medication he has had to take has had not only varying effects on him but also has had various amounts of success with trying to manage the condition.

It just makes you think that having that support is really vital. My Dad isn’t the lay all your emotions out kind of guy which is odd because I have seen my Dad cry many more times than my Mum growing up but I think when its something personal to you its different. You close in on yourself a little because you just want to try and get on with life despite the pain, anxiety or stress that its causing you. When you are already trying to deal with something and then there is added stress as well that can make things much harder and only prolong symptoms further as you try and take on too much, something my parents have been telling me for years I do although in reality I think my Dad wins that award hands down.

There is a period of acceptance that comes with any condition, that might be quick in some cases and for some people because of their character or on the flip side because of the condition or the person, it may take longer. There is no fail safe way of in X [days, months, years] you will feel better. Life doesn’t work like that but being there for each other or having those people to turn to is vital to helping you on that path.

A lot of girls who have MRKH class each other as family, sisters connected by the one condition we all share. The only ones who can truly understand what the other is going through. That family is different, again not the conventional type and certainly no blood relation but that doesn’t make it any less important. There are a number of these women I would undoubtedly have never met had it not been for MRKH but I am so grateful for that support network. In a similar way friends can be family, close friends are invaluable. I can go to my best friend’s house (or her parents house for that matter) and feel completely at home. There is no pretending to be something you’re not or forcing a conversation, its just natural. My closest friends aren’t blood family but they are family to me in so many ways.

You can’t choose the family you are born into but it’s important not to lose sight of what we do have in whatever form that comes and how we can use that to help us as our friends and family use us to help them.

Love Charlie xx

What if he told you he couldn’t have children?

An interesting concept and something that has come up in the Facebook support groups recently. What would you do? Does it make you think any differently about him if he can’t have children? Would it make you not love him, not want to be with him and not want to try and find a solution if you both want children?

I don’t know about you but It wouldn’t make me think any differently about him. In many ways I have found this a very recent good reverse psychology approach with MRKH. Flipping it around to see whether I would feel any different makes me realise that it shouldn’t matter to that other person, if they are the right other person.

I want children, that’s no secret. I don’t know how that will happen really but I know I want it to happen more than anything. It’s unlikely it will be via IVF for many reasons but adoption is an option and something I am quite fond of in terms of giving a child or children a safe home. It’s not something I am really in a position to think about right now but it is something I have thought about and would like to pursue further. I go to fertility exhibitions and things like that to try and get some more information for when that moment happens.

If the shoe was on the other foot would he do the same? Who knows. But I know I would support him through that. I would be there at the support groups. I would be there at the appointments and I would be by his side. It’s important to realise that we are all strong women but that having the strength of our partner or our friends to help us is also vital. Would we think our partners were weird, abnormal or any of the names we might have been called in the past? My answer at least would be, No.

Us females have a tendency to be ridiculously and unnecessarily bitchy whilst males are a lot more private about this type of thing, from my experience anyway. It’s not often I say this but we should probably take a leaf out of their book a bit on this one.

This blog has been great for me personally but also has provided me the opportunity to engage with people in a way I often don’t or wouldn’t get the chance to do. Life is shit for a lot of us just because we portray ourselves in one way doesn’t mean we are that person. One of my colleagues, new to the blog, commented to me that she had no idea I felt like I did and had no idea that I was a worrier because I always came across strong and bubbly and in her words ‘never short of a boyfriend’ – that’s probably not a good perception but still I see her point. It’s amazing what goes on behind the facade that we don’t know about. Lots of us hide our true selves maybe that’s for self preservation or just because we feel we have to. I’m a strong person, with problems. But nothing that can’t be overcome in some way in my opinion anyway.

If he had the problem would you hold him tight and tell him you would be there for him? I hope so, I would. I have only ever wanted to feel safe, to feel wanted and to feel loved. That’s normal right? If he was the one with the issue and struggling as I have struggled I guarantee he would want that too. In fact most normal people in the world would want that, because who doesn’t want to be loved and looked after?

I hide my pain at times because I don’t like feeling sad I hate feeling sorry for myself, but it happens. I know how to manage it now much much better than before but there are still nights I literally just cry sometimes for no reason, sometimes because I just feel sad but it’s ok because when it’s over it’s over and I can get back to being me. I’m not very good at being sad, I’m better in that I can now show emotion more readily than I used to rather than relying on watching Armageddon to guarantee a cry fest but still.

There are many parts of me that might exude confidence but in reality I’m a little scared mouse who like lots of us is still just trying to find her place in the world one (many) step(s) at a time 🙂

Charlie xx

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