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‘I’m not ashamed to say I cried tears of exhaustion, grief, loneliness and anger’

Deerstalker challenge
Sarah Cardwell took on the gruelling Mighty Deerstalker challenge to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Action in her mother’s memory. She shares her memories from the day.

“In March 2015 my life changed. My Mum went into hospital struggling with her breathing and left with a terminal ovarian cancer diagnosis. After six short weeks and one session of chemotherapy she passed away with all her family around her at home on 20 April.

Due to my own endometriosis my hysterectomy was booked for just a few weeks after my mum passed away. Knowing the risks, my mum begged me to have my ovaries removed, which I did.

As I was recovering and grieving I decided I needed to do something positive. My friend Alex told me about the Mighty Deerstalker; an off-road run across rivers, through forests and over a mountain or two in the pitch dark of a chilly March night!

It was a while before I could begin training. Entering the menopause at 33 and the wrong HRT meant my endometriosis was starting to return, but nothing was going to stop me completing it for my mum.

We set up the memory page and aimed for £1000 to get my mum on the tribute wall, but we soon reached that target.

On the morning of the event, Alex, another friend Claire, and myself arrived dressed in deerstalker hats, tweed shorts, Ovarian Cancer Action t-shirts and head torches. It was a fantastic sight; music tents, bars, food and a huge inflatable water slide down to the finish line.

Soon we were off! There was a hay bale to climb and within no time we were in a field of mud. I could feel the cold and wet soaking through the special ‘trail’ shoes that we’re going to keep me dry. I shouldn’t have worried as ten minutes later we were waist-high in a stream of mud!

There were some genuinely horrific moments up the first mountain where I was unable to breathe normally, yet I never stopped. I was doing this for mum. Before I set off my daughter said, “if it hurts or you want to stop, just look up and think about grandma.”

The challenges continued: cargo nets, balancing beams, sliding down muddy banks on your bottom, walking against the strong current in a stream… I’m not ashamed to say I cried tears of exhaustion, grief, loneliness and anger.

The most difficult part was the ‘scree’, which involved a sheer climb of stones on my hands and knees – it was the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life!

As I passed the final stream and appraoched the finish line I could hear music getting louder. I took a running dive down the muddy waterslide and crossed the line after 4 hours 21 minutes and 53 seconds.

I burst into tears as a man threw the medal around my neck. It could have been an Olympic gold in my eyes I was so proud.

Today our total stands at £2188. My mum will be on the Ovarian Cancer Action tribute wall forever and I’m sure she’d be proud. I already know that I will do something each year to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Action and I’m sure after a couple more weeks of recovery I’ll be planning my 2017 challenge!”

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