Anyone for porridge?
By breakfast I wasn’t feeling too good and it had become apparent that Helen, one of my 4pinkbras, really wasn’t looking too good either. She had been up all night being sick and was feeling totally dehydrated. News quickly went round the camp that Donna was also suffering and that she had woken up to find that she couldn’t see for more than a few feet. I couldn’t believe how badly I took this news. I’m not normally an outwardly emotional person, I’m more of a grit your teeth, smile and bear it sort of person but this mountain was already getting under my skin and the people with it. I went for breakfast not feeling like eating anything and absolutely knackered from no sleep to find myself in front of a bowl of porridge with a layer of mountain dust inside it. I took one look and knew that I would not be eating this morning.
Once camp was packed up we set off and it was quickly obvious that Helen would not be able to continue on. She was throwing up every ten steps and couldn’t even keep water down. Donna had insisted that she wanted to carry on and I became increasingly agitated and worried that there could be serious implications for her. Eventually the doctor decided that Helen shouldn’t continue and Donna realised that things weren’t going to get better by continuing up. It was a massive blow to lose two from the team so early on and the tears flowed as myself and Audra tried to catch up with the rest of the group who by now were way ahead. As we headed up the hill I realised that my energy levels were very low and I was getting waves of nausea coming over me. We made it to a rest stop where the others were waiting for us and the group went quiet as they realised that Helen and Donna were no longer with us. I think I probably embarrassed myself by blubbing on Paul L’s shoulder at this point!!
We set off again to trek up to the lunch camp. When we arrived I was hit by nausea again and lunch didn’t pass my lips. A couple of trips to the ‘tent of hell’ ensued followed by a nose bleed at which point I decided to have a chat with Claire. I had become an emotional wreck in a matter of hours and was finding it hard to hold myself together. I was worried that I had Helen’s bug and didn’t want it to pass throughout the camp but I also didn’t want to let anyone down. I was also stressing about Helen and Donna, much more than normal for me. I learnt a valuable lesson in those few hours…Yeah I’ve come through breast cancer and I thought I was strong, I thought I could do anything I wanted and I thought I was invincible, well wise up lady your not. Dealing with your own pain is one thing but dealing with other people’s is another. Paula was also struggling at this point and was having quite serious breathing difficulties. The DVT issue reared its ugly head in my pea brain again and I sat, with blood pouring out of my nose, wondering if any of this was worth risking my health for. Martin would kill me if I put myself in danger. I knew that if it was decided that I shouldn’t carry on then I would be able to walk down to the gate today but if I went higher to the next camp it would be another matter. Jenny came over and we discussed my medical history. She walked off but not quite far enough and I heard her say to Passien ‘she’s had cancer get her off of here’. That was enough for me as my final bit of determination crumbled. I’d never felt such a failure in my entire life. I was angry with myself for thinking I could do this so soon after treatment and surgery and even more angry with myself for dragging four perfectly sane friends into doing it too.
Saying goodbye to everyone was the hardest thing ever. Leaving Audra and Annemarie was heartbreaking but I knew that they would be fine together and that they wouldn't put themselves at risk - being a Mum came first for both of them and they would look out for each other. I would worry too about Paul L, my lovely boss, who was determined to make it to the top and would probably push himself too hard. I knew I was going to miss out on an amazing experience, a bonding experience that would tie the whole group together for years to come but I also knew that if my immune system was telling me things weren’t right it was safer to listen to it now than be sorry later.
The kindness shown to me in those final moments in camp will stay with me forever. Ryan, who I think I had only had one proper conversation with, came over and asked me if he could take my breast cancer badge to the summit for me. I didn’t even know that anyone else was aware I had one on my rucksack. Paul L and Scotty offered to be the 2 pink bras replacing me and Helen and pink bras were quickly removed from bags and banded about the camp. Audra and Annemarie, my two lovely, brave great friends being just that. Paul gave me the tightest hug as we said goodbye and yes you can guess, I embarrassed myself yet again by blubbing on his shoulder!!
The Kili family, 4 down.
The Kili family, 4 down.
I cried as I said goodbye and I cried even more as Paula and I walked away from camp to a round of applause.
It took us 6 hours to walk down by which time it was pitch black and the jungle was making some very strange noises. We had been walking for a total of 11 hours, my feet as well as my head and stomach were hurting and I was glad to see the lights of the ‘ambulance’ making its way up a dirt track towards us, saving us a further half hour of walking back to the gate. Embesi, our ever trusty guide, stayed with us the whole way, he himself not feeling very well having just completed a summit trek only a few days before.
The ambulance journey was quite something else. Paula and I were crammed in the back with two porters, our kits bags and rucksacks and the track we took was enough to give anyone brain damage, to call it off road driving would be a massive understatement! We eventually made it to the gate where we had to sign the book to say we had left the mountain and why. I couldn’t believe the number of names in that book and the fact that there were other names between Donna and Helen who had left us just that morning.
The ambulance took us back to the hotel where Paula and I were given a room to share. After showering and removing the filth and grime from the mountain, we tracked Helen and Donna down. They had spent the afternoon at the hospital and it quickly became apparent that Donna did exactly the right thing by coming down. Mountain Blindness was very common and quite often the person’s eyesight doesn’t come back. I had a restless night, still unable to eat anything, feeling quite rough but also listening out for Paula who’s breathing was very laboured. Donna had to go back to the hospital in Moshi the following day and I decided that I would be taking Paula too.