The normal approach to something as big as this would be to discuss it with family members first. That’s not how it went with me. After being married to me for 16 years Jaco knew full well that once I had set my mind on something, there was no changing course. I was like a runaway, unstoppable steam train rapidly chugging along at record speeds. If anybody got in the way it wouldn’t be pretty. Before signing up for the trip, I of course did talk to him about it and we discussed all that it would entail, but for me it was more from an already confirmed state of mind than a enquiring and requesting one. He already knew that I had made up my mind that I was going to do this, and that it was now just a matter of working out the logistics and of course, the financial implications.
By that time I had been exercising and working on increasing my strength and stamina for about a year and a half, and I was doing well. After signing up for the trip and finding out the basics of what the expedition would require, I was so glad and grateful to myself for pushing myself forward on the treadmill the way that I had. By this time I was walking at a very brisk pace for 30 minutes and my back had become much stronger. I had done away with the back brace long ago which was now gathering dust in the back of the cupboard. I was about to embark on an exciting new chapter in my life that would bring me all the challenges and excitement that I’d been craving for so long, and at the same time meet a whole lot of new people…women who had been through exactly the same thing that I had and could really understand what I had been through and where I was coming from.
We all met for the first time in late June. We laughed and talked and for the first time ever, I felt like I was part of a sisterhood. It’s not exactly a sisterhood one really wants to be a member of, but there wasn’t much any of us could do about it. We were in it for the long haul and we all embraced it with open arms. It was so exciting to sit and start making plans for our trip, discussing everything from the journey there and back that we would take, clothing that we would need to get to protect ourselves from the elements, right through to the level of fitness that would be required for the trip. The whole aim of this Antarctica expedition would be to raise awareness of breast cancer in the Middle East and hopefully beyond borders. I felt very strongly from the beginning that it was important especially in the Middle East, since believe it or not there is still a stigma attached to getting breast cancer there. Women are still, for cultural and religious reasons very modest and wouldn’t dream of stripping down for a strange person, even if it is a doctor, to let them examine their breasts if they suspect that something is wrong. The result is that when they do eventually seek medical attention because they are so sick that they don’t have a choice, it is often by that time too late and their disease is too advanced for any medical treatment to be effective. That would be one of my many messages that I would drive home to the public throughout this journey whenever I got the chance.
Before long the team was set, and we were a group of 12 women prepared to work hard and take on this challenge, whilst creating as much awareness as possible. A videographer had been hired who would film all of us on every step of this journey, from training right through to summiting a mountain in Antarctica. It didn’t stop there however, because to raise awareness would mean that we would have to attract as much media attention as possible… television, radio, magazines and newspapers.
Things were about to get very interesting indeed.