Once our team leader had announced to the public that we were going to Antarctica, our lives changed somewhat. The media here in the UAE took great interest in our cause and what followed was a frenzy of requests from different newspapers, magazines and even TV and radio stations. It all felt so surreal to me. My life had gone practically overnight from carving out a simple existence and just managing to keep my head above water, to being in the limelight and on the pages of magazines and newspapers nationwide. The first time I got to meet the full team of ladies, short of just two members who lived in America and Switzerland, was at a magazine photo shoot. It was held at the main offices where the magazine was based in the heart of Dubai and it was total organized chaos. All the makeup artists and photographers involved went about their business in the midst of all the madness in a focused and calm way. Us ladies had an absolute ball. In between getting to know one another and whilst having our makeup done in preparation for the shoot, we were interviewed by journalists. We were all made to feel like celebrities, and for the first time in a very long time, I felt as if I truly belonged and was surrounded by a group of women who really understood what I’d been through and who I could talk to, knowing that they would be able to relate to it all. It was so interesting to hear all the different stories of what all the women had been through and it made me realize that breast cancer is a very individual and complex disease, and no two women’s journey is the same.
We were lucky to be able to benefit from an indoor skiing slope in Dubai where we would hold many training sessions, but the first training session and hearing all the different stories was a wake up call for me. I realized that not only did I have a lot of hard work ahead of me in terms of increasing my fitness and stamina levels, but that I also had more physical obstacles to overcome than the rest of the team. I was still struggling with a residual amount of muscle atrophy and I knew that if I was to be fit and strong enough for this trip, I had to pull out all the stops and really put my nose to the grindstone. I felt really privileged and lucky to be part of this team and given the fact that this was an opportunity of a lifetime, I was determined that I was not going to blow this one.
With that, my life became a whirlwind of travelling far distances to attend training sessions and interviews. It suddenly became a juggling act of trying to fit in training sessions with the group and at home, as well as being a wife and mother and keeping the domestic front going. My training sessions went smoothly on the ski slopes with the rest of the team, but I struggled at home in the beginning. We had been told that the trip would entail camping el fresco overnight on an iceberg, snowshoeing, kayaking and mountaineering. In order to meet the fitness levels required for all of this, we had to be able to put in a 2 hour workout everyday at least. 4 months away from the trip and I was only managing 30 minutes a day. I couldn’t afford a gym membership at the time and so the only fitness tools available for me was a fast aging treadmill and my own ingenuity. Running at that point was out of the question for me but I was determined that I would build up to that. For starters, I would push my walk to a brisk 45 minutes and day and then go from there, building up on gradients as I went along. My first attempt was hopeless. I only managed 35 minutes and had to stop. Gasping for breath and with shaky legs, I climbed off the treadmill and sank to the floor in a sobbing mess. What the hell had I got myself in for? Who on earth was I kidding? At this rate I would never be ready. I banged my fists on the floor and wailed in frustration at the situation.
I was done for the day and I knew full well that from tomorrow on, I’d have to start pulling a miracle out of the bag.