On 8 February 2021, I started a 12-week course of steroid infusions to hopefully save my eyesight, which was badly affected by TED (Thyroid Eye Disease). The possible side effects of the massive intravenous doze are scary:
Anxiety, depression and psychosis
Reduced immunity to infection
I was scared. But I desperately wanted to be able to read, write and drive again. What would help me stay well? It turns out most of the preventative things I do already, such as eating a healthy diet. I have naturally low blood pressure, so a small rise might not do any harm. I boost my immunity naturally with herbs and spices. During the scariest part of the pandemic, I chewed a raw clove of garlic every day – it certainly helped with the social distancing - no-one would come near me for weeks.
But I needed to do more, and the missing link was exercise. OK, I exercised, but not nearly enough. I have always liked walking, but that doesn’t mean I want to ‘go a walk’. I prefer to walk with a purpose, to get to the post office or hang out the washing at the end of the garden (0.5 miles return trip, by the way). I needed to walk with a purpose, and to walk almost every day. The pandemic restricted me to the local area, so the notion of a virtual walk was born.
My family moved to Eigg in January 1954. I had just had my third birthday and have selective memory of the event. I don’t recall being sick all over my mother on the small boat as we sailed from Tobermory – but my family never allow me to forget it. I clearly remember my Dad unpacking the tea chests, however, those plywood boxes still with the foil linings and sweet smell of tea accompanied our every flitting
We moved again - from Eigg to Aberdeen just before my ninth birthday. The six years in between remain a mystical, enchanted time for me. I suppose it must have been cold wet weather much of the time, but I don’t remember that. I remember it as though we were always outside: swimming on the beach or paddling in the pool under the waterfall; building dens in the woods and trails through the bracken and bluebells; running up the hill to watch the sheep being dipped at the fank or scampering down the cliff path to Kildonan to play with friends; meeting relatives off the ferry; catching mackerel and crabs; and yes, on one famous occasion, absconding from school for the whole afternoon. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but in contrast to the cold misery of childhood in Aberdeen, it was constant high summer. See Gallery below.
Eigg being the obvious place for a virtual journey, I measured the distance. 161 miles. Could I manage that in 12 weeks? It turned out i could do it in 8. it’s just a case of getting out there whatever the weather and putting one foot ahead of the other.
The health stuff
My eyesight has improved remarkably during the course of the treatment. All praise to the wonderful team at Gartnaval Hospital.
And those scary side effects? No sign of them.
Where was my actual walk?
Mostly on a four-mile circuit of farm roads near my home, extended by trips to the post office, the pharmacy, up and down the garden, etc. Sometimes enlivened by the other company, but mainly solitary. I met and chatted to lots of interesting people, dogs, horses and one goshawk.
Vatersay to Ness in the North of Lewis, 166 miles, and most of the length of the Outer Hebrides. On another virtual journey, I'll be visiting ceilidhs halls where I have danced, machir where I’ve camped, causeways I’ve cycled, tea shops I have patronised and schools where I have lectured. This time, I’ll fundraise for TEDct, a charity providing information, care and support to those affected by Thyroid Eye Disease Fundraising page opening shortly.