ChallengeMD! Mt Blanc 2011 – Through Lisa’s eyes…

Stretching myself beyond what I thought possible to participate in ChallengeMD! 2011 Mont Blanc has been a real positive in my life and one I would highly recommend to anyone in my situation.

I am a mum of 3 boys. My eldest Jack (12years) has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and requires full time care. I work 4 days per week and between the responsibilities I have for Jack, my family and work it doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. But then, nothing ventured nothing gained.

MDA has played a role in our life ever since we learnt of Jacks diagnosis at 8 months of age. Initially we just needed support and information. Today it’s much more. Jack attends CampMDA and enjoys a handful of short breaks each year. This respite is often the difference between coping and not coping. It also goes without saying that these services provide Jack with amazing quality of life experiences that he would not otherwise get. Participating in ChallengeMD has been a vehicle by which I have been able to give back a little to an organisation that always has, and continues to mean so much to my family.

The time to prepare physically as well as to fundraise for this event, at times seemed too much. I wont sugar coat that. It required a huge level of organisation and commitment, but at the same time was also very enjoyable and didn’t feel like a burden. My family saw a lot less of me for many months, but where possible I involved them in the fundraising and training. Jack’s brothers are 7 and 5 years of age. They are very proud of their Mummy and what she has done, but more importantly they are beginning to understand why she chose to go and walk around “that mountain in Europe”. It’s been quite a learning experience for them as they begin to understand how the world works for people like their brother Jack and why we need to raise money so that organisations like MDA can do what they do.

The overall response to embarking on this challenge has been extremely, and at times overwhelmingly positive. A very, very clear message has stood out from all of this, and that is, that kids like Jack do matter. The world values them and the people that care for them. The fundraising target for each participant was $7,770. To date I have almost raised $11,000.00. As a group over $180,000 has been raised. I have had a large proportion of funds donated and those that were unable to donate have contributed in other ways. Fundraising is multidimensional-so many hands make light work. Others even fundraised on my behalf which was great. I often feel frustrated with the system that we are forced to live within and exhausted from the caring role. Challenge MD has allowed me to view where we fit very differently which has been very satisfying. The ongoing challenge is to let go of some of these frustrations and try to bask in the glow of what all this support has meant to me for as long as I can.

I was also very lucky to have 2 friends join the Challenge. My lifelong best friend Kelly who has been there for everything and another friend Nicolle, who I knew through the kinder. I only mentioned ChallengeMD to Nicolle once and she had registered! It was great support having them to train and fundraise with, but ultimately to share this experience with friends has been a deep privilege and one I am very grateful for.

On June 23rd after months of training and fundraising we left Melbourne bound for Geneva. I felt completely exhausted boarding that plane, having totally underestimated what I would need to organise in order to step out of my life for 2 weeks. But plane travel helps separate all the stress from day to day life and I arrived in Geneva ready to take on the Tour Mont Blanc. Once in Chamonix (where the trek started) we attended a pre trek meeting where we met the fellow trekkers and support staff who would be walking with us for the next 14 days. After reading everyone’s profiles on line for the past 6 months it was almost surreal to be in the same room. I actually felt very privileged to be in the company of 17 other people who shared the same passion and who had all done so much to be there. Challenge MD wasn’t just about booking a ticket and choosing a tour, it involved a far greater level of commitment.. Those in that room wanted to be there and all shared a similar journey to arrive at the destination!

The actual trek ( The Tour Mont Blanc) was spectacular in every sense. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world. Mountains, snow, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, alpine lakes, wildflowers, butterflies and more. Pictures tell a thousand words and in this case I think every trekker took at least 1500 photographs as we walked through France, Italy and Switzerland. Every day started early with a steep climb, often to 2500 meters and then down again in the afternoon. The mornings were hard on the lungs and the afternoons hard on the knees! The actual trek was an experience like no other and exceeded every expectation I had for it, But it was so much more than just the view. It was a unique opportunity to meet and get to know others who have a similar life to mine. It was the opportunity to also get to know those who work in the system and support children like mine. And it was everything in between. It was the 20+ km walked every day (190km in total), the ascents to 2,500+ meters, the five meals a day, the daily wine, the absence of mobile phones ringing and beeping and the absence of responsibility for anyone else for the first time in 12 years. It was the opportunity to laugh every day, the periods of solace, and to occasionally sometimes cry. It was the opportunity to reflect on why I was there and to draw strength from those who walked beside me, and in particular those who had never done anything like this before but were determined beyond belief to complete the climb. It is all of this that clears the head and restores the spirit. In my opinion, this is what the very essence of ChallengeMD is. We stepped out of our day to day lives and did something extraordinary for ourselves and in the process created a momentum for the cause beyond what we ever imagined.

My son Jack has and continues to teach me many lessons in life. My child is so challenged with what his body cannot do for him, yet he still looks forward, to- tomorrow, everyday. What a gift!. This boy with all his limitations greets every single day with a smile and a desire to participate in it on all levels. I know it is my job to enable him to do this, and while it often exhausts me it is also humbling and a privilege to do so. Participating in ChallengeMD has done more for me than I ever imagined it would. Equally the journey and the destination have helped restore my spirit. In doing this it has rejuvenated me, so that hopefully I may continue to do the very important job I have been entrusted to do for many years to come.

Lisa Evans