Lanarkshire mum puts bowel cancer op on hold to conquer 175-mile walking challenge with son

A Lanarkshire mum has told how she asked to delay her bowel cancer treatment so she could trek two mammoth walking challenges back-to-back.

Lynn A’Hara’s devastating diagnosis was only given to her last month, but she wanted to prove it wouldn’t get in the way for her love of hiking.

The 53-year-old from Hamilton conquered both the Great Glen Way and the West Highland Way in 12 days, just weeks after finding out she was carrying a tumor the size of a ruler (30cm).

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She even refused any treatment from doctors at first, determined that she “didn’t want her life to stop”.

As Lynn came to terms with the worrying news, she opted to proceed with cancer treatment for the sake of 10-year-old son Cody, who joined his mum on the incredible hike.

But the mum-of-three for her treatment to be delayed until late-April so they could asked complete the 175-mile walk together.

The pair walked thousands every day, carrying an 18kg backpack, and camped in the woods at night as they braved the challenge. And Lynn admits it was no easy feat, recalling that she was very ill at times

She told Lanarkshire Live : “They told me the cancer was 30cm lower bowel and they were going to put a stoma bag in there with the worst case scenario being chemo afterwards.

“Me being me, I asked them if they could wait and cut me open in April because I wouldn’t be able to hillwalk with a stoma bag or having chemo. She thought I was kidding, but I really wasn’t.

“In less than two weeks [since the diagnosis] me and Cody got our bags all packed and off we went to Inverness.

“I know for a fact I wouldn’t have been able to do this, carry my bag or wild camp with the cancer treatment, that’s why I decided I just wanted to do it.”

Lynn’s bowel cancer was discovered from screening which is offered to those over 50.

Blood was found in her poo initially, before a colonoscopy confirmed the condition afterwards.

Now the Hamilton mum, who runs her own cleaning business, is urging all men and women to ensure they take up their screening when it is offered to catch the illness early.

“So many of my pals tell me their letter is still sitting in their house and I tell them to get it done,” Lynn told us.

“I did mine as soon as it came. And it just shows you the importance of why the Government sends these out when you turn 50.

“I actually thought I had IBS for a long time, so I never thought it was cancer. I’m healthy. I go to the gym and do the walking.

“I wasn’t sleeping, all I kept thinking was who’s going to bring the money in if I’m off work. I was worried sick about it. The stress is really bad.

“It was more shock because I look okay. When you hear people having cancer you expect them to look really ill.

“I didn’t even let my shock go because I just started planning the West Highland Way.

“I wild-camped eight nights out of the 12, I was really not well for some of it, it began to really affect me.

“I didn’t once think I was going to give up. I was doing it for all my friends who have all fought cancer and chemo.

“It was all for them.”

Lynn also says it was important for her to take on the hiking challenge for herself and to help her process her cancer diagnosis.

She needed to get away from day-to-day life and get her head around what is now to come.

Lynn added: “I probably will be out of the game for at least a year.

“It’s taken me a while to realize it’s happening. I still feel like I’m talking about someone else when I’m saying what’s happening to me.

“I think when people hear you have cancer they expect you to just lie down and accept it, but I’m not accepting it.

“I’m fighting 100 per cent.

“I keep telling people, ‘you don’t know what’s round the corner, so make as many memories as you can with your family’.

“I actually refused treatment at first, I must’ve been in shock. I told them I didn’t want anything.

“But it was a lovely person at Hairmyres who persuaded me and told me I need to do it for my 10-year-old and fight it for him.

“I didn’t want my life to stop, I’m into my hillwalking, I have my own company and working hard so it’s just an inconvenience having cancer.

“My attitude is I’m not going to die with this, I still have a lot of hikes I want to do.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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