We know that lots of Trekstock's community of young adults living with and beyond cancer are currently strictly self-isolating for the next 12 weeks during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

We've asked our community to share their tips and plans to stay positive and sane during these extraordinary times. Next up, it's Jon.

In 2019, I took 11 months off work whilst I was treated for stage 2 testicular cancer. After completing my ‘back to work’ training, I eventually returned to work in March 2020  and enjoyed my first two flights as a captain of a Boeing 737. Then, all of a sudden I’m back at home, furloughed, sitting about in my trackie bottoms again for the foreseeable future. This year was supposed to be my year of comebacks - back to flying, back to sport, back to normal. Months of isolation was not quite what I had in mind.

If you’ve come across my blog (www.triathletevscancer.com), you’ll already know, aside from flying planes, I am also addicted to triathlon. I missed the whole triathlon season in 2019 due to my treatment. I ran well at a half marathon a few months after chemotherapy and was geared up to run the London Marathon on behalf of CLIC Sargent back in April. I was well on my way to raising £2000 for the fantastic charity. The marathon was supposed to be my big come-back to sport. As it happened to fall exactly a year after I was first diagnosed with cancer. This pandemic had other ideas. So no marathons or triathlons to look forward to, no planes to fly. What am I going to do in isolation? Ride my indoor bike trainer for hours, well yes, that goes without saying, but what else?! I tried to think of some isolation challenges to replace the London Marathon, keep me busy and to try and raise some money for charity.

A lot of people were already doing ‘back-yard marathons’ or climbing the height of Mount Everest on their indoor bike trainers, I was keen to get involved. However, having only recently gone through chemotherapy and the fact that my wife works in ITU, treating COVID-19 patients, I was a prime candidate for falling foul of COVID-19. Putting my body under the strain of a backyard marathon wouldn't have been the best move. 

Instead of the London Marathon or a crazy isolation challenge - I devised #9weeks9challenges, in aid of Mount Vernon Cancer Centre where I had my treatment. The challenge would mark my first ‘cancerversary’ and the 9 weeks of chemotherapy I underwent. 

The idea behind #9weeks9challenges came about from a list I made during my chemotherapy last year. I wanted to learn some new skills whilst I was stuck in the hospital receiving treatment. Due to the constant stream of visitors, the hours of FIFA, and generally being a bit too tired I didn’t manage to complete any of the things on my list. So, I thought having all this time in isolation would be a great time to get some of them ticked off! They may not be the most challenging of challenges, but with my lack of flexibility and glacial pace of reading, #9weeks9challenges isn’t easy! The 9 challenges I set myself were:

  1. 9 minutes of skipping every day 

  2. Yoga every day 

  3. 9 minutes of meditation every day 

  4. 30 push-ups, 30 burpees, 30 squats = 90 reps every day 

  5. Read 9 books  (this will be the hardest one for me!)

  6. Learn to handstand

  7. Learn to juggle

  8. Learn Portuguese for 9 weeks

  9. Record a song on the guitar

I started the challenge a few days before the cancelled London Marathon weekend -  I’m now over half-way through. 

I’ve gone from barely being able to string 10 skips together to managing over 500 skips in a row. I think I should be able to keep improving and be able to do 9 minutes non-stop soon! Before the challenge I had no idea how to juggle, now I can juggle 3 balls successfully, 45 catches is my best. I’m getting waaay better at yoga thanks to ‘Yoga with Adriene’ and ‘Skill Yoga’. I can feel all the yoga and 90 reps paying off, I’m hoping the two will combine and I might get close to holding a handstand by the end of the 9 weeks. I’m learning a little bit of Portuguese, but really enjoying having some chats with my Portuguese colleagues Diogo and João.

One of the challenges I have enjoyed most is meditating with Headspace every day. Thank you so much to Trekstock for offering me the Headspace subscription as part of the Trekstock care package. If you’ve been affected by cancer or you are simply finding the isolation thing a bit overwhelming, I cannot recommend Headspace enough. Just taking a few minutes every day to clear your mind, relax and forget about all your worries really makes a difference.

I’ve loved reading more books. All of the books I have read recently are either sports, factual or autobiographical. So, during the challenges, it's been a great chance to read some fiction, especially the Harry Potter books (my wife is a big HP fan). I enjoyed them a LOT more than I thought I would. Maybe I’ll go on and read all of them!

Having the 9 challenges to focus on has really filled my time, it takes me most of the day to get them done, the isolation time is really flying by. I’ve learnt new skills, made my body and mind healthier and I feel great! The challenge has also managed to raise some money for Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, where I received such great care last year. For those that aren’t in a position to donate, I’ve asked that they pick a challenge and join in, there are now lots of people spending their time in isolation skipping, juggling or reading more! Fantastic! If you fancy joining me for a challenge for my last few weeks please tag #9weeks9challenges on social media and get in touch with Triathlete vs Cancer.