Walking a different path after major life events

Edinburgh Leisure | Wednesday 1st June 2022 0:05am

Walking a different path after major life events

Volunteer Week runs from 1 - 7 June 2022 and Edinburgh Leisure would like to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers. 

On average our Active Communities volunteers total a staggering 12,000 hours of their time to helping people and communities we support through the programme every year. They make an enormous difference to people's lives and, quite simply, many of our projects couldn't exist without them. 

Here volunteer Bronwyn Brodie shares her inspiring story. 

A cancer diagnosis and the death of her husband led an East Lothian-based mother of four and grandmother of 11, on a new journey.

Teaching support worker Bronwyn Brodie, originally from Australia but a resident of Scotland for 40 years and now living in Dunbar, joined a Move More walking group, run by Edinburgh Leisure following her diagnosis for cancer in 2015, subsequent treatment in 2016, and the sudden death of her husband of 40 years in January 2016.

She’d heard about the walking group through Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Services at the West General Hospital, Edinburgh. She joined the group in late 2016, joining weekly walks starting at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, across the Meadows. Despite requiring another hip replacement (she’d had one prior to her cancer diagnosis), which happened at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary in October 2017, she managed to make progress, even though by her own admittance, her walking was slow.  She rejoined the group following her hip operation, albeit walking with a stick.

The camaraderie of the group and the opportunity to regain fitness after her various bouts of ill-health and life events eventually led her to train as a much-valued walk volunteer in 2018 after completing training led by Edinburgh Leisure, and she would assist with helping to lead walks, usually with another volunteer.

“The reason I chose to get involved was because I could support other people the way I had been supported. It helped me have a structure to my week after losing my husband and getting out in the fresh air for exercise in the company of others,” she explained.

Two years ago in January 2020, she signed up for a fundraising trek in the Sahara Desert to raise money and awareness for Maggie’s. During her cancer treatment, she had had great support from Maggie’s, Edinburgh, and wanted to give something back. And then the world went into lockdown and the trek was put on hold.

Despite the postponement, she continued with her training, having been given the go-ahead from her GP, who said ‘why not'. During lockdown, she completed lots of training walks at the John Muir Country Park, taking walks across different terrain including woodland and coastal paths, in preparation for walking the desert sands.

And as restrictions eased, she also met up with a fellow walk leader friend, Kenny Wilson, for further walks in various parks across Edinburgh and East Lothian.

Although the ongoing coronavirus restrictions meant the original Sahara Desert trek had to be shelved, due to Morocco banning flights from the UK, Tribal Tracks - a company that organise various charity adventure challenges and travel - organised an alternative trip to walk the Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moons) in the far south of Jordan.  Wadi Rum is believed to get its name from the early name of Iram of the Pillars, a lost city mentioned in the Quran.

In November 2021, Bronwyn flew out from Heathrow to start the 100km trek which took four days. She joined 10 others, who ranged in age from 40-70 years, and which included two other walkers from Scotland and a walk leader. The group was also accompanied by some Jordanian guides, cooks, and other ground staff.

“The trek was a challenge and even though we didn’t have to carry our main supplies, walking in 25C heat each day, did take its toll and you needed to ensure you drank enough water.

“Although it’s a desert, it wasn’t just barren land. It is rocky in parts and local Bedouin have climbed in the sandstone mountains of Wadi Rum for many generations.”

Arriving back in the UK her travel plans back to Scotland was a challenge due to Storm Arwen which meant trains were cancelled. She ended up flying home business class, “which was strangely cheaper than economy and was a real-treat at the end of a long trip as I’d never flown business class before.”

Bronwyn is amazed at what she has done in the last five years.   “I pinch myself sometimes with all I have achieved since my diagnosis including travelling to Australia three times in the past few years and this life-changing trip. While I used to travel a lot when I was younger, bringing up your family put a stop to that for a while.  I feel I’ve come full circle now.

“I’m not sure what the next challenge will be – we’ll have to wait and see what happens with the pandemic. For now, I’ll keep busy reconnecting with friends, going for walks locally, and crafting.”

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