14th October 2019… It was a wet, windy, cloudy morning after the night that Storm Callum had battered parts of the UK. As we travelled north on the motorway, there were plenty of flooded fields to be seen, but no nerves. There was no way that this would go ahead in this weather.
I had called the Black Knights Parachute School earlier that morning to check before we wasted our time driving up there, and was told that they were expecting the weather to improve that afternoon and to turn up as planned. I wish I’d shared their optimism.
The skies were dark and ominous, and it was still quite windy.
It was back in July, just a couple of months after my surgery, that the advert for a skydive popped up on my Facebook newsfeed.
It had been something I’d had on my bucket list since forever, and when I was told I needed surgery it was one of the first things I instantly regretted not having done already. I mean, surely you’d never be able to do things like that with a hole in your head that was filled with fat from your stomach? Or could you?
At my 6 week check up, I’d asked my surgeons if they thought I’d be able to do activities, like hiking at high altitude, and the answer was “Yes”.
I paid the £50 to register, set up my JustGiving page, and began my fundraising for Northwest Air Ambulance. I had wanted to give back something to the medical community and jumped at the chance to be able to raise funds for such a worthwhile cause.
A few weeks later, whilst sunning myself on a Greek island, I received a call from Linda, the fundraising lady at NWAA…
“Hi, I’ve looked at your fundraising page, and I see you’ve had a few medical issues… you have had permission to skydive from your consultant?”
Busted! “Of course” I replied.
Frantically, I scrolled through my inbox until I came across my registration email – along with the attached medical consent form, and quickly (with everything crossed!) drafted an email to my consultant!
Never have I been so relieved to receive a letter from his clinic!
On that cold, damp, miserable October morning, there were no nerves. In fact, I’d not been nervous at all in the run up to that day, as the weather had been abysmal the whole week, with storm force winds and heavy rain.
I didn’t want to look forward to the jump, as I knew I’d be totally disappointed when it was cancelled, and so late in the year it would be unlikely I’d have another opportunity until next year.
We made our way, under dark skies, to Lancaster. As we left the motorway, there was a tiny slither of blue sky in the distance, just peeking through the clouds. Maybe, just maybe, I would get to jump after all.
By the time we reached the centre, the leaves were no longer blowing from the trees, and that slither of blue had grown quite considerably.
As I looked out, in the distance I spotted bright colours in the sky… They were jumping, along with the butterflies in my stomach.
I weighed in, attended the safety briefing, and decided that rather than go from the planned 11,000ft, I would jump from 15,000ft, the highest possible skydive in the UK. I mean, what’s in another 4,000ft? You still have to get out of the door!
A short time later, I met my instructor who I would be tandem with.
Ben was just great. He asked if I was nervous. To be honest, the only thing I was nervous about was not being able to hear him above the noise of the plane, and the wind once we were out.
He did all his safety checks and introduced me to our cameraman Leroy, who would be filming the whole thing, and then made our way across the tarmac, over to the aircraft.
I couldn’t join in the chatter that was going on inside the plane, as thanks to my stupid deaf ear I couldn’t hear a word that was being said, and so there were quite a few hand gestures flying around.
Once we got to 7,000ft, Ben began the last minute checks of our harnesses and before I realised what was happening, the door was rolled open and people were leaving the plane.
It was strange. One moment they were there, the next they were gone.
We slid our way along the benches and onto the floor, stopping at the door. Leroy, our cameraman was outside, just hanging on. It seemed totally surreal seeing him there!
As Ben had explained earlier, we sat on the edge of the door, took a breath and made sure my legs were tucked under the plane. He told me to be bent like a banana!
And before I knew what was happening we were out, free-falling at around 125mph, the wind roaring down my ear.
It was just perfect. The stormy skies had cleared, and I could clearly see the ground below. It was kind of an analogy of my life at that moment in time.
Falling through the air gave me the feeling of complete and utter freedom, and once our chute was deployed, there was total silence.
Knowing of my concerns of not hearing instructions, Ben went over our landing procedure a couple of times, until I was happy. We drifted around, taking in the fabulous views of the Lancaster canal, and the coastline, Blackpool Tower just visible glistening in the distance. It was so serene, I just wanted to stay up there taking it in forever…
There were no nerves, because when you get the opportunity to do something you thought you would never be able to do, you grab it and you enjoy every last second. I couldn’t stop smiling.
I realised from this, that fear is just something we create. It only has power over us if we allow it to. Because I really didn’t think it would be going ahead I hadn’t created that fear and allowed it to control my actions and emotions. I mean, who the hell throws themselves out of a perfectly good aircraft for the sake of it?
I also realised that we shouldn’t keep putting things off until tomorrow. None of us know what lies around the next corner. I was lucky. I was told I had “the best of the worst”, and despite the haemorrhage and the toll that weeks of sickness and subsequent surgery had taken on me, I’d been fortunate in my recovery.
This experience was just one such moment of clarity and learning I’ve had on this brain tumour journey, and there would be many more to come.
So, whatever it is you have on your bucket list, what are you waiting for? Getting ticking them off.
And if you have a head for heights, you can watch my whole skydive experience by clicking the link below!