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Fitness & Health

23rd Feb 2018

“This is the last big challenge I’m possibly to face before the surgery”

Michael Lanigan

In July, Nikki Bradley will attempt to become the first person to scale four Irish mountains in one day on crutches to raise funds for cancer research.

“This is possibly too much for me”, Nikki Bradley tells me. “Still, I’m learning that a lot of that doubt comes from myself, because when you actually put the training in, nine times out of ten, you find out you’re more capable than you think.”

Since October, Nikki has been in training for the Four Peaks. This will see her attempting to reaching the summits of four Irish mountains on 21 July and over the space of 24 hours, with the mountains being Slieve Donard in county Down, Carrauntoohil in Kerry, Croagh Patrick in Mayo and Mount Errigal in Donegal. Only, she will be attempting the task on crutches, which she has needed since she battled Ewing’s Sarcoma when 16 years old.

A rare tumor that forms in bones or soft tissue, Ewing’s typically affects people between the ages of 10 and 20 and the aim of her four peaks challenge is to raise funds and awareness for the illness.

“It’s my first proper fundraiser for Ewings, and I’m hoping to raise between €50,000 and €100,000 for three separate charities; The Irish Cancer Society, Action Cancer and the one closest to my heart, The Ross Nugent Foundation. This is all run in conjunction with Fighting Fit For Ewing’s, which is my own awareness campaign.”

The idea for the Four Peaks came about after a conversation with a talent agent called Derry McVeigh. Before, she had done similar challenges starting in October 2013, when she climbed Muckish Mountain.

“Initially, they were sometimes small enough. Rock climbing, things like that to encourage people to go out and test their abilities, and what you can do.” In the process of pushing herself up a notch each time, she attempted to break the Guinness World Record for running the fastest 5 kilometre race for a person on crutches, she scaled a route of the Sólheimajökull glacier in Iceland and abseiled into a 45 foot ice cave there too, among numerous others.

The Four Peaks however, carries the most weight, both in terms of the task itself and the significance behind it.

“The thing is, I’ve been cancer free since that time”, she explains. “It was the aftermath though that has done the damage. It was the radiotherapy, and I have been in and out of three or four different countries in order to save what that destroyed.”

“I’ve been seeing consultants in Birmingham, but at my last meeting, I was told that I’d lose the leg completely. When it is removed, it will be from the hip joint, which is huge. You can’t use a prosthetic limb if the entire leg is taken away. Well, you can, but it’s of no use to you.

“So, I was told when that time comes, I’ll have to get used to having one leg. It was also a kick up the ass, because it’s encouraged me to prepare for the inevitable. I can’t moan or become depressed. The Four Peak challenge is my big opportunity to do something really big, before I do eventually face the surgery.”

When eventually her leg is amputated, she stresses that this isn’t the end. “No, they definitely won’t, but life as I know it will change. My challenges, my adventuring, it will all be different.”

“This is the last big challenge I’m possibly to face before the surgery. The hardest part though is that doctors don’t have any idea when this is going to happen. There’s no timeframe. That’s been the case for years now. I’m unique among cases. I’m about one of ten people worldwide to have experienced the luck I’ve had, in terms of having had to get two hip replacements. The first one got infected. The second just didn’t work. Both were on the right. The left hand side is completely fine.

“There aren’t really any cases that can be compared to mine. There aren’t a lot of people who can say where this is all going to go for me, so I’ve been left to my own devices”, she adds. “That’s where the exercise came in and became so important. When I set up the campaign, it was around exercise. Back in 2013, I was on a lot of strong painkillers, but as I began to really start training, after six months I was off all forms of medication, which is huge. Going to the gym was such a massive help in all this.”

“I became able to put up with a lot of pain, and I wasn’t giving into it when things got bad after training.”

“I don’t want to be all soppy, because really the important message is that it’s good to toughen up sometimes”, she begins to conclude. “We need to toughen ourselves, and it’s a message I spread to young people. I can’t dance around this subject. Life throws us these things. You need to be prepared, and for me, these challenges, exercising, training, it really really helps.”

Nikki Bradley will be attempting the Four Peaks on 21 July. For more information or to donate to Fighting Fit For Ewing’s Sarcoma visit her official site here.

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