Going For Gold

You know that saying “all good things must come to an end”? I’ve had good cause to think about that a fair bit these past few days.

August was good. August was very good. August could have been spectacularly good but all good things must come to an end when something altogether more important is lying in wait. For today is September 1st, and the start of childhood cancer awareness month. Go gold with pride and a passion. While I was sat in a meeting in Manchester this morning, outlining my dream of GP practices being able to screen for clustered symptoms of cancer in small children, the Sydney Opera House was being lit up in Gold ten thousand miles away. It feels like this is an unstoppable journey, one that was always destined to happen in one form or another. On September 1st next year, I plan on being in Sydney, on my gold bike, in support of Neuroblastoma Australia.

I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to be here, right now, in this moment. Bad things have happened of late, I know, but if the next couple of years delivers half of what I believe is possible, then future generations of families might not have to suffer the pain that Gail and her family are going through right now.

But before we get into all of that, let me reflect on the past 31 days. I came into August on the back end of a real downer. Sure, I’d got back on my bike and managed to put a little run together, but I was a million miles from being the driven individual that I was a while back. Knocks, especially the emotional ones, do that to you. I’ve said before in the blog that the real spirit of LCFN lies not in fundraising, nor even necessarily in raising awareness of the disease, good though that continues to be. The problem with something like LCFN is that donations drop off with time: the novelty invariably wears off. No, the hallmark of the bike ride lies in going out, day after day, when you’re tired, when you don’t really have the motivation to keep going, and even on some days when you just don’t have time. Because somehow, LCFN is about always making time, always making the effort, and always managing to move forward. If you think that’s bollocks, as someone reading this surely will, then all I ask is that you commit two hours of your day, every day, to hard aerobic exercise: then report back how you got on once the nights are dark, the days are cold and the rain is lashing down.

LCFN is not about being in a cosy warm place: LCFN is about putting your body on the line where it hurts, when it hurts, and just keeping on doing it. LCFN is for every waking day of your life, not just for Christmas. Because that’s what a kid with cancer has to endure and as today is the start of awareness month, it’s worth restating the vow.

See that run that had to come to an end? It wasn’t the longest run of consecutive days: I missed that by two. But that record doesn’t bother me anyway because my work is guaranteed to take me on the road from time to time. No, my yardstick is what you manage to do with the days when you’re on it. I just managed 42 thirty milers in a row. That was a record. In fact, every day since we got back from holiday has been a thirty miler. You’re talking two and a half hours minimum of hard effort every day. The climbing is never less than 1500ft. Then there’s the total miles (for days) in a row: that exceeded 1500 for the first time. And every time that the bar gets raised, so the magnitude of the upcoming task goes with it. I can virtually guarantee that neither of those records is going to be challenged any time soon: work will see to that.

SNOMED continues to dominate my professional life. The changeover from old style coding to relational coding is now only eight months away in UK healthcare and the challenges that come with it are considerable. Whilst all of the clever stuff that I’ve developed over the past twelve months is still good for now, looking longer term it all needs to be enhanced to take full advantage of the new technology. When you work in a big team, that’s made easier by knowledge interchange between colleagues. But when you work on your own, as I do as the data man in a specialised agile team, the challenge is compounded many times: so many things to study, so many things to develop, so much research still to do: and at the end of it all, so much potential value to add to the healthcare system.

I sat in on a web conference with my SNOMED tutor just over a week ago and I enquired how many people have been through this advanced implementation course in the two years or so that it’s been running. The answer was 300 tops. That’s worldwide. The tutor was in Denmark, I was in Scotland, and the other three students were dialled in from England, Sri Lanka and the USA. That’s the nature of the beast. I’m guessing that less than a hundred people in the UK are accredited with the SNOMED implementation kitemark. The people I met with today (about another project altogether) were significantly appreciative of the fact our lean operation is investing in the future of healthcare in the UK. The bottom line is that our wee team of specialists can do stuff that very few other teams can do. In the same way that the next challenge drives LCFN, so the next intellectual challenge drives my work.

Every one of us is limitless. Every one of us can do stuff that we never thought possible. It’s just the process that’s hard. Two years ago I was busy designing rule engines in engineering, now I’m doing the same thing in healthcare. I used to have a saying that my old eClipse colleagues will remember: it’s all data to me. I don’t profess to understand what it all means: just give me a spec and I’ll turn it into stuff that the real specialists can work with. And that brings me full circle to where this story started. It’s about learning something new every day: setting your stall out to learn something new every day. And building on each of those little diamonds of knowledge until you reach a point where you can make a difference.

Fate brought Eileidh into my life. Fate brought Eileidh into my life the day after Oscar gained his wings. Fate took me to meet with some like minded people on today of all days and fate may yet deliver an opportunity to use the knowledge that I’ve acquired day on day, to help solve the jigsaw of childhood cancer awareness. If this journey can deliver detection at stage 2 instead of stage 4, then all the study, all the research and all the development will have been worth it.

As ever on LCFN, I’m going for gold….

Author: Von Schiehallion

I'm an old endurance athlete who's pulled a few tricks in his time. I ran my first marathon at 19 round a grass athletics track, ran/hobbled 100 miles in a day at 30, cycled from Manchester to Glasgow in a day at 40, kickstarted the Highland March at 50 and now, at 60, I'm doing LifeCycle. Life's too short to sit still for long. I like doing stuff that just seems impossible...

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