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ICELAND!- Donegal Diaspora Guest Blog

I was asked to contribute to the Donegal Diaspora website recently to discuss my trip to Iceland. I thought it would be nice to share it with you too.
Enjoy!:)

"Hello, My name is Nikki Bradley, I was asked by the lovely people in Donegal Diaspora to submit a blog post to share with you the story of my recent trip to Iceland. I am the founder of a fitness based awareness campaign called Fighting Fit For Ewing’s and regularly participate in physical challenges to raise awareness for Ewing’s Sarcoma. Travelling to Iceland to scale the Solheimajokull glacier was my first international adventure.

pic 2The team who included ‘Donegal Ice Road Trekkers’ Denis Ferry and Leslie O Donnell, international photographer Paul Doherty, industrial climber Ian Parke and I met in the Mt. Errigal Hotel carpark at 3:30am on Friday the 26th of February 2016. Bleary eyed and coffee fuelled, we made our way towards Belfast airport. Excitement raced through me as I checked in my luggage and I found myself daydreaming about the four days that lay ahead. I was adamant that every moment would be filled with activity and with the support of the team we made that happen. We made our way to the Sólheimajökull glacier early Saturday and after a series of safety briefings we carefully trekked to the base of the glacier. Once there we were asked to put on our crampons as it was impossible to go any further without them. This was the part I was most apprehensive about as I require the use of crutches to walk. A cancer diagnosis at the age of sixteen destroyed the bone in my right hip. I have chronic nerve and muscle damage, lymphedema and a leg length discrepancy of 11cm. Would my crutches be good enough to tackle a glacier? Without them, crampons on my boots were basically useless. I had arranged for my crutches to be decked out with suitable attachments but it was impossible to test them prior to our trip so as I took my first steps I did so with a trembling foot. I sighed with relief as the strength in the grip was more than adequate. We were repeatedly told by our guides to ‘not follow our trail, follow our footsteps’ as walking on the glacier is extremely dangerous. This is due to snow covered cracks/crevasses in the ice. I was at a slight disadvantage here as my crutches had to be placed either side of the footstep in order for me to walk into it therefore I was taking a risk with each step. Thankfully I managed to avoid disaster and found the experience to be one of the best I have ever had.
While on the glacier I abseiled into a 45 foot ice cave, the depth unknown prior to the abseil. Due to overhanging snow it was unsafe to walk to the edge to check the depth. Our guide had to throw a snowball in and we listened for the thud of it hitting the ground. I was terrified as I leaned back on the rope but due to an unsuccessful abseil attempt earlier in the day, I was determined and stubborn enough to fight back the fear and get on with the task at hand. What I saw in that cave will never fade from my memory. It was absolutely beautiful. I felt very lucky to have the team with me as they were on hand to support me and risked injury themselves in doing so. I learned the value of true team work while in Iceland and I would like to thank them for being excellent team mates and true friends.
Our sponsors ‘Gibson & Associates Solicitors’ were also important members of the team as they provided the means necessary to make the trip happen. They were a continued support while we were away and have been fantastic in helping me promote the campaign.
Our trip to Iceland was very difficult at times and I found myself in pain on a regular basis but I know it was worth it. I have collected memories that will remain with me for the rest of my life and I have already drawn on my experiences there to get me through some difficult times of late. I am facing the possible amputation of my right leg in the near future due to damage caused by radiotherapy and I know the road ahead will be a bumpy one. My experiences in Iceland will help me focus on what is important and I know whatever decisions I have to make will be done with a positive mental attitude.
My wish is that people use this story as the fuel needed to ignite their own life passions. I push myself despite the difficulties I face daily. The only thing stopping us from greatness is ourselves. Ignore the doubt and you might just surprise yourself!
Nikki x"