Nina London

We walked with gratitude, emotion and empathy

  • Stronger together: the walk to  Horseshoe Bay was a life-affirming experience (photograph by Bermuda Tourism)

It was 7am on Saturday. The hot summer sun had just begun its slow trek through the shimmering sky. Immaculate snow white clouds changed in beautiful shapes above the edge of the turquoise sea.

This morning I organised the first “Walk, Stretch and Talk”, for Bermuda women who are being or have already been treated in oncology. I asked these lovely and determined women to try not to mention “the C word” during the walk, to instead share with your partner those special and beautiful things for which you are grateful for. We split into pairs, choosing someone we did not know.

We started walking slowly along the path which runs above the ocean and leads from Chaplin Bay to Horseshoe Bay. Along the way, we admired the extraordinary beauty of the scenic views that opened to us: small cozy coves edged by coral cliffs with Bermuda longtails dancing above aquamarine waters. We watched the waves falling with all their strength onto the white sand and stones. I listened to this majestic rhythm and thought that it is probably one of the most beloved sounds to me; a sound that I carry with me in my travels in the small and exquisite shell that my husband found on the sandy bottom here.

Along the way, we told each other about our children, our families; we shared what makes us happy. Many things become completely different after illness. The world is perceived as brighter, more saturated with colour. Foods are tastier, music more harmonious. We become more appreciative, kinder, compassionate and stronger.

Sometimes we walk in silence. It’s so hard to find the right words to express our emotions. Sometimes words are simply not necessary, but what’s important is that next to you is a person who has walked the same path. We are like fellow soldiers who stood fast together in the early dawn of battle.

When we came to a huge, natural pillar, a monolith towering above the opposite side of the beach, each of us ritually touched the stone with her hands and made a wish. I felt the rough surface of the sun-warmed rock, closed my eyes, and imagined myself here a year from now. How will I be? What will change in my life? The lesson I learnt is that I have to live each day as a last day, appreciating the opportunity and the second chance that was given to me.

We honestly tried to stick to the gratitude theme of our walk. But we could not, because we needed to share and talk about our feelings, emotions, fears and hopes. They rose up unbidden, creating a sympathetic harmony of empathy and understanding. Some cried and were comforted. Some laughed, and the joy of that sound was a tonic deep in our souls. Most of all we felt a bond. Something we knew belonged only to us. In that moment we knew we were not alone.

At the very end of the walk, we stopped in a cove for stretching. We stood in a circle and did exercises showing each other our favourites. Then each of us turned to their neighbour, took her by the hands and made a special wish and gently hugged.

The most unforgettable and touching moment, one I will never forget, was when Monica began to read a prayer dedicated to me and my upcoming first check-up. I told our group that I have to go to Miami in a few days and that I am scared. In her deep, beautiful voice, she spoke extraordinary, wonderful, touching and profound words full of love and care. She concluded with gratitude that we continue to live. Live in Bermuda, together, in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We held hands with tears in our eyes. I looked at the ocean, as beautiful and alive as we are. As strong as we have become.

•Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her here: www.ninalondon.com<;/i>