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Charlie Peschardt’s Blog
This is a blog from Charlie Peschardt
Charlie is a veteran of the Royal Navy’s Commando helicopter force, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2020, will become a first time dad in 2024, and is walking along the Devon/ Cornwall border- from north coast to south coast- to support Kidney Cancer UK. This is his story in his words, in three parts….
“On the weekend of 18th & 19th November 2023 I will be walking 100km along the Devon/ Cornwall border from north coast to south coast to support Kidney Cancer UK.
In September 2020 I was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney cancer and on 19 November 2020 my right kidney was removed. As you can probably imagine a cancer diagnosis never comes at a good time, but during the depths of Covid it was even less welcome as hospitals faced severe restrictions and the need to avoid contracting Covid was even more imperative to guarantee my operation took place as planned.
As with many others who have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, I had very few symptoms. One morning in August 2020 I woke up with a bit of pain in my back and a tingling sensation when I passed urine, both of which got progressively worse over the next few hours until my back felt like it was heavily cramping and I passed what looked like copious amounts of blood rather than urine. And then all the pain stopped and my urine returned to normal. Suspecting kidney stones, I called the GP the next day ‘just to be sure’ who took some bloods and booked an ultrasound – again, ‘just to be sure’. That ultrasound revealed a big shadow over my right kidney, and so began my journey to diagnosis and recovery.
Please consider supporting my walk, and for those of you who don’t really care about long walks, at the end of the challenge, I will be having my hair cut (shaved off) for the first time in over three years, when I last had both my kidneys.
Part 2 – My Walking challenge
So, as mentioned, to commemorate the third anniversary of becoming a single-kidneyed human, I will be walking 100km along the Devon/ Cornwall border from north coast to south coast to support Kidney Cancer UK on the weekend of 18th & 19th November.
As a veteran of the Royal Navy’s Commando helicopter force, I’ve done a fair bit of ‘aggressive camping’ in various wild and wonderful places around the world, but I’ve never walked this far in this short amount of time.
In order to prepare myself for this challenge, I’ve undertaken a training regime that has meant a few changes to my lifestyle, all of which have been good ones and tie in with trying to live more healthily post-cancer.
First, my gym regime. This is something I have struggled with quite a lot over the last couple of years, doing a few days ‘on’ followed by a few weeks ‘off’. In August I decided to commit to this and now do weight and strengthening circuits at the gym 4-5 times every week. This has helped me strengthen my body, particularly my core, and lose some weight, and I feel emotionally much better as I look positively ahead and am less driven by the emotions relating to the challenges of the past few years.
Secondly, training for the walk itself. Having comfortably covered 5km once or twice a week on a regular basis, I knew this would not be sufficient! So, with comfortable, worn-in, waterproof boots, I started training consistently in early September to get out three to four times a week.
The first three weeks were just building the habit and generally covered 5-6km each time.
At the start of October, I began to carry a daypack with 7kg of kit in it and would do no less than 8km on each session, three times per week.
With four weeks to go, I changed my regime and began to do longer distances with two 10-12km walks during the week, and one of 35-40km at the weekend, all with the daypack.
With two weeks to go, I began to taper this training down, completing two walks of around 8km a brisk pace and one of 25km. In my final week I am planning two very light 5km walks at a relaxed pace and two light gym sessions ahead of the main event.
Finally, diet. I mainly eat a plant-based diet based around whole grains, beans and complex carbs such as sweet potatoes as well as lots green veg and fruit. During the training period I have supplemented that with organic, pure pea protein powder to help my muscles repair, as well as eating slightly more lean animal protein such as fish or chicken breast two or three times a week. I found this diet, plus eating at regular times, and staying very hydrated (3 litres of water per day) have all helped my build my strength and endurance, and boost my recovery.
With a week to go, I’m a bit nervous but know that I have done decent preparation and other than extreme weather or injury, the rest of the barriers are mental and feel confident I have the mental resilience to push through those.
Blog Part 3 – Walk/ trek complete!
So, challenge complete. I was fortunate to be accompanied by three friends on this walk who volunteered to join over the last couple of weeks – a big thank you to JD Edwards, Jim Shattock and Simon Reader – I was very grateful for the company!
We ended up walking 25 hours covering over 103km and climbing 2656 metres of hills over the course of the weekend, and it was hard work!
As the weekend got closer I started to have concerns that 100km over two days wasn’t that impressive. Well, having seen the physical and mental ups and downs amongst me and the group over the 2 days, I definitely feel we have earned the money raised for Kidney Cancer UK.
It was an amazing experience and something I would recommend to anyone.
We started at Welcombe Mouth Bay with a dark, wet and windy climb from the shore straight up the cliff path. And then the fun started…We only covered 10km in the first 3 hours due to flooded paths, swollen rivers, no-longer-existing pathways, and flooded boots requiring various diversions and pitstops! Then we got into our stride and enjoyed the beauty of the Tamar valley and the many hills we climbed – sometimes they even had a view at the top when the low cloud and fog cleared.
We covered the planned distance (58km) on Day 1 but finished 3 hours later than hoped for, and slightly short of the expected route, due to the diversions earlier in the day, but we were up early for Day 2 having replanned the route overnight and got walking again.
The weather was pretty kind, albeit with 30mph of wind in our faces and we had a good pace on for the first 25km. Then the injuries started kicking in so there more frequent stops for ever more innovative methods of foot plastering, ankle taping and leg massaging. Passing Kit Hill was a big moment as we knew we were at the most westerly point of the walk, and as we approached the Tamar Bridge to cross into Plymouth with only 9km to go, and still in daylight, there was a sense of calm relief.
When Seatons Tower came into sight on Plymouth Hoe all the aches and pains lifted from each of us and the final 1200 metres down Armada Way flashed by in a blur. As we reached the southernmost and end point of the walk, we all felt the emotion that comes with completing a significant physical goal but, in addition, for the first time since planning the weekend, I also felt the emotion around why I had undertaken this challenge in the first place.
It’s been a crazy three years since my right kidney was removed on 19 November 20202 – changed jobs, moved house, moved countries, got married, have a first baby on the way – and thanks to both the NHS and Kidney Cancer UK I have had those three years, as well as having the opportunity to be positive about the next three, and beyond.
Charlie Peschardt was born in North West London in 1979. He grew up in the home counties before moving to Manchester to read economics at university, a degree which prompted him to run as far away from finance as possible and join the Royal Navy. He served for ten years as a helicopter pilot and operations officer during which time he deployed all over the world, including two tours of Afghanistan.
In 2013 Charlie left the navy and moved to Central America to volunteer with a medical charity in Guatemala and a disaster response charity in Belize, before spending several months as a divemaster in Nicaragua. He then worked in the NHS as a specialist in risk management and organisational resilience before returning to living out of a backpack as a disaster responder with RE:ACT (formerly Team Rubicon UK), a Wiltshire-based charity.
Whilst leading a team in the Caribbean responding to the aftermath of hurricane Irma in 2017, he met Lauren, his now-wife, and spent several years working for a Caribbean government managing projects to help rebuild after the storms.
A combination of cancer and the pandemic led to a need to change jobs and he is now an organisational risk specialist for a group of NHS hospitals, as well as running a consultancy helping small and medium size businesses and charities identify and manage their risks to better meet their objectives and improve their resilience and sustainability.
He is passionate about nature and is a keen scuba diver, and is very excited (and slightly terrified) at becoming a father for the first time in early 2024.