Seven years ago Ursula Martin was planning a two year break from a mundane job in mid Wales to Travel around Europe.
But the 31-year-old had a strange feeling in her lower body which turned out to be ovarian cancer.
An aunt urged her to go and see a doctor and following scans and tests, a large growth was found and major abdominal surgery followed.
“Three months later in March 2012 I was feeling dazed, confused and, as the clouds cleared, very lucky.
“Only 36% of all UK women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will still be alive five years later and lack of knowledge about the symptoms of this illness is a major factor in late diagnosis and therefore a lowered survival rate,” she said.
After being treated, and determined not to sink into self-pity, she decided to walk between her home in Machynlleth to follow-up hospital appointments in Bristol.
Age said: “Six months after my operation, I was due to return to the Bristol Royal Infirmary for a check-up.
“Glancing at a map, my eyes followed the river Severn all the way to Bristol and it dawned on me that I could walk to hospital – and come back along the river Wye.
“I thought – “Yes, I’ll do that!” Everything had changed since I had cancer. I wanted to see if I was still capable of this.”
And she just kept on walking.
Ursula walked the Offa’s Dyke Path, the Wales Coastal Path, the Cistercian Way, Coast to Coast, the Cambrian Way and along the rivers Conwy, Dee, Teifi and Usk.
She climbed Wales’ highest peaks camping out in some of the country’s wildest and most remote places.
Ursula also pitched her sleeping bag in a yurt, polytunnel, barns and caravans, black plastic pipes a golf course and a church.
Along the way she read the Mabinogion and said her walk took a lot longer than expected as she had to slow down as the tendons in her feet were hurting and she could only cover 10 miles a day.
She planned to take seven months to complete the journey but it took 18 and Ursula walked on through the harshest of winter weather.
In all she covered 3,700 miles round, through and across Wales raising money and awareness for the need for early detection of the disease.
She kept a journal along the way and her book, One Woman Walks Wales, is published this week.
Ursula said: “I was a plump, unpractised woman in a raincoat and woollen hat.
“I deeply love camping without a tent – the immediacy of the experience, waking up to see the moon beholding me, my night time companion.
“It’s my way of returning to travelling, and I had some really amazing experiences.
“I have relied mostly on the kindness of strangers. I walked into a farmyard by accident near St Asaph and saw the farmer, who I though was going to tell me off but he ended up offering me his field to camp in, brought me a log burner, tea and I had a shower, it was bliss!”
Ursula was born in Swansea but brought up in Derbyshire and later returned to Wales. She has worked in a variety of occupations – baker, care worker, photographer, farm worker and teacher – while spending most of the last ten years travelling.
She is now cancer-free and is planning her next big overseas adventure.
March 2018 is Ovarian Cancer month and £1 from every print copy sold will be donated to Target Ovarian Cancer,
One Woman Walks Wales is published by Honno, price £12.99.
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Source : DailyPost