I’m dedicating this column to a special friend who’s making me particularly proud today. Her name is Suzanne Savage, she lives in Bangor and many of you will know her as a loved and lively fixture on the Northern Ireland social circuit.
As you read this, however, she will be on a plane jetting across the world on a journey of a lifetime. Yes, following in the footsteps of an ancient extinct civilisation, of famous explorers, world-renowned archaeologists ... oh and Fearne Cotton off the telly. She is heading for the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, one of the revised Seven Wonders of the World, which is situated in such a remote and inaccessible part of Peru that it was only discovered by western civilisation in the last century.
Now, climbing to a height of 8,000 feet above sea level between the most steep and treacherous mountain peaks of the Andes — in the rainy season no less — is no mean feat for anyone to undertake. Heck, I certainly don’t think I could do it. But then she isn’t just anyone. Especially when she’s on a mission.
Because if you knew Suzi like I knew Suzi ... oh, oh, oh what a girl!
For a start, Suzi is certainly not your typical outward-bound mountaineer. In fact, as one of the country’s most fashionable fortysomethings, she’s more often seen tottering in vertiginous Louboutins towards a catwalk show than striding in lace-up hiking boots towards a gruelling summit. Every fashion show, every season, Suzi is there on the front row taking note of the new trends, fraternising with her fellow fashionistas and posing for the paparazzi. She’s also a keen and avid benefactor of the arts, having supported so many up-and-coming local artists over the years that her fabulous home resembles an annex of the Tate Modern.
But it’s her dedication and devotion to her friends that makes Suzi such a great example and so worthy of these column inches.
For the reason she’s putting herself through such a difficult, arduous and, indeed, expensive task is in loving memory of a dear friend who died this year before she could make the journey herself. So Suzi decided to take up the baton in her absence and also to raise money for a wonderful worthwhile charity in the process.
From the moment she made the decision to join the charity trek, Suzi was absolutely determined to succeed, come Hell or high water. Nothing and nobody was going to stop her.
As a friend and neighbour, I’ve watched her approach the mission with such unstoppable zeal that she makes me almost feel physically exhausted by proxy.
First, she joined a gym in the summer and began training every day for a few hours to get warmed up. Then, when her stamina was built up enough, she took on a personal trainer who put her through her paces and pushed her to the very limit of her endurance (and patience, on some occasions) using all manner of apparatus and equipment, each set just a bit harder than the last. As soon as she was home from the gym she would then set out on her daily walk, carrying a rucksack filled with weights and usually a distance of ten miles or more and in horrible wet and windy weather.
While I was sitting at my desk, typing away, Suzi would often stride past on her way towards another personal goal: from Bangor to Millisle and back; or to Helen’s Bay and Holywood along the rocky coast, rain lashing down all the while.
And now, at last, she’s ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Suzi and the rest of the team from the Teenage Cancer Trust leave today and are hoping not only to reach the summit of Machu Picchu but also their target to raise thousands for a very worthy cause.
Suzi Savage, I salute you!
About the charity
The Teenage Cancer Trust was founded in 1997 and focuses on the needs of teenagers and young adults with cancer, leukaemia, Hodgkin’s and related diseases by providing specialist teenage units in NHS hospitals.
“At Teenage Cancer Trust, we understand that young people with cancer require specialist care,” says the charity.
“We know how damaging it is to take a young person away from their everyday life, their friends, their environment, their family — and put them in a cancer ward with small children or older people. Young people have a much better chance in their fight against cancer if they are treated by teenage cancer experts, in an environment tailored to their needs. So we’re working every day to make that happen.
“We don’t believe that teenagers should have to stop being teenagers just because they have cancer. Our units bring teenagers with cancer together with loads of new friends of their own age so they can support each other.”
To make a donation yourself, or to sponsor Suzi, go to: teenagecancertrust.org/get-involved/make-a-donation/instant-donate