18 November 2021

My Life Now - meet Largs to Cowes rider Avalon

It’s been 18 years since the Trust first set sail – what are the young people who have been on trips up to now? Our 'My Life Now' series shows a positive future after cancer is a reality. The acceptance discovered through the Trust enabled Avalon to look towards her future with confidence.

Avalon looking happy and smiling on her first sailing trip with the Trust Name: Avalon Ridler

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/her

Diagnosis/year: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 2012

When did you first sail with the Trust: September 2016

What do you do now: I work as a Solution Advisor at a large software vendor called SAP.

Explain what that means:

Solution Advisors support the sales team with product knowledge throughout the sales cycle. I work closely with a huge range of customers, presenting architecture, finding answers to their current problems, and demonstrating software solutions. I think my job is pretty cool as I must have a thorough technical understanding, but I also have the opportunity to be creative. As well as technical skills, presentation and communication skills are equally important.

Why did you do want to do this?

I loved maths throughout school and always wanted to study it at university. Post treatment I wanted to keep my options open, as my diagnosis had made me question everything. I was offered a place to study Maths & Physics at the University of Bath. I stumbled across SAP, a software company when applying for a year long placement as part of my degree. I absolutely loved my time as an intern at SAP, and it gave me the confidence to register for my first Trust trip.

Avalon pictured next to her bike in the beautiful green countrysideWhat's the coolest thing you've done lately?

Sign up to the Trust's Largs to Cowes 'Brighter Futures' Cycle Challenge. I have found the last year relatively frustrating with the ongoing restrictions. I haven’t really done anything “out of the ordinary” or challenging; something which I try to do regularly. I know I put a lot of pressure on myself to “live,” but I think a lot of young people who sail with the Trust can relate to that feeling. I heard about the challenge, and it hit the spot. On top of that, it’s a great way to say thank you and give something back to an awesome organisation to which I owe a lot.

Why did you need the Trust's support in recovery?

I didn’t want to engage with anything cancer related throughout my diagnosis and treatment. My entire focus and aim was to get back to “normal life” as quickly as possible. But of course, life wasn’t ever going to be the same as it was pre-diagnosis. I had a whole lot of baggage, feelings, and emotions to deal with, alongside the endless long term follow ups. About two years post treatment, it all caught up with me. I struggled to sleep, I was scared, I cried all the time, and I just hadn’t processed what I, and my family, had been through.

The Trust was a perfect balance of meeting people, processing my diagnosis (albeit a few years late) and opening up about how it had affected me in a non-confrontational setting. The sailing facilitated the perfect situation for the right conversations. I came away from my first trip completely reset and more at ease with my diagnosis. Subsequent trips just reinforced this new confidence and acceptance of cancer. It’s such a relief to no longer block out those two years from my life. It doesn’t define who I am, but I would not change what I have learnt from the experiences I had and people I met along the way.

Avalon dressed smart at a work enterprise event What part has the Trust played in you doing what you are now?

I know I can try new things and have confidence in who I am thanks to the Trust trips and the self-belief and acceptance they instil. This is an absolute must in my role, as things are always changing.

What's your top tip for young people interested in working in your industry?

Get involved! There are loads of great internships in the software and tech industry, which really give you an idea of the wide range of roles and applications. I would also recommend signing up to the ERP Today Young Professional Network to connect with other early talent with similar interests. Don’t be put off if your education has been disrupted by treatment – there are other options including apprenticeships etc.