After having survived a life-threatening condition called Cushings Disease, Kiko decided to dedicate the rest of her life challenging herself and inspiring others to do the same. In March of this year 2018, Kiko pushed her mental and physical boundaries to the limit, and single-handedly became the fastest woman to solo row the Atlantic in a record 49 days, and raised over £100,000 for King's College Hospital who saved her life. (and is still fundraising) www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kikomatthews
I met up with this incredible woman for a chat.
Q: Kiko, first of all - huge congratulations and total respect and admiration to you. I cannot begin to imagine what you have gone through, starting with your life-threatening condition to becoming the fastest woman to solo row the Atlantic. Where did you find the strength to face these challenges?
Ooh what a question! I was very lucky to be born to amazing kind parents, who made me independent from a young age and that made me very resilient. Being the third child out of 4, I wanted to do different things from my brothers and sisters, I didn't follow the usual money making route, I wanted to do something I loved doing.
I think the happier you are, the more confident you are, and the more confident you are the more resilient you become ultimately adding to your mental strength. It's about being honest to myself and to others who I am. It's about realising that worrying is a waste of time. When i was ill, I would say to my mother you have to stop worrying, this is so out of our control, go have fun in London, she would say no, I will be worrying about you, I would say what is the point of worrying? the tumour is there doing its thing and the doctors will do what they do.
It was the same when I was crossing the Atlantic, there's a big wave coming to crash on you, you can't control the fact that its going to happen, you've just got to not worry about it! So I guess that's a little bit of where the strength comes from. All the times we get upset about things, get angry about things, worry about things, its really about stepping back and looking at the situation and thinking 'it is really worth it?' is this energy I'm wasting making any difference? If it's not, why are you doing it, you can't control it, so you learn to stop worrying about it, then you have more energy for your mental health.
Q: While your were rowing across the Atlantic, I would wake up thinking, my gosh, Kiko is out in the middle of the Atlantic, alone, I wonder what she is thinking, what is she feeling. Can you give me a little insight into your thoughts during those 49 days and nights?
It varied depending on the mood, you wake up not knowing what your mood is going to be, life hasn't changed, you wake up and can have a bad day, if I've had a bad dream just before I wake up, that will impact my mood for the rest of the day. When I was in the cabin I would be like, do I have wake up and row? why on earth did I decide to do this? This is so relentless, is this really a good idea? then I'd be like, of course this is a good idea, look at what you're doing, what you're showing, and you're raising money for King's.
My sports psychologist asked me what my purpose was, I answered to get a world record, she stated that was not going to help when I'd be feeling crap, and she was right, there were times I didn't care about getting the world record, but then I would think, I've got all these young girls and women and people who are supporting and following me, and believe I'm going to do it and if they believe I'm not going to do it, I'm going to prove to them that I can!
There were a few moments of guilt because my boat was so good and it would move quite fast in the wind even though I wasn't rowing, so I felt guilty people were at home thinking, oh my god she's doing so well and actually I was out for the count feeling absolutely exhausted, but I think that was also my medical condition to be honest, but then again I thought to myself anyone else could have put themselves in this situation if they wanted, I took the decision to give up my job, I had very little money, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I've had brain tumours, I've battled and I've kept going, so don't feel guilty. I'm raising money too and there's no one else doing it and they could do it. When the wind was slow it was tough going, but the thought of getting to Barbados and having a mojito and clean sheets kept me going and I rowed faster!
Q: This all has obviously changed your life. What are your thoughts, dreams, aspirations now going forward.
I feel so lucky that I have had the ability mentally and physically, to not only cross the Atlantic, but to get the boat in the water in the first place! and I'm so thankful to everyone who supported me and grateful I have the inner peace that helps creates a team which helps me get to the place I want to, and I have that passion and purpose that people then want to buy into, and that I have found the joy of life and that I am born physically strong.
There were tough times, little things going wrong, worrying, and frustrating times when I didn't think I'd get there in time, but I would think to myself, if you don't get there Kiko, you can't control the situation if the wind isn't blowing fast enough, if you're doing your best, then there's nothing more you can do. So just chill the f*** out! keep it real, keep going. I was so keen to enjoy it too, if I was too exhausted, I would have another hour's sleep, there's no point in rowing if I'm going to pull on the oars so little, it's not worth it, it would be better for me to get another hours rest and then have more energy.
I want to really make to a difference. I'm 37, have no children, I feel the purpose of humans on the earth, like every other animal and creature, is to procreate, the bottom line is there is no real purpose to life other than to make more life, but if I'm not doing that, I have to have a different purpose. My life has to be more than me, I want to make a difference to others. I'm really happy and content with who I am where and where I'm going, that's not to say I don't have my ups and downs, I still have to work stuff out. So I want to make a difference, I want to continue with my purpose, I want us to be more aware of ourselves, of others around us, of the environment around us. If I can reach even one person to be aware of themselves, if I can help, that will lead to one more person being happy, and one person more making others happy, and to the world being happier!
Amen to that Kiko! Thank you so much - a truly outstanding brave courageous woman.
If you wish to read more about Kiko's incredible journey and donate to her charity please go to her website: www.kikomatthews.co.uk