43. Timing is everything

The Birthday

Let me take you back two years, to February 2017. My best mate (who happens to run one of London’s best Events Management companies) is busy planning a party of her own; her 40th birthday party.

The Plain Jane team (that’s the Event Management company, btw) has booked a house in the country, and the itinerary is coming together like a pair of Liberty curtains – pool party, bbq, cocktails, dj, Sunday lunch… 

As she’s my bestie, and knowing how awesome her events are (www.plainjaneevents.com, in case you’re curious) I can’t wait. But there’s a snag… 

This time two years ago, I was having chemo to fight breast cancer. As you’d expect, I had a spreadsheet. “Boxy’s Gameplan” had no pivots (I still have no idea what they are?) but it included full details of meds, doses, appointments, locations, progress and that all important timeline. The timeline suggested that, if all went to plan, I’d be in my penultimate rebuild week when the party was to happen, so theoretically I could go. But in my heart, I knew that spending a weekend partying in a house with 20 other people after five rounds of chemo was not a great idea. So I said I’d probably not make it, but leave a space on the couch just in case, because you know what I’m like, I have previous… 😉

So that was the plan. I stayed on the invite list and was copied in on all the emails as the itinerary evolved. But the closer it got, and the more the excitement built, the more I wanted to see my bestie on her big day.

So I hatched a new plan. In cahoots with the PJE team (that’s Plain Jane Events (click here for details)) I decided to go to London, in my car (so I wouldn’t be surrounded by lots of people), on the overnight ferry (so I could hide in my cabin and rest during the crossing), then rock up at the salon where my bestie was having her nails done the day before the party. I could literally sit beside her, drink coffee, shoot the breeze, then hop back in the car and head back to Harwich in time for the overnight ferry back to Amsterdam. 

The plan was brilliant. 

The weather wasn’t. 

Whilst I’d been hatching my plan, Storm Doris was making her way eastwards across the UK. Doris would be past the party by the time things kicked off, but my ship would be sailing right through the eye of the storm, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the North Sea. Now I don’t get seasick, but the most common side effect of chemo is nausea. And if I get sick or feverish during chemo, I’m under strict orders to get my arse to the ER, as my body won’t be able to fight it.

So after listening to the shipping forecast on Radio 4, checking the Stenaline weather updates online, clicking ‘refresh’ every half hour, with a bag packed by the door, and a go/no-go deadline of 19:00… at 19:15 I realized I wasn’t going to get there – the risk was just too high. So instead, I sat in my flat and cried. The girls FaceTimed me from the party, but it wasn’t the same, and I promised to make it up to them.

The Baby Shower

Fast forward a year… my bestie is pregnant and due to have her first baby in October. I’m super excited for her, and spend the first half of the year ordering personalized sneakers in size 0-6 months and watching my bestie embrace her trimesters. 

Once again, her team jump into action planning a Baby Shower. I’m included on the emails as the itinerary develops, but while her ultrasound shows a beautiful baby boy, mine shows twins – Dastardly & Mutley – matestations of my breast cancer had taken up residence in my brain and my lung.

Out comes the spreadsheet (this time with a delightful pink colour scheme (still no pivots)), and I go into planning mode. Whilst I knew I’d miss the Baby Shower, I still managed to get to London to see her and ‘compare bumps’ (hers clearly won, both in terms of size and content). But would I get to see her with her baby before I started chemo?

Once again, I hatched a plan and was all set to go to London, but once again I failed, as my chemo date arrived before her baby. 

Again, we’ve FaceTimed and he’s already sporting his baby kicks, but it’s not the same.

Third time lucky…?

Now here’s the thing: despite enduring eight rounds of chemo, breast surgery and radiation in 2016/7; copious amounts of champagne and gin in 2017/8 celebrating various postponed events from the previous year; and brain surgery, stereotactic radiation and four more rounds of chemo so far in 2018/19; I haven’t been ‘ill’ (cough, cold, flu etc) since 2016.

I’ve had a few ‘scares’, like sneezing twice, whilst knowing I had naff all immune system and turning into a sudden hypochondriac. Or a nosebleed that lasted for 12 minutes, because I had naff all platelets so my blood wouldn’t clot. But tonight my unbeaten streak finally ends. I have a cough.

Not only does this mean I’m unlikely to make it to the pub to watch Ireland thrash England in the 6 Nations on Saturday, but my bestie has flights booked to come over from London with her little man on Monday. 

So the fight is on…

  • Will the nurse just give me paracetamol and say “let’s see how you get on…”?
  • Or will I get the medical equivalent of a Mercedes Silver Arrow in party mode, with low fuel, fresh boots, and a radio call from Bono saying “OK Lewis, it’s Hammertime…” to get me well again in time for Monday’s visitors.

The serious bit

Although I try to inject humour into how I tell my story, I’m not superhuman, and I do sometimes feel frightened by the harsh reality of all this. But the humour adds a sunny lense through which to view the situation, and that gives me strength. It helps me enjoy the ‘now’ rather than worrying about the “what if…”

Anyway, I’ll find out tomorrow whether I’ll be stocking up on antibiotics (I’ll be asking for the banana flavoured stuff I had as a kid, obvs) or Lemsip (blatant plug there, sorry, other brands are available 😉).

In the meantime, feel free to check out www.plainjaneevents.com for some smiley faces, happy clients, and amazing events 😉



AN: excuse the image *you’re

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