This is a blog by my number one daughter. With everything I do now, there is always one of my children that can do it better than me and with writing it's number 1. This is her take on recent events...
There is nothing quite like the sudden jolt of reality when your mum tells you she has cancer. It was Wednesday afternoon in London, 25th June, 16.54pm and I was in the middle of delivering a four day programme for 100 students at BP on the subject of ‘Smart Cities’. The sun was shining and the energy in the group was high. Halfway through delivering a session with 20 senior leaders and 100 students, I got a text from my mum saying “I need to talk to you”. This was followed by a text from my dad saying “Call your mother now”. A feeling of dread over washed me. Plain and simple.
I took off my microphone, dropped my things, marched past security and went outside. The traffic was booming and there was chatter everywhere. I couldn’t hear and I couldn’t find a quiet spot. Eventually, I walked back inside to reception and rang the number. Mum picked up. “Can you hear me ok?” she said. “Yes” I said. “Listen carefully. I have bad news, darling. I have breast cancer.”
At that moment, there was this loaded silence and a repugnant cacophony of cliches came rolling in. The world stilled. Sounds became defined. A sharp intake of breath. My heart rate went through the roof. And the surroundings stayed exactly the same - I resented that. I remember. Focus, Gen. Focus. Do not break down. Focus on the matter at hand. “Are you ok?” I asked. “I’m fine. I have been in hospital all day and I wanted to tell you as soon as it was definite.” “Who knows?” “Robbie and Sabrina and I am waiting for Antonia to get back from work.” Simple facts. I told her I would call her later. Took a breath and went back into the auditorium and into the mayhem.
My boss immediately knew something was up. I struggled to articulate the words but I did. “My mum has breast cancer.” It was a barely audible whisper - probably the best I have managed to do in my life, since most people will know whispering is not my forte. But the day went on - the only way I could function at that point was to get on with the job at hand. Mum had more information to tell me, the programme was due to finish in an hour and, more importantly, I had no battery on my phone. I could sit and be vacant or I could continue with the job.
The day went on.
My mum’s mantra has always been “My body’s my temple” and it feels mockingly ironic that the healthiest person in our entire family has been diagnosed with Grade 3 cancer. But I know that life doesn’t shoot straight. I also know that breast cancer is incredibly common, that 90% of people are ok, that a lumpectomy is followed by radiotherapy and in bad cases by chemotherapy. My mum is terrified of having chemotherapy. I am terrified for her. She goes into hospital for the lumpectomy tomorrow and she is being brave and honest and organised as much as I would expect my mum to be.
There is no rationale or logic to be had behind coping with these things. Emotions are rather haywire but I am trying not to predict or control how I feel at specific moments in the day.
There are a whole lot of precious moments and memories being savoured during this time. And part of me is doing this to process - in the only way I know how right now - by writing; but also because if I can make my mum smile through reading this, then I know I will have made her day that little bit better. And because of that, mine.
So mum, as I know you are reading this right now, here are a few precious memories to share with you. Antonia and I have already regaled over these so already you know these are the real golden nuggets.
Songs: You, me and Antonia singing to Mamma Mia the musical in London. ‘Slipping through my fingers’ - our song. The Remix to Ignition, the coolest song ever. Robbie singing ‘Obviously’ - I’m sure you can emotionally blackmail him into doing this again…though he may never forgive you!
Clothes: Some hilarious fashion statements - Antonia’s sunflower hat. My orange anorak. The pashmina dress. So - my entire teenage years. The twins dressed as sheep for the Burton Leonard feast, bawling their eyes out. Antonia’s bat costume. My chinese costume. You were a genius at this. Your James Bond costume - squeezing into my wetsuit. I was mortified then but rather proud now.
Films: Mamma Mia…nuff said. Mrs Doubtfire “He was run over by a guinness truck”. Mighty Ducks - the flying V which I spent my life trying to recreate on the lacrosse pitch.
Holidays - Salcombe - when Jon Newey wore your swimming costume. Bahamas - the black Father Christmas. Dublin - Eric Clapton and you flirting with some young stoners in a rather fashionable bin bag and heart shaped sunglasses. Ibiza - Auntie Jean, Jack the Crack and hair bobbles. Jumping off the cliff. Losing my tooth in the Spaghetti Bolognese. Portugal - the broom dance and Josh pulling down the curtains.
Birthdays - An army stripper for a 16th, a black vicar for an 18th but only at the stroke of midnight, Sabrina’s sleepover - I had supposedly pooed behind the sofa very recently. Sleepwalking and trying to climb into Robbie’s bed naked. (Sorry Robbie). Epic birthday cakes - the Lion cake to name one.
Miscellaneous - When we had Guy Wright to babysit and we made him cocktails. (Antonia felt it was of import that we dredged this back up) Our obsession with Echo the Dolphin on the Mega Drive. Very important moments - listening to the Queen on Christmas Day. Me and Sam Storey painting an L on Antonia’s nappy. @TheLPlateNappy
This list could go on, but I’m only giving you a nibble. There will be many more to come and many more to create.
So I will leave you with a favourite quote and a last message before the big brave day tomorrow:
“When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.” William Shakespeare
I love you, I am so proud of you and we are with you every step of the way.