I spend most of my dog-walking time writing fiction in my head, some of which makes it onto this computer and even, though not successfully, into the hands of a literary agent. But this week, my week, would not make any kind of credible fiction because, as they say, the real world is stranger. And this has been the ultimate roller coaster of a week.
Back from Mallorca just nine days ago (artistic licence here), in the diary for me were the following:
1 Three appointments at York District Hospital including one round of chemotherapy,
2 My maiden voyage as a proper mother of the bride-to-be to look at a wedding venue, and
3 A level results for the twins.
Add into that two client meetings, one charity meeting, two games of tennis, 3 trips to the gym, one to the dentist and in the middle of it all, the arrival of number 1 child.
Item one was meeting the oncologist again to discuss - again - my treatment and the cornucopia of possible side effects which runs to four pages. I won't bore you but, and this is very non-pc, but if we gave every violent criminal currently serving time the drugs that I was to get later in the week with that same list of side-effects I think they might turn from a life of crime. Non-pc says number 4. So I sign myself up for the whole shooting match. How I hate giving up control.
Appointment 2 (after one hit on a tennis court and one trip to the gym) was with the chemo nurse. Let's go through all the side effects again - yes let's! Then I have all the tests, blood, blood pressure, ECG (new one for me and I felt like I was being wired up for broadband - great idea! My lovely, wise friend Mrs O'Polo who is an expert on this stuff says she was hoping for the levitation effect - disappointingly no). Anyway I have passed all the tests with flying colours and first prize is ... six rounds of chemo plus all the other stuff. God only knows what the second prize is.
Then once I've cracked through a couple of client meetings, a charity meeting, another game of tennis and trip to the gym, I have to go to my gorgeous dentist. Yes, 'gorgeous' and 'dentist' in the same sentence. All I want him to do is tap my teeth and say 'perfect' because you have to be in good dental health to pick up the chemo prize. He tells me he needs to do some work and all I want to do is cry. Sorry, R. Anyway he does it on the spot and sends me off with lots of good wishes and only one side of my mouth rather frozen and dribbly to meet number 2 and be MOB.
The venue which is on the shortlist of two for number 2 and her LF's forthcoming nuptials is Pemberley. No, not really but there is that whole Mr Darcy vibe going on and whilst number 2 was being perfectly gorgeous, grown-up, poised and business-like I have half a head imagining her in a wedding dress looking all the above apart from hopefully the last one. The other half is doing the number 2 aged 5 with a head covered in red ringlets and the most cracking sense of humour. "Mum, it's not that I'm naughty at school, it's just that if there are a whole gang of us doing something then I'm the one the teachers can spot!" I've already been banned from showing slides of the tiny number 2 on the day - shame. I love the one with her in her nappy when number 1 and Sam had painted L-plates on the back. Anyway, importantly, especially for number 2, I managed to do the whole wedding venue meeting without crying or mentioning cancer which I think was a great relief to her - and me.
Thursday was the biggest day of the week. Really, no question. I know it's stressful for all parents but for mums and dads of multiples, days like this are a killer. What if one does and one doesn't (entry to Ripon Grammar when they were 10 was much like this) or one cries or, worst of all, both miss out? And I don't really have a plan B and my usual on-the-hoof method of getting out of such situations isn't functioning because of all the other things going on in my head. However, the absolute joy of the new UCAS system is that you can find out online, at home before you face your peers at school which was how it was for 1 and 2.
I'm up at 5.00am, ironing for England and watching the clock. Seemingly you can log on at 8.00am. But by 7.30am, texts are pinging through on my phone so I go and wake the boy. Groan, too early. But moments later it's like the elephants in Jumanji thundering down the stairs and yes, YES, he's in. Bloody brilliant. Number 4 has her room in the barn so we rush over there with unseemly haste and wake her up too and YES, YES she has also got her first choice and is off to Edinburgh in September. If they can pull that off, then I can man up and do what lies ahead for me. They go off to celebrate with their friends and I go to the gym.
In the middle of all this, number 1 has arrived from London for a few days mother-daughter time and to be my support for Friday. Number 1 has spent the early part of the week filming for the Edinburgh Film Festival. Her role was to recreate a scene from a famous movie. Now, following on from her other roles in an entirely logical way, she's is cast in the Meg Ryan role in when Harry Met Sally and it is, of course, the cafe scene. Yes, the 'I want what she's having' one. Only in my life could all this stuff be happening at once.
Friday. Kept myself busy with housework, dogs, work etc up to the last moment when we have to leave to go to hospital. Number 1 doing her thing in the car - cracking jokes, singing (too hideous to describe) and talking about happy times. I'm grim. I have to live in the moment. I can't look back - it makes me too sad, and I can't look forward - it's too scary.
The actual chemo bit of the whole process takes about an hour and a half. If you want the cold cap (keep saying 'mother of the bride, mother of the bride') it means the process takes four hours. Lesson in hospital-speak: if they say it might be a bit sore, it hurts. If they say there may be a little discomfort, it really hurts. If they say (as they did for the first fifteen minutes of the cold cap) it hurts, they mean it's absolute agony. And it is. I am holding my beloved's hand so tightly that he has to keep changing hands (must be all that tennis - strong grip). I have tears in my eyes and I keep telling him not to let me give up. Fifteen minutes is a long time to be in big brain pain. And then you just get used to it. The rest of the ward are clearly fascinated. People either don't do this often or their chemo doesn't make their hair fall out or, as the nurse told me, most people rip it off in the first five minutes. 'Mother of the bride, mother of the bride.'
Now the tag team that comprised my hospital support - my beloved and number 1 - swapped over as there is really only room for one person to sit on the ward with me. The arrival of number 1 - why can I always hear her from down the corridor? She sits down and immediately puts on her woolly hat. Now we're really getting some interesting looks. The nurses want us to do a selfie so, yes, such a thing exists though I'm not sure anyone but a blood relative is ever going to see it. We also have a problem, Houston. I can't get my glasses on over the cool cap (we're talking size of a motorcycle helmet here) so I can't see. We need to find a way round this and the best we can come up with is the Hugh Grant prescription swimming googles he wears in Notting Hill. Now the rest of the ward are coming up with suggestions - a lorgnette perhaps? So we do the crossword (or not, because I can't see the grid and my brain is frozen) and number 1 is reading out the clues at her usual volume. We have to give the woolly hat to the lady sitting next to us with her husband who is having chemo because she wants to do the crossword later and doesn't want to know the answers so she is now wearing the hat.
Still a couple of hours to go and number 1 refuses to play Connect 4 which is big enough for me to see so she re-enacts When Harry Met Sally. Hilarious and the whole ward is enjoying the comedic presence of number 1. Next gig, same place in three weeks time.
Finally, after a visit from lovely Kim (my breast cancer nurse) to talk weddings and other nice things, it's finally over. We are last man standing - or rather, sitting - in the ward as treatment takes an hour and a half unless you do the cold cap and everyone else has gone. I am finally unplugged from the machine but I can't take the cap off as my hair is frozen to the cap and will come off with it. Have to wait about ten minutes to reach somewhere near room temperature and then it can come off. Round 1 is done. Plenty of drugs that I must take and some I can take if I need to. We'll see but I'm OK.
This is Meg Ryan doing her thing and I am promised the clip of number 1's filming of the same scene so I will post that too - soon.