A guest blog from my charmingly inappropriate number 1 daughter - definitely post-watershed! She doesn't hold back on the detail. And the quote at the end is a brilliant piece of improvisation from Robin Williams when Mrs Doubtfire's false teeth make an unexpected and unattached appearance at the end of the film. Just in case you wondered...
Poor Winston’s idea of foreplay was “Brace yourself, Effie”. Not that I am about to talk about my idea of foreplay. Don’t worry Mum. But in the wake of Robin William’s suicide and your first round of chemotherapy, there seems to be a tragicomedy theme tune harping in the background this week. Particularly with the story of the Hedgehog. More on this later.
Over the last couple of weeks, it is fair to say that distraction has finally succeeded with your holiday with the infamous singing, dancing doctors and Skip and Mrs Broccoli (even I have succumbed to calling them by their aliases), and my business trip to Mumbai - consisting of crocodiles, bobble-heads, transvestites and overdoing the Indian cuisine. Delhi Belly indeed. Having barely stepped a foot through the door of my London home, I blitzed up on the train north to be reunited with you, my mother - who it turns out was too busy being a marvellous and mildly-distracted MOB to Middle Sister at ‘Pemberley’, to even pick me up. Luckily, one of my new substitute mothers - Mrs O’Polo was able to include me in her entourage home from Knaresborough.
It is fair to say, I was feeling a little trepidation about returning home for we had two big days ahead - A Level results on Thursday followed by the Hedgehog and 70’s Swimming Gala on Friday. That is, Round 1 of Chemo. Right now it feels safe to feel a little relieved. For it wasn’t all too bad. Both Little Sister and Single Brother succeeded in getting into their first choice universities, reacting to their results in entirely predictable fashion. Robbie casually glanced at his results, texted all of us and then headed off to coach tennis before realising that he had read his results wrong and done even better than he had thought. Sabrina threatened murder to anybody who came within a metre of the white envelope which contained her results. It is not surprising that I then promptly snatched this envelope out of her hand and got chased around the school car park. It is my job as embarrassing big sister after all. There were no tears, hugs or champagne for this pair are just too cool. However, I did notice a lump in my throat that didn’t dissipate until I brushed my teeth before bed.
Friday was the big ball game and the stress levels in the house were palpable. As one does, when one knows their mother is in a frightening mood, we all hid into small dark spaces until it was safe to come out. This was around noon. Now six weeks ago, or so, when you and I discussed me coming back home, I thought I had been invited to accompany you to this wonderful visit to the York Hospital Magnolia Centre. Typically, in deaf fashion, I had misinterpreted. Nevertheless, you were kind enough to allow me to escort you and Daddy in the car. A dubious decision you must have thought.
We have a great bravado, us Barrs. And it never manifests itself so strongly than when we are all terrified. I think if I had grasped your shaking hand before we started, I would have cracked. But there was a job to do. That visual of your courageous, fragile and determined face had to be stored to the back of my mind until bedtime, when I could cry freely. Why you, Mum? As we walked in to the Magnolia Centre, I was darting glances left and right at the other patients in there - they were all so much older. Dad took the first hour shift, and as you asked him to direct me to the Costa Coffee in the main hospital, he looked horrified to leave you for even a second. I think it was then I realised that I was there to do something else - because whilst only Dad could will you through the pain, only I could do justice in distracting you from it.
Obviously not a surprise.
After Dad begrudgingly let me do the second shift, it was game on. You had an extraordinary pink and black swimming cap on, made out of the same material as a wet-suit, reminiscent of a 70’s flowery swimming cap. At the top of this very bemusing swimming cap was a long pink tail connected to a machine on the side. (The cap contained anti-freeze aimed to prevent all those nasty chemicals from attacking your hair). You did spout out some terribly rude words, mum, about how cold your head was. This is forgivable on a cancer ward but I hope you’re doing penance as we speak as this was not acceptable in front of your innocent number 1 child. Amazingly, my pink and blue woolly hat was a perfect accompaniment to your 70s swimming cap, and the two of us looked terribly stylish as we posed for selfies in the ward taken by the nurses Shirley and Jo. Astonished glances were on the faces of the other ward inhabitants - but they secretly loved it.
The crossword was a rather unusual experience as you were both unable to put your reading glasses on and convinced that your brain cells had frozen. No mum, it's just the clues were bloody difficult.
Because you were behaving so well, I agreed to do a reading of the scene that I had performed for Channel 4 on Monday. This was the infamous cafe scene in ‘When Harry met Sally’. Due to your temporary blindness, I agreed to play both parts and did a beautiful rendition that was abruptly stopped right before the ending, by you, my wonderful mother. I am sure that the ward, and the entire hospital in fact, would have loved to hear my loud fake orgasm. I scored a 10/10 for it by the director on Monday. But it was not to be.
It was only in the car on the way home, when I was graced with an explanation of what the ‘Hedgehog’ was in reference to. It turns out, and yes, I am going to say it here, that one of those nasty chemicals they put in you creates the sensation of a hedgehog trying to ram its spines up your vagina. My reaction to this bemusing definition was only exacerbated by my query as to whether the same sensation also happens to men. “Yes Genevieve, only much worse, they feel it in their testicles.”
Sadly this week, one of the Barr family’s favourite actors - Robin Williams, died and we celebrated his death by watching one of our all-time favourite treats - Mrs Doubtfire. This time around, we were graced with six hotdog impressions (Alex was too mature for this) and a heimlich manoeuvre performed by Dad on me having just swallowed my red wine. We were all casting watchful eyes on you, my beautiful mummy, ready to come to your aid with a bucket in case you were sick.
So the verdict? It’s now started - the dreaded chemo, and only time will tell how your body responds to the treatment. We will all be patient, supportive and watchful - for you are so precious to us, but at the same time pretend that life is as normal as ever - because that is how you want it to be. A tricky balance, and one that we may never perfectly achieve but as you said - one day at a time. Meanwhile, I am storing up all the laughs for our second stand-up comedy gig in three weeks time.