Thursday, 15 March 2012


Lately, I’ve been having some very exciting discussions about the BBC’s adaptation of The C-Word. I’m loath to ever say too much about what’s going on with the drama, for fear of jinxing it at a time when there’s still plenty that could get between it and your telly screen, but suffice to say it’s moving along verrrry nicely and, frankly, is making me feel like rather a lucky bastard.

This week, myself and Team C-Word were chatting about what this blog meant to me throughout my first experience of cancer – the short answer to which is everything. I’m sure I’ve said before that I just can’t understand how people deal with The Bullshit without a blog, knowing how valuable it was in giving me something other than the obvious to talk about. See, because everything I was going through was written down on the blog, and any questions anyone had were hopefully answered within it, folk weren’t talking so much about my cancer as my writing – and for me, that was something really special.

Hence, as the blog gathered pace, eventually becoming the basis for a book, it felt like I’d somehow turned the lemons of The Bullshit into the lemonade of something that worked to my advantage; something tangible that I could slap onto a table and say ‘THAT’S what I got from cancer’. Better yet are the brilliant memories that the blog-to-book (and-hopefully-to-telly) experience has granted me; the wonderful people it’s brought into my life; the times I can look back on and feel at once happy and lucky and overwhelmingly proud.

This time around with The Bullshit, though, things are rather different – and, with my book long since published and my blog more established than exciting, there’s disappointingly less lemonade to be drunk… and rather more of the sour stuff. I guess it’s the same with treatment, too: having chemo when you think you can be cured is one thing; having chemo to prolong your life is quite another. It’s nothing that can be helped, of course – it’s simply the nature of my new diagnosis: there’s just less optimism to be had; less ambition. But while all that’s terribly sad, I’m not in the least bitter about it. And why? Well, because of all of the above. Because I’ve had my lemonade; I’ve had my luck; and I’ve had all the lovely memories that came with it. And while I refuse to accept that there isn’t plenty more to be had on the lovely-memory front, I do appreciate that, with the sticking point of terminal cancer, those memories might be a little harder to make.

I say ‘make’ rather than ‘find’ very much on purpose, for I’m not talking so much about the someone-popping-over-for-a-lovely-Sunday-afternoon memories as the memories that come about through determination; through graft; through nobody’s making but your own. Take the book, for example. The book didn’t just happen; I made it happen – and I’m really ruddy proud of it, thank you very much. And while, in the situation I now find myself, it’s a helluva lot more difficult to make that kind of fall-into-shit-and-come-out-smelling-of-roses thing come about, it doesn’t mean that I – and those around me – can’t make some good of the dog turd in which we’re currently knee-deep.

Which is precisely why last weekend, I and a team of 40-odd of family and friends – under the guise of ‘Lisa’s Lovelies’ – completed the Marsden March, a 14-mile walk between the Marsden’s two centres in Chelsea and Sutton, raising almost £14,000 – and counting – for the hospital that’s responsible for my care. (And since so much of that total has been so kindly donated by you, the readers of this blog, I hope you’ll count yourselves every much a part of Lisa’s Lovelies as those who marched on Sunday.)

I knew it’d be a special day. I knew it because so many people were making such an effort to participate; I knew it because we’d got the best team t-shirts in the history of fundraising (which, by the way, were very kindly printed at cost price by the super-cool Corporate Wear Ltd – do check them out); I knew it because we’d done so well on our sponsorship that we’d had to raise our target three times over before the event; I knew it because the weather forecast was looking spectacularly in our favour, and I knew it because P and my Dad had agreed to wear tutus. But I never could have realised quite how special it would turn out to be. So special, in fact, that 11 March 2012 will forever remain etched in my mind as one of the most wonderful days of my life.

12 March 2012 and the days that followed, however? Not so much. Because when you add my propensity to over-organise myself into a panicked frenzy to 14 miles round a bumpy course in an unfamiliar wheelchair mere days after a chemo session, what you’re left with is a hopeless mess of pain and puking for several days thereafter. But not even that could detract from my enthusiasm for the day of the Marsden March – as my Dad pointed out when fetching me some painkillers the following day.
‘What you did yesterday…’ he began.
‘What we did yesterday,’ I corrected.
‘Okay, whatever,’ he conceded. ‘Nobody will ever forget that, y’know. It was a really special memory. Every single person on that team had a fantastic time.’
I thought back to the smiles and jokes that accompanied our team all the way around the 14-mile course; how nobody moaned or whinged; how everyone nattered and skipped and waved and sang their way through, right until the finish line – and how emotional crossing that line was, not just for us but, judging on the tears in the eyes of those clapping us across, plenty of others too.
‘I know you feel like shit now, Lis,’ he went on, ‘but it’s really important that you hang onto that memory. Life is all about days like yesterday.’

Dad was right, of course (there’s a reason I call him Yoda): these moments are the whole damn point. They’re especially poignant, though, when they come from a place that’s less than special. And I don’t think Lisa’s Lovelies will mind me speaking on behalf of them when I say that it was something really quite incredible for us to be able to turn a state of affairs as monumentally shitty as this into something so good; so positive; so optimistic. And so useful, too – because as grateful as we are that we’ve been able to do something helpful by raising so much money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, we’re equally grateful at having been able to turn the lemons of the reason we were participating into the well-deserved, finish-line lemonade of the brilliant day out it became.

Which is exactly what I mean about creating good memories yourself. They might be hard work, they might be moving, they might give you blisters, and they might end up making you utterly, exhaustingly, on-the-verge-of-being-shipped-off-to-the-hospice ill, but that just makes them all the more worthwhile. And it’s all as simple as a matter of perspective.

You see, our Marsden March was definitely emotional – but never was it maudlin. Rather than Lisa’s Lovelies mourning what I’ve lost (and will inevitably lose), we instead celebrated our part in something hopeful; something that was giving back to the hospital that’s keeping me alive. All of which meant that, for one glorious day, I wasn’t a secondary cancer patient, but just another member of a kick-ass team who sure (as sure as my husband looks daft in a tutu) know how to put the fun into fundraising. 

We’re not finished yet! 

Having started out with a target of £5k, we’re now tantalisingly close to raising £15k. Can you help us get there? Click here to help Lisa’s Lovelies reach their final milestone… 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Marching on.

You don’t need me to tell you how much The Royal Marsden hospital has meant to me over the past few years. You don’t need me to tell you about the excellence of its staff, the brilliance of its services or how it’s second to none when it comes to innovation in cancer care.

You don’t need me to tell you that my medical team have thrown everything – both physical and psychological – at my treatment. You don’t need me to tell you that they care about its success every bit as much as I do. You don’t need me to tell you that they see me not just as a hospital number but as an individual, with a distinct – often unashamedly daft – character that leads me to do all manner of goofy things (swearing, hugging, blushing, stuttering) in front of them.

More importantly, though, you don’t need me to tell you that, without The Royal Marsden hospital, I might not still be here.

In the hope that you’re pleased that I’m still here, then, I’m pointing you somewhat vehemently (okay, I’m grabbing you by the wrist and yanking you so fast your feet won’t touch the ground) towards this link: a sponsorship page through which I’m raising money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Go on, click it. It won’t bite. (Although I might if you don’t.)

In light of the above, you also don’t need me to tell you why I’m participating in the 14-mile Marsden March (in a pimped-up wheelchair) this Sunday. (And if you do, you can find out further details here, alongside a lovely gooey picture of me and my P.) What you might need me to tell you, however, is why 42 other people have given up their Sunday to join Lisas Lovelies and do the same. And my answer to that is perfectly simple: because they’re wonderful – but also because, given that they’re my friends and family, they’re pretty pleased that I’m still here too.

What’s frustrating for all of us, though, is the absence of practical things we can do in order to help me stick around as long as we’d all like. Hence, when an opportunity such as the Marsden March presents itself, suddenly there’s something helpful; something positive; something useful with which we can roll up our sleeves and get involved. Granted, it may not be sponsored surgery or a sponsored therapy session or a sponsored chemo-line hook-up, but it’s as good an opportunity as we’ve got to raise as much money as we’re able for those who can do the practical, keeping-me-around stuff.

All of this, then, is my somewhat long-winded way of asking you, oh so kindly (your hair looks amazing today, by the way) if you’d be so good as to sponsor us. Please? 

It doesn’t have to be much (though if you’re feeling especially generous, we shan’t say no) and it doesn’t have to have your signature against it (though if you’d rather not remain anonymous, we’re sure the mere mention of your name will make you at least 28% more attractive to anyone reading) – in fact it can appear in whatever form you ruddy well like. It’s your money, after all… all I can do is assure you that it’s going towards a cause that couldn’t possibly mean more to me. 

All that said, however, I do appreciate that many of you might never even have heard of the Royal Marsden or the work it does – in which case, how’s about thinking of your sponsorship not as going towards an unfamiliar hospital, but instead as doing your bit to keep this blog – and the lass who writes it – alive.

Click here to sponsor Lisa’s Lovelies on this Sunday’s Marsden March: a 14-mile walk between the hospital’s sites in Chelsea and Sutton. 

Check back here next week for photos and stories from the event.