2018 started with my mother seriously ill in hospital, with pneumonia then flu. She spent all of Christmas and New Year hospitalised so this was very much my focus as I entered 2018.
As 2018 departs, hospital is once again prominent, this time, it is me who is unwell, admitted for severe constipation which has caused abdominal bloating and sickness.
As I lie in my hospital bed, I have time to reflect on the year that has been and it has been rather dominated by my cancer, probably more than any other time since my diagnosis in 2016. I had two further lines of chemo (one still ongoing) making it four in total, as well as an unsuccessful dalliance with the PARP inhibitor, Niraparib.I have seen my CA125 tumour markers spike at 1500 (normal levels are 0-35). I have been admitted to hospital four or five times to deal with the ravages and side effects of chemotherapy.
There have been negatives aplenty associated with my cancer: the numerous trips I have had to cancel as a result of being too poorly to travel - Copenhagen, Lille, France (for a retreat no less) and most recently, to Bath to celebrate New Year; cancelling many social engagements and missing parties. Then there have been the goodbyes to people who had cancer and funerals of two special people - my beloved (ex) father in law who passed away in April from pancreatic cancer, and my friend Madeline, who I met at an ovarian cancer event and was part of an elite group of four ladies, we called ourselves Onwards and Upwards. Also very recently, I learned of the untimely passing of my (ex) uncle, also from pancreatic cancer.
Hospital also featured as I attended a weekly clinic to change the dressing on my ongoing leg wound, from an op in August 2017 to remove an infected sebaceous gland. Thankfully, I was signed off at the end of July, almost a year after the op.
But as ever, I prefer to focus on the positives, because there have been many in 2018 and they still far outweigh the negatives. As much as cancer dominates my life, I try wherever possible to do as much as is physically possible and enjoy life to the max.
Prince Charming and I managed three stays, each of three weeks, in his Spanish castle, which were all fabulously restoratative and relaxing in equal measure. In May, we tagged on a road trip to Madrid, including a night in Toledo. In November, our road tip took us to Granada. Spending time in the Iberian country I have grown to love and see as my second home helps me push the cancer to the back of my mind. No one there knows I am sick and I don’t have any treatment to remind me I have an illness. On the most recent trip, I rediscovered my love of reading and devoured five books.
The highlight of this year was without doubt celebrating my milestone birthday. I turned 50 in April and celebrated large, culminating in the big one at the end of June, IngFest. A one day music festival,with live performances from friends and connections, as well as food and drink, attended by pretty much everyone I know, on a balmy summer’s day - it was sheer perfection.
I was also treated to some special meals - a three Michelin star lunch on my birthday with Prince Charming; tea at The Ritz with my sister and tea at Cliveden with The Blondes. I hosted two meals - a Sunday lunch for my closest family and a Sunday brunch for some girlfriends.
I treated myself to a new car and I took delivery of my brand new convertible grey Fiat 500 a few days after my birthday and enjoyed whizzing around in it during the glorious summer, roof down, hair flying in the breeze.
The little Princes came and went: Antony moved home from May to September whilst he searched for a new job and subsequently, a new flat. It was lovely having him home and we managed a fair few Thai lunches when his shifts permitted. He is now doing the North London thing, with a job he is loving and living in a gorgeous little flat with a flat mate.
Charlie spent the whole summer abroad - Camp America in Philadelphia followed by six weeks teaching in Singapore. Whilst it was a fantastic experience for him, it meant he missed IngFest but that was a small price to pay for such a summer. Rather than returning to uni in October, he opted to ‘rusticate’ and will return in March 2019, so we have made up the time we missed out on in the summer.
Their achievements continue to make me swell with pride.
I continued to work as the cyber sec, which I see as a positive. I am fortunate to work from home which affords me the flexibility I require for treatment and also, downtime when I am suffering from side effects. I have three amazingly understanding clients who generate enough workload to keep me occupied and my brain ticking over, but not too much to put me under pressure or stress me out. I am really lucky to have such a cancer-friendly model of working.
There have been the breakfasts, brunches and lunches with girlfriends, at least one a week, many at my local Thai cafe. These provide me with a wonderful opportunity to catch up face to face, receive updates on their lives and also, prove I am still here and still me!
Of course, one constant has been my Prince Charming, Neil, who has continued to provide love, care and compassion throughout the year, as well as being the source of laughter and smiles, with kisses and hugs aplenty. He has kept on top of the domestic chores when I haven’t been able to and I appreciate everything he does to help me through this, I honestly couldn’t do it without him. This definitely was not what we imagined when we got together six years ago!
At the beginning of 2018, I had no idea what the year would bring. Looking back, I couldn’t have foreseen much of what occurred but in my inimitable style, I put on my big girl pants and dealt with what life threw at me. And I will do the same with 2019, enjoying the positives and dealing with the negatives when they arise, as they will inevitably do.
What 2018 has proved is that it is incredibly difficult for me to plan too far ahead. I really don’t want the disappointment of having to cancel trips and engagements, so will only plan up to three months ahead.
With that in mind, I already have the following to look forward to: a weekend with the little Princes in Bilbao at the end of January; a week in the Spanish castle in February and then, the biggie for 2019, taking to the catwalk as a model at the Touch of Teal Tea with Ovacome . This is a huge honour and a great challenge for someone who hates being on stage, despite liking attention. 24 of my closet friends and family will be there to support me (and eat cake!)
Then before we know it, it will be April again and I will be celebrating my 51st birthday because every year from hereonin is a milestone for me.
All it takes for me to do now is to wish all my loyal followers a happy 2019.
I’ll end with three quotes from my heroine, the beautiful movie star who died from a rare cancer, Audrey Hepburn:
“I have learnt how to live… how to be in the world and of the world, and not just to stand aside and watch”
“Not to live for the day, that would be materialistic — but to treasure the day. I realize that most of us live on the skin, on the surface, without appreciating just how wonderful it is simply to be alive at all.”
“If my world were to cave in tomorrow, I would look back on all the pleasures, excitements and worthwhilenesses I have been lucky enough to have had. Not the sadness...but the joy of everything else. It will have been enough.”