my sister Leigh came out to visit me for the last two weeks of october. she was here for my birthday and we had a great time. I had a load of days off work and we just chilled out. we went to the al husn hotel in shangri-la for two nights and got totally spoiled, and the 3.30 beer in the intercon garden became something of a ritual. saturday was my birthday and we spent it in feeney's - the irish bar on the beach - with folk from work. we had arranged for crispy to drive us to the airport the next morning so I could have a drink :)
when I dropped her off at the airport to go home she was, as usual, under strict instructions to viber me when she got back to her flat. which she did around 11.30pm for me. she said she had a letter from the hospital to go up the next day and talk about the results of her biopsy. in the previous 9 months she'd had two operations to remove lymph nodes which wouldn't go down. this didn't seem good.
thankfully, the appointment was in the afternoon and it gave my mum time to get up to glasgow on the bus and go with her. two days after my birthday she was diagnosed with non-hodgkin's lymphoma. the same day she had some bone marrow drawn for testing and a scan the following week. we waited an agonisingly long two weeks to find out that it was widespread through all of her lymph nodes and into her bone marrow. the doctor was optimistic as she said it was follicular and slow growing. the thing about non-hodgkins is that it's incurable. this is an incredibly difficult thing to hear if you are, like Leigh, a healthy and active adult with a full-time job.
about this time I started wondering if I was right to do clipper. what would I do if she got sicker and I was away? was I being selfish doing it, when I should be at home in scotland spending time with her? should I stay at the opera house and do clipper later on? what the actual hell was I going to do? and when would we get some answers about a treatment plan?
the treatment plan answers didn't seem forthcoming, with regular appointments and being told that the cancer was indolent and slow-growing so a 'watch and wait' strategy was preferred. this was what I was waiting for. I spoke to my mum about my concerns over clipper and after much questioning we decided this was as good a time as any to do it. she pointed out that if I delayed to 15-16 anything else could have happened making this one unlikely too. life has a way of throwing spanners in the works. mum also pointed out that Leigh was desperate to get them to go to NY with her to meet me off the boat in that stopover and she would kill me if I cancelled and she couldn't go!
so. back to the maggie's lady. I had asked Leigh if she wanted to come with me to meet sam. the day before the meeting she decided she wanted to come. I asked her if I could email sam and warn her of our situation change. she said yes, and asked if I could get sam to bring her some info on maggie's.
we met sam. she's a real journalist. probably the only one I've ever met. she was really nice and very easy to chat to. she thought I was a bit bonkers wanting to sail round the world but was dead interested in my reasons for doing it, and the background on the charities. she gave Leigh some information and asked if we wanted to go up to the centre for a cup of tea. we'd already decided to go to whole foods in giffnock for cake - they do dairy free - and get some stuff for one of my mates back in oman.
while we were having our cake, Leigh said it was a shame that we couldn't go to maggie's. I only had one full day in glasgow left at this point, but suggested we could head out the next day if she wanted. we got all sorts of goodies in whole foods and spent the night in front of the tv drinking beer and eating organic popcorn :)
the next morning, we had a tiny lie in and got on the bus to go out to gartnavel hospital. that's where the maggie's centre is in glasgow. the beatson west of scotland cancer centre is at gartnavel so it makes sense. it is a huge campus and we got quite lost. we turned a corner and there it was - a one-storey building that just didn't look like a hospital building. lots of glass and a huge log outside like a bench. one word 'maggie's' in one block by the huge door to let you know what it was. we stood outside it for a while - what a terrifying prospect it must have been for Leigh to go inside - but she did and I am so proud of her.
we were met by a nice lady who made us both a cup of tea - they have a HUGE collection of teabags - and got us someone to speak to. the best thing about going in was that nobody turned and looked at us. you could feel your life slow down inside the building. this place really is a haven.
the focal point of a maggie's centre is the massive kitchen table. they will make your first cup of tea, but after that you have to fend for yourself. the chat around the table isn't necessarily about cancer - what type you have, what your treatment is, etc. the guy who showed us round said it tends to be about more everyday stuff, to be normal.
it's such a peaceful place to go. it's weird but we almost didn't want to leave. they run sessions on relaxation and dietary advice as well as benefits information. the folk that work there are available all day to talk to if you want. they are really great.
it's strange to have supported maggie's and never visited them. I'm glad I have been to a centre now, although maybe I'd have preferred it without context. I'm so pleased Leigh decided to go. she said she wouldn't have gone if she'd been on her own, so at least the first one I was able to keep her company. after that I think she'll be ok :)
so that's why the radio silence til december. I've been trying to write this post for a week. now I'll email it to Leigh and she can change the bits she doesn't like...