A Place in the Sun is yet another programme that I can’t get my head around. It’s basically Escape to the Country but this this time the house hunters get to go abroad instead of trudging through the British countryside. You can normally tell pretty early on if the house hunters are actually interested in buying anything, or just fancy a jolly away. A pretty typical give away is if they think every property that they are shown are simply marvellous and it’s their first visit to said location. Why on earth would you buy a property if you have only found out where the place you are visiting actually is? Also it’s pretty typical that the house hunters won’t be able to speak the lingo. This means that any building work that the chilled, relaxed presenter will highlight that needs to be done would be doubly difficult to do once they have moved there. I find it hard to communicate with British builders let alone with builders who can’t speak English.
Basically A Place in the Sun is escapist TV. It’s set in stunning locations where the sun always shines and there’s a friendly bar full of jolly locals who are happy to see and help you. It is selling a dream and a lifestyle that very few of us can actually achieve. When I had learnt that my cancer had reoccurred, it was so tempting to jack everything in, max out my credit cards and go on that travelling odyssey that I had always wanted to go on.
However, over time, reality hit. It’s all good going travelling, having amazing experiences and showing off on social media but there comes a time when you have to go home. Everything in life is temporary. Soon you need stability and time to really consider your options. Flitting around everywhere is merely a distraction from what is really happening around you. Friends and family provided this stability for me and time spent with them gave me the focus to consider my options.
So I’m all for a bit of escapism. Who isn’t? But you also need to prepare for when life slows down and ultimately it’s up to you and only you to make the next move.
The PET scan was just as efficient as before and about a week later, I was in the waiting room again, this time with my parents. We were all stayed with some of my parents’ friends near Chesterfield. The plan was to get the results and the spend a week with my aunt and uncle in Anglesey. I stayed overnight in Chesterfield and I felt petrified. I had this thing in my head that could trigger a stroke. I was afraid of going to sleep in case I never woke up again.
As I was called through I noticed that Mr C was smiling.
“Good news! It hasn’t spread anywhere. In fact, your head lit up like a Christmas tree…”
I felt a bit relived but I don’t think my parents felt it. My dad asked a couple of questions and all I remember of the exchange is him shaking his head and saying:
“You’ve picked a right one here haven’t you love?”
He meant the cancer, not my husband…I hope.
After Mr C, we went to speak to another cancer support nurse called Ginta, as Melissa was on holiday. Ginta was just as lovely as Melissa. She talked about hospice care in such a way that it didn’t seem so terrifying after all.
After we saw Ginta we headed up to Anglesey. It was just before Christmas and the weather was playing its part well. We drove through a snow storm in the Peaks, but we arrived in Anglesey in one piece. My aunt and uncle were fab and kept us all busy. I did get a bit emotional at times, but there was always a hug and a cup of tea to help me through it. Mum had the idea that my husband and I should go on holiday somewhere. After much debate, we decided on a Caribbean cruise. My parents would pay for my ticket and my father in law would pay for my husbands. There was no option. We would go on a Caribbean cruise whether we liked it or not.
So at the beginning of 2012, my husband and I found ourselves winging our way to Barbados. We were bit nervous as to how I would be on the seven-hour flight. Would I faint? Would my head explode? Thankfully none of that happened. As soon as the plane took off and I just felt relief. I felt that I had left the cancer behind me in the UK and by God, I was going to have a good time!
The cruise was amazing and the Caribbean was a wonderful place. When we came back, we both felt refreshed and energised. Life was to be living and what will be, will be.
But after about a month, I found myself in a funny place mentally. It felt a bit like limbo. All I knew was that I was going to die soon. I didn’t know when or what it would be like and this I struggled to get my head around.
Then one day my sister called with a strange proposal.
“Hi. It’s me. I don’t know if you know but I heard from one of my colleagues that Mr N is in the country. He’s a world famous brain surgeon and he’s based at Wimbledon Hospital. Do you think it would be a good idea for him to look at your scans and see if there is anything that he could do?”
“Mmm… I don’t know. Mr C seemed pretty adamant about it all. Plus won’t we have to wait months for a referral?”
“We could go private. It’s a one off and if we do that we could see him next week. I think it’s worth doing as he’s not in the country for long…”
I was a bit emotionally detached from it all. I felt I had some kind of morbid acceptance of the situation that I was now facing. What was the point? All that fuss and he would probably say the same thing as Mr C anyway…
I was in a bit of a day dream when I snapped out of it to hear my sister say…
“So I’ll book it for next week and you just need to get your scans sorted. I’ll text you the day and time. See you, bye.” And she hung up.
A week later, my husband went to the QMC after work and picked up the precious CD containing my scans. Then me, my sister and my parent were sitting in yet another packed waiting room awaiting the verdict. After about twenty minutes a jolly looking receptionist shouted my name. We were ushered into a rectangular room with a desk and a computer one side and an examination bed on the other. At the far end of the room was a window and sitting in front of the window, by the desk was Mr N. Mr N was how you would picture an extremely intelligent person. He was quite tall and thin with his hair brushed back over his head. He was wearing tortoise shell glasses and had a large hooked nose. He looked quite similar to an owl or Professor Jaffle from Bagpuss. He kindly shook all our hands and there was five minutes of confusion where we tried to find places for everyone to sit.
After we had all sat down, I handed over the precious disc and Mr N switched on his computer. While he was waiting for it to warm up, my sister filled him in on the story so far. He nodded while always keeping a beady eye on the computer. Finally, it splurted into life.
“Bloody thing… it was a lot easier when scans were on film. You could just hold them up to the light and see exactly what was wrong. What did the brain surgeons in Nottingham say?”
I told him how they had say that they didn’t want to operate as it would be too dangerous. The tumour was in a dangerous place and while they were operating, they could trigger a stroke from which I could never recover from.
“Mmmm…” said Mr N while clicking on his mouse.
He put the CD into the computer. He clicked a few more times and then the image of my head appeared on the screen. I held my breathe.
After about 10 seconds he delivered his verdict.
“I’m sorry to say this but I concur with the brain surgeons in Nottingham. The location of the tumour is extremely problematic. You would definitely have to lose your left eye and there is not guarantee that you would be you after the operation. As it’s a cancer, do you mind if I keep hold of this and give it to some of my colleagues at the Royal Marsden to have a look?”
No, no was the answer we all chimed in unison.
“Very well then…” he said while standing up.
We took the hint and stood up too and bid our farewells.
“Urm.. where do we pay?” asked my mum nervously.
“Oh I never charge for second opinions.” Said Mr N. “Good luck Anna.”
That night I relayed the story to my husband.
“Well that’s a bugger isn’t it?”
Bizarrely I didn’t think it was. I felt weirdly optimistic about it. I don’t know but I think for the first time I had hope. I didn’t really have that before. I just felt in my gut that everything was going to be OK. For the first time I felt a bit in charge of this. I finally plucked up the courage and do some research about the type of cancer I had. The blinkers had now come off. I was no longer detached from the process watching some weird film about a woman with cancer. I was back in the room and in charge of my own destiny. It might not look all that good, but boy, I was now ready for it so bring it on!