In keeping with this issue’s ‘Fifth Anniversary’ theme up until the very last moment my article was about how our wonderful town might look and feel in another five years. It was written before Sally (my Maid Marian) and I were married on September 10th but now (thanks to the kindness of the editors) I’ve rewritten it entirely with a single point to make.
Regular readers may recall that sadly Sal has incurable breast cancer which has already spread to her bones and liver and is still undergoing chemotherapy. In fact she had another treatment just a week before the wedding and was sadly becoming increasingly poorly as the weekend approached, but on the day she looked radiant dressed in a beautiful outfit she’d made herself whilst I was dressed like a Napoleonic Hussar (because… erm… I wanted to and Sal said I could. Seriously, that’s the best and most genuine reason I have).
Sal genuinely took my breath away with her grace, beauty and joy when I saw her appear at the top of the stairs, I have genuinely never been happier – but how she made it down them (accompanied by her father Steve, best friend Lou and our two-year old daughter Scarlett) I’ll never know as by the start of the wedding her nausea, constant sickness and tiredness were utterly debilitating and the greatest honour she could ever pay me was (by sheer force of will I’m sure) making it, smiling, through the whole ceremony. Surrounded by friends and family we happily made our promises and exchanged rings with each other as well as presenting one to Scarlett and suddenly… we were married!
Heading outside we managed about five minutes of photos before Sal needed first to sit down, then to be ill again and finally needing to alternate lying down and being sick which of course meant missing all of the usual family photos, the meal and (probably thankfully) speeches.
With no improvement and Sal becoming increasingly frail I rang the emergency on-call cancer nurse who told us Sal needed to be seen straight away, so we left our friends and family at the venue to spend our wedding night in a shared ward at the City Hospital’s Specialist Receiving Unit – but I’ve never been so grateful to the dedicated staff there who saw exactly how poorly Sal was and gave her the very best of care. I sat by her all night and all of the next day too, still dressed like an escapee from a bad Adam Ant tribute band.
I hope five years from now Sal will be still going strong, happy and enjoying watching our daughter grow up
In fact Sal had to spend the next ten days in hospital. Our original plan had been to go on honeymoon but instead Sal was moved to a specialist oncology unit whilst they slowly stopped her constant vomiting, replaced fluids, calcium, potassium and blood and finally discovered the devastating cause of her worsening condition.
The cancer has spread again. Into Sal’s brain.
I cannot tell you how much that news terrified us. Even writing this it doesn’t seem real, but it is. The same day it was diagnosed Sal began an intensive ten day course of brain radiotherapy whilst still undergoing more chemo. She is utterly wiped, tired beyond all comprehension and I have to say if it wasn’t for our marvellous friends and family rallying round with support, babysitting and transport I’m not sure we’d have coped at all. She’s home now but we’re still making daily trips in for treatment.
So here’s my ‘five year’ hope… I hope five years from now Sal will be still going strong, happy and enjoying watching our daughter grow up. And I hope beyond words that all of us here in Beeston still have access to such world-class dedicated, supportive, caring and free at the point of contact NHS facilities on our doorstep, because they really do help us all in our darkest hours of need and Beeston is so, so lucky to have them on our doorstep. Thank you, NHS. And thank you all for your support too, we appreciate it hugely.