This journey is taking me to the strangest places. I mean, obviously journeys are, by their very function, supposed to take you somewhere, but mine seem to have been a bit of a magical mystery tour since I started the blog. Which is ironically called, ‘My Journey Through Mantle Cell Lymphoma’. It wasn’t ironic when I named it, but it certainly is now as I never know where I’m going to end up. Here’s an example. In the last few interviews (hark at me again!), I have been asked what I think has been the greatest gift I received out of all this. This question usually comes very close to the end of the interview, and obviously only once the interviewer has established that I do in fact feel there has been some kind of gift. My answers are usually something like this: that I now wake up every morning feeling incredibly grateful to be alive; that I have always wanted to write and now have something to write about; that I have gained the courage to speak more openly about difficult things; that I realise what incredible friends and family I have. I can honestly say that so far I have never listed ‘Going to take photos of a charity football match’ as one of the gifts. So how on earth did I, a person who would usually avoid football matches at all costs, end up at Two Riversmeet Sports Centre on a Saturday night? Well, it was all pretty amazing. Here we go.
Stephen and I have been making a nuisance of ourselves at various tile showrooms in recent months in a quest to make our conservatory look halfway decent. After buying literally loads of samples and spending ages laying them out on the floor (currently chipboard!) we finally settled on a tile we liked, and as the tiler is coming in a couple of weeks thought we should go to Topps Tiles in Christchurch and order them. We called into the showroom before work, expecting to pay for the order and come back in a few days, but as it turned out they had enough to supply us from stock. Having a huge amount of respect for our car, we decided to collect them on the way home, as 14 square metres of tiling in the boot for 8 hours wouldn’t be good for the otherwise healthy suspension. Stephen headed to the till to pay, and I was about to say I was going back to the car as I was expecting a phone call, when I noticed a box of green cancer wristbands on the counter. “Oooh, goody! Green ones. That’s the colour for lymphoma! I’ll be having one of those!” I reacted like that because there are an awful lot of pink ones around in aid of breast cancer research, and I don’t usually see the green ones as lymphoma isn’t such a high profile cancer. Then we realised there was lots of green around the store, and it was because Topps Tiles are supporting MacMillan Cancer Support for the next five years. And their logo is green. So it wasn’t actually about lymphoma, but at least it was the right colour. We got talking to Paul Hutchins, who was serving us, and I told him the story of getting the cancer, writing the blog, writing the book, and by now I was of course wearing the wristband, so a fully paid up member. He showed us the mosaic on the wall which is made up of the little pieces customers get when they donate a pound. They are currently spelling out MacMillan, but at the rate people are donating, they will probably have to do the whole slogan ‘As no-one should fight cancer alone’.
Paul then told us that he had organised a 5-aside charity football match for the following evening with the traders, the captain of which was in the showroom as we spoke. He looked scarily fit and was very confident. Oooh. Did they know what they were taking on? I suddenly got the bright idea that I could go along and have my photo taken with them and write a blog about it to help them raise a bit more money. Then I thought I could also contact the local newspaper, something they hadn’t considered. And I could also create a new page on the blog for fundraising activities so people could get a bit more exposure. Paul was really excited about it and we arranged to exchange details when we came back to get the tiles in the evening. I can’t believe I did that. I know I’m turning into the most massive media tart, but it all seemed such a good idea at the time. I had completely forgotten we were going to meet some friends in Arundel, some 60 miles away, the next day and it would be hard to get back in time without leaving them early, which seemed a bit unfair. However, I mindfully trusted in the universe, and indeed everything worked out brilliantly, which I often find it does now if I stop trying to control it all. A quick call to the newsdesk of the Daily Echo confirmed they would in fact like to run an article but didn’t have a photographer available to come to the match. So I offered to take the picture for them. Oh, and write the article too. Jeez. I clearly wasn’t joking when I said that one of the gifts had been courage. (Back at the top if you’ve lost track of what I’m talking about). When we went back to collect the tiles after work, Paul said he had spoken to their media person at head office, who is in fact co-ordinating the contact with MacMillan, and she sends out a newsletter to the staff and will be delighted to include the piece on the football match. Isn’t that amazing? I am so impressed with all these lovely people raising money in various ways, and in the past I have been at a bit of a loss to figure out how best to support them. Maybe if I can create a page which is a point of contact that would help a bit. That’s tomorrow night organised then!
So, we duly drove to Arundel, had a lovely day with our friends, and left in time to get back for the pre-match pics. There were green balloons on the gate of the football pitch, the Topps Tiles team wore the green MacMillan t-shirts, and the Traders were in navy. I sneaked into a couple of pictures with them, clutching my book. Just in case anyone is interested. Here we are:
As previously noted, I’m not a huge football fan, and as the testosterone was notching up by the second and there were a lot of warm-up footballs being kicked around, I dragged Stephen away to safety and dinner.
I called a very tired Paul today at the store and discovered that after a thrilling match, Topps Tiles were sadly hammered by the Traders, led by Mark Stacy, 15 goals to 7. So that is 22 goals in total, and I think they were playing for an hour, with a bit of a coffee break in the middle. So probably a goal every other minute. Wow. So glad we retreated to safety. Paul also asked for a big shout out to Two Riversmeet Sports Centre for waiving the pitch fee. Consider yourselves shouted :-).
I wrote the piece up for the newspaper this morning, and will send it off once it has been checked by Paul. I really hope it gets into the paper as those guys were brilliant. They raised £197.00 from the match, and Paul is going to keep me updated on other events so I can post and blog about them. Which anyone else is welcome to do, actually. I’ll let you know as soon as it is organised.
So there you go, another gift. I would never have dreamt of having that conversation at Topps Tiles if it wasn’t for having had cancer myself – and in so doing I have met a lovely bunch of people and I’ve found a way to help publicise fund raising activities. Isn’t that amazing?
Just as an aside, the Book Blog is proving incredibly popular. I’ll be adding more books as I plough through the old blogs and find the links, and as I’m still reading of course, it will be a never-ending kind of list. A bit like the endless scroll on Facebook, but better, cos it will be books.