Put the date in your diaries, OK?
I’m producing a concert!
On the 18th February 2010, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, she had been to the GP twice, both times being told that she had simply pulled a muscle and she needn’t worry about anything else. In fact, she had invasive ductal carcinoma. Stage 1, Grade 3.
Fortunately, my mum is still here.
Learning of my mum’s cancer was undoubtedly the worst day of my life to date. I don’t recall much from that day; only that I went into my room and called my best friend (who was in London at the time waiting to see Priscilla – the things we remember, huh?) The following days were a bit of a blur, although I do remember going for a meal on Mum’s 47th Birthday, the 19th February, and also mountains of flowers arriving at our house, most of which I grumbled about and stormed off back to my room. In hindsight, I could’ve handled the first few days of my mum’s diagnosis 100x better, but I guess you don’t fully understand your actions until you’re out the other side. I guess I was just sick of everything around us reminding me of ‘The Big C’. Every little thing around the house just screamed ‘illness’ at me. I even had a few of Mum’s friends give me the ‘you’ll be ok, people will look after you’ chat. That’s not what I needed. I needed my mum and only my mum. I didn’t want anyone else in those first few days. Eventually, I learnt that I needed to allow others to help, as I certainly wasn’t going to help Mum fight this all alone, and until this day, I’m happy that each and every one of those people were there. It’s very true that you find out who your true friends are in times of crisis.
On the 1st March, Mum went into Eastbourne DGH for her operation and the first part of her treatment, a lumpectomy. At the time I was studying for my A Levels at Sussex Downs College, conveniently right next to the hospital . As if I’d even consider the alternative (ha!), my parents made me attend my Politics and Economics classes that day. During my Politics class I received a call from Dad saying that Mum was about to be taken down to pre-op and I could leave my lesson. I remember frantically answering my phone in the middle of my lesson (Sorry, Tracey) and dashing out. Little did he know it was another 4 hours before Mum was taken down!
Following Mum’s operation, she endured another few months of adjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy. We shaved her hair off, we bought (and named) wigs, and we carried on as normal as possible. Mum even took her Brownies on Pack Holiday to the Isle of Wight straight after her final chemo treatment. Cancer treatment is harsh, as most will know, but it thankfully didn’t stop my mum from living life just as she wanted to.
My mum is one of the lucky ones. She’s a survivor, a beautiful woman both inside and out, a wonderful friend, colleague, daughter, and wife, but most of all, she’s the most incredible Mum I could wish for. She taught me to never be afraid of anything that life throws at me, and not only did she teach me, but she showed me. Irregardless of being 17 at the time of Mum’s diagnosis, I still desperately needed my parents in my life, and Mum didn’t ever entertain the idea that she wouldn’t see my 18th Birthday. Thankfully, she’s now seen my 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st.
Another massive inspiration is the wonderful Bernie Nolan. I didn’t know Bernie for long, only a few weeks in fact, but the impact she had on me was enormous. As I work Front of House at Eastbourne Theatres, I spend a great deal of my time in the Devonshire Park Theatre over the Christmas period for pantomime, as do the performers, musicians, backstage, etc. I distinctly remember meeting Bernie for the first time – this amazing woman who just oozed determination, warmth, love, and laughter. During our annual pantomime Christmas meal, Bernie stood up and made a speech, mainly thanking everyone for their hard work over the past few weeks and also to wish everyone a Happy Christmas. Despite the fact that she was very unwell at Christmas with a terrible cough, in true Bernie style she still had the capacity to fill a room with countless smiles and a big round of applause. The admiration I have for Bernie is immeasurable and I am so honoured to have known her, albeit for a very short amount of time. My friend, Rob Cousins, and also the MD for our concert, knew Bernie in a more personal capacity, so I am incredibly honoured to be doing this concert both with him and for him.
Bernie worked tirelessly with Breakthrough Breast Cancer, our nominated charity for this concert. One of her aims was to get people to ‘TLC’ – Touch, Look, and Check their breasts for signs of cancer. Early diagnosis in breast cancer is vital, as the survival rates of early detection prove. For more information on this particular campaign, please take a look here – http://www.breakthrough.org.uk/about-breast-cancer/touch-look-check. You can also order your free TLC booklet by filling in THIS form . I religiously TLC, make sure you do too.
To acknowledge the invaluable work Bernie did with the charity, a Bernie Nolan Tribute Fund has been set up in her memory. If you wish to donate, you can do so HERE.
She was, is, and will always be, an inspiration.
Thank you, Bernie.
Finally, in addition to Mum and Bernie, two of our close family friends are also massive inspirations for this concert – Marita and Steve, my mum and dad’s best friends respectively. Marita is still here, fighting strong, and sadly has just undergone another surgery for secondary cancer, but nevertheless is courageously fighting her battle every single day. Devastatingly, Steve died in 2011, after a short battle with lung cancer. They have both showed heroic levels of determination and I am so proud to have had them influence my life, both as a child and now an adult.
Thank you, Marita and Steve.
Cancer is cancer, no matter what type, size, grade. In memory of Bernie, all those we’ve lost, all those who are still fighting, and all those who have fought and won, we have chosen Breakthrough Breast Cancer for this concert. The money raised will significantly help with their vital research and that’s all that I hope for at this time. In the future, much like everyone, I would like this vision to cover all cancers.
Please support our concert on the 22nd June. It promises to be a night full of West End talent and stunning musical arrangements.
Tickets are available here: https://www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk/What’s_On/show.asp?showID=3016
Thanks for reading.
With Mum (L) and Marita (R) at Race for Life 2013 in Brighton
Thanks for everything, Mum. I love you x
Some more photos from Mum’s journey: