Monday, 2 August 2010

You are one in a million ...

Well, actually I am not one in a million ... I am one in 28 million. What I am not sure about is whether that makes me more ... or less ... special ....?

Last weekend saw the end of the Tour de France. Yes, I know what you are saying. “Tour de France?! What is she on?"

That it is up there with my admission about my fondness for fishing?

OK – your thought processes? Well let me guess ...

 “Tour de France? No!

Oh ... but hang on there ... Tour de France ... men ... fit men ... fit men in lycra ... perhaps it is to be expected of her ..."

Oh you guys ... do you really think I am that shallow? Honestly!

Let me explain ...

Well ... annually I do dip in and out of the Tour de France ... as I did this year. Why? Well, as an imposed-Francophile I like to check out the bits of France that I’ve been to ... and the ones I haven’t. I must admit there aren’t many. As I joked with a colleague at work a couple of weeks ago ... I am often tempted to buy one of those ‘departmental’ maps of the country and fill in the places that I have been to ... painting by numbers style ... and I don’t think there would be too many white ones ...

And then there is Lance. I must admit I have a bit of an obsession with Lance.  Yes ... Lance Armstrong. Now ... I don’t want you to worry ... I have not become some kind of celebrity stalker ... he has not had any need to take a court injunction out on me ... honestly. Maybe 'obsession' is too strong ... perhaps I should say 'admiration' and since my diagnosis 'fascination'.


Well firstly, I muse over how on earth back in 1996, when he was the world no 1 ranking cyclist and member of the Olympic team, did Lance get cancer. Nope ... not only did this extremely fit top sportsman get cancer, but he got bad bad cancer. It started as testicular cancer – but that wasn’t it in a nutshell. No. No, that definitely wasn't it.  It roamed ... and roamed lots ... it spread to his lungs and his brain. It was so severe that in fact he was given a less than 50-50 chance of survival.

Secondly, I want to know how someone who was so poorly manage to kick that cancer in the balls and come back and not only complete the arduous Tour de France the following year ... but an unbelievable further six occasions after that.  Hollywood could base a film on these incredible highs and lows ...

And thirdly, as an aside, how on earth did he and singer Sheryl I-just-want-to-have-some-fun Crowe get it together? I guess it takes all sorts, everyone to their own ... and all that ...

So this year? Well .... Lance didn’t make it an eighth time ... but he certainly didn't let me down. If he ain't conquering cancer one way ... then he is successfully doing it another ...

I don't think Lance really thought he was going to win this time round.  And at the end he was 40 minutes off pace. 40 minutes ... about the time it takes me to do a bit of shopping, or make some supper or run a bath and have decent soak. But 40 minutes is a long time in the sporting world.

"So this race was a meek and mild affair then?"

Err no ... this is Lance ... who is renowned for not just being yellow-shirty ...

First of all there was that run-in with the pedestrian who made the mistake of getting in his way.

But ... even more amusingly there was that ending ... when Tour officials noticed Lance’s Team RadioShack were wearing unauthorised jerseys for last Saturday's final stage, they halted proceedings and made them put their official kit back on.

The disgraced shirts were emblazoned with the number 28 - to signify the 28 million people suffering from cancer worldwide. They were billboards for Livestrong, the charity Lance set up in 1997, a year after he was told he had a less than a 40% chance of beating his cancer. The successful charitable foundation vows to 'unite and fight cancer'.

Lance and Radioshack had already been told by Tour officials that they weren’t going to permit the unauthorised sweaters. And, if the intended message was that nobody is bigger than the Tour, then it didn’t happen. Lance and the guys still put the shirts on ... and Tour officials insisted they be removed.  Farcical scenes ensued as the team changed by the side of the road, safety-pinning race numbers to their old shirts, while the rest of the riders wondered what was going on. The officials had stuck to their guns but ironically headstrong Lance still got his photo opportunity and publicity. The world’s media watching and talking about what he is doing to raise awareness of cancer for 15 minutes ... absolutely and totally priceless. I have to hand it to him ... a true example on how to take others for a ride ...

"So talking about France how was that holiday back in June?"

Yeah, nice. It was warm and sunny. I got do the things I said I would do. Resting and relaxing .... reading my books and poodling around on my bike. But to be truthful it feels like quite a long time ago now ... it was after all two months back. I’m actually looking forward to my next holiday ... to France ... in a week.

Yes, I know, I know. Another holiday. But nobody can begrudge me of this one. This is the holiday I was due to go on last August. But didn’t ... as I was diagnosed the day before my scheduled departure. So I am going this year ... on my actual first year 'cancerversary'. I will be taking the ferry to Calais and going right down the middle of France ... all the way to the Spanish border, nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees, beside the sea. Oh don’t worry, I will have my bike with me, but I won’t be cycling there. Gosh, no. What takes Lance three weeks and 40 minutes would take me at least three years ... honest. No, I will be travelling down more conventionally by car. The Tom Tom says it will take about 10 hours ... 10 hours for me to watch the French countryside fly by ... and quietly reflect on the last year.

Now, for those of you who have been with me since the beginning you may remember the Cogs story ... when I described how the months ahead of me felt long and never ending. That how I wondered whether I would ever look back at that diagnosis and treatment time... and it would feel like a distant memory. Well, for those of you that are just starting off on a similar journey ... I can say it does. Only three months since I returned to work ... and two months since I finished treatment ... those nine months of hell really do feel like a blur.

So what will I be thinking about as I am heading down to the sunny south? Well, I will be looking forward to that long-awaited break ahead of me. How I will be enjoying my usual favourites walking, cycling, exploring, taking photos ... soaking up the sunny atmosphere ... swimming ... and boarding. Yep ... boarding.  That raised a few titters in the office this week. Instead of the delivery of the expected and accepted shoe box shaped parcel ... this week it was body board shaped ... and what most of my colleagues failed to realise was they had paid for the accompanying wetsuit. Uhhh ....??

Well, about six months ago, Mr Campbell said to me that he still had some money left over from my gift collection. He asked if I would like him to buy something or would I like the money ... did I have something in mind I would like to purchase. And I told him that funny enough I did.

Back in September, after my treatment started, I spent a day on the beach with my family and friends. Now, I have done a bit of body boarding ... borrowing a wetsuit and board as required ... but I have never been too bothered. I was just as happy sitting quietly on the blanket with a magazine or book. But back last summer it was different ... it was the classic thing of I wanted to do something ... because I couldn’t... I wasn't allowed in the water because of my low immunity due to the chemo.  It was a bit like wanting a particular food if you go on some wacko diet which doesn’t allow you to have certain things to eat. Life is like that ... as  soon as you are told you can't have something you want it makes you want it even more.  So, I vowed there and then ... that once I was able to ... then I would grab the opportunity. Which I am ... and every time I put on my wetsuit I will picture my lovely kind and generous colleagues. I am just thankful that they won't be able to see me ...

Before I sign off I want to mention my friend Johnny Boy ... Johnny Boy who will be jumping on his bike soon and cycling from Honiton to Teignmouth to raise money for prostate cancer – the number one cancer for men. Now, if you know and work with Johnny then put your hands in your pockets and throw him some loose change ...  And for those of you who don’t ... well ... when someone you do know does something similar then I ask you to do the same for them. Honestly, every little bit counts.  There are 28 million of us out there you know ...

I am going to sponsor Johnny Boy ... but I am not sure how much yet ... I need to check out whether he is prepared to put on the lycra ...


  1. YAY! RSGP is back! great blog as always Paula, I think you MUST share a photo of you in the wetsuit! :-) Thanks for the heads up about Johnny Boy's trip
    Debbie L

  2. Enjoy your holiday and be careful on the board!!

    I've missed your blogs Paula, but it's so good to hear that things are going well for you.

    Marsha xx

  3. Brilliant writing as always P ..... Have a fabulous time in France - look forward to seeing you when you get back. Much love Bren xxx

  4. fab blog - as usual and heres hoping we all LIVESTRONG !

  5. Read your blog - fantastic! I know it sounds weird but having had ca. I feel like I belong to a very exclusive, funny, intelligent, sad, happy team of clubmac! I always enjoy reading your blogs/deliberations, along with everyone elses. In a way I feel blessed to be a part of clubmac. Enjoy your holiday and hope the body boarding is great - feel enormous envy! A xx

  6. Hey Paula! I watched all but 1 stage of le tour and thought Lance and the kit 'situation' was just great! What a way to raise awareness! Lol!
    Anyway, thanks for the big up! All donations most greatfully received!
    I'm doing the ride with a very good friend of mine who had breast cancer recently and is getting back to fitness, she, as you are, is an inspiration to me. I couldn't do it without her.
    Johnny Boy. x

  7. I love the latest installment - and still cant fully believe that the writer is the same person who looks out of the window putting the world to rights with me! You are a real inspiration and an amazing role model.....enjoy your wetsuit and the time in France. Oh and dont worry - Ill keep the PI work ticking over til you get back.

    Peaches XXXX


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