I’ve been thinking about how to write this latest post without it reading like a regional newspaper article about a local charity event because for me it was so much more than that.
The fashion show was the brainchild of a childhood friend. Lora and I had known each other since we were four and until the age of eighteen we were best friends. As often happens in adolescence we grew apart and then we eventually lost touch when I moved away. When she heard that I was first diagnosed with breast cancer Lora got back in touch through Facebook to wish me well, and then when I was told the cancer had spread Lora discovered the blog and asked if I could suggest a charity she could fundraise for. I proposed Coppafeel.
Without giving it much thought, I imagined that Lora might be planning a 10k run or something similar to raise some cash, so when she told me that she was going to organise a fashion show she surpassed all my expectations. It was such an ambitious project that, health permitting, I knew I had to attend.
I was to have chemo on the Monday and the event would be on the Thursday. The trip was entirely dependant on how my body would take the treatment, so when I was diagnosed with tonsillitis on the Wednesday morning it was touch and go. Fortunately, in the afternoon I didn’t feel too unwell, so I booked a last minute train and made the journey back up to the North East.
I was nervous about attending; my hair at this point had mostly come out at the back so I would have to wear a headscarf. I feared that people would see a sick cancer patient rather than me – a girl who, despite all these keratinous cancerous cells, is actually happy with her lot.
One of my best friends, Sarah, set me straight. “They’re all here to support you. Just remember that the fashion show is the main event, and I’ll be on scarf watch.” Hers was the stern, no nonsense voice that I needed to hear.
As we walked in I couldn’t believe how professional it all looked; glamorous girls in matching pink dresses selling raffle tickets, beautiful lighting, pink cupcakes on sale, and the fashion show…well, I’ll let the pictures do the talking (which will be up very soon I promise!)
As soon as I saw Lora I could tell she was nervous about pulling off the event. We hadn’t had a proper conversation for probably ten years and yet she put me at such ease, despite being anxious about the event. The young woman I now met was glamorous, bright and determined; a woman who didn’t have to do any of this but had chosen to do so.
The night was a massive success, raising around £4000 for Coppafeel, and of course the money was the ultimate goal of the event but that’s not what I will be taking away from that night.
What struck me were the old faces that showed up just to say hello and show their support. Schoolmates I’d not seen in twelve years, acquaintances who made the effort to come along just to give me a hug and say hello and old friends who came on their own to contribute.
An ex-boyfriend from my teens gave me a friendly hug and as I went to let go he held on for just that second longer, an unspoken way of saying he wished me well. He also won a raffle for a spa weekend, which he gave to my mum and I.
Then there was a bloke who introduced himself to tell me that his fiancée reads the blog. They often make the drive from Scotland down to Middlesbrough and been bickering in the car as couples are wont to do, and then his partner will read the blog aloud to him, they’ll put things in perspective and make up. When she joined us she explained that her mum had kept asking when they were going to set a date for their long-awaited wedding, and it was after reading the blog that they were inspired to seize the day. If I remember correctly I think they’ll be tying the knot in August next year!
Being a journalist I’ve met lots of different people with difficult stories over the course of my career. Some are heartbreaking. I remember the first ever report I went on for local TV was about an eleven year old boy who was dying of leukaemia yet who gave an hour of his week to help teach swimming at his local baths. I went off to report on that story and of course was touched by the tragedy, but even as I learned the nuances of his plight I was thinking professionally, ‘what shots do I need?’ ‘Which of his sound bites shall I use?’ ‘We need to get back to edit this in time for the programme.’ It sounds cold and dispassionate, but it’s the truth.
Now I’m the one who has the life threatening illness and I’m being enlightened as to what true kindness is and the depths of human empathy which we take for granted.
So yes, it was about the money and I know Coppafeel will use that cash to educate young women and to save lives, but for me the fashion show was about so much more. Oh and the clothes were rather good too…
http://kiwiboutique.myshopify.com/ top ladies fashion
http://bakerstailoring.com/index.php amazing men’s tailoring
http://www.akbars.co.uk/ the fantastic venue which also donated very generously