No matter what the scan results had been that Friday, Tom and I had planned to go to the small Greek island of Lefkas for a week. A holiday was just what we needed. Tom had been working without a day off for five weeks and I was beginning to feel stronger; my body was getting used to the chemo and the effects of radiotherapy were behind me.
I longed to swim in the sea and lie in the sunshine; no hospital appointments, no daytime TV, no emails from people wanting to know the latest – just Tom and I and beautiful beaches. Our suitcases were packed and I was planning on leaving cancer at home.
“How much?!” I choked down the phone. Insurance for a week in Greece was going to set me back £300! As soon as you mention the big C to insurance companies they start adding zeros. Going to the states? The figure begins to resemble a telephone number. The whole booking experience is upsetting enough, with a random stranger casually running through their checklist asking, “So, is your case terminal?”
“Well the pessimistic doctors think I’m fucking terminal, yeah. But I don’t, I think I’ll beat it but I guess you’re more interested in what Current Consultant thinks. So yes, I am terminally ill at 28. Anything in your life that’s not working out quite the way you planned it?”
But of course I didn’t say that. My diplomatic middle-class answer came out more like, “Er, well yes, they tell me that’s the case,” and the insurance begrudgingly paid we were off like any other couple.
That’s what is so great about the chemo I’m on; no one can tell I’ve got cancer. My disguise is convincing; energetically sprouting hair and thick, long eyelashes enable me to look like any other 28-year-old woman. My only give-away? Roll my sleeve up and puncture marks and the occasional bruise decorate my arm from endless blood tests.
And now, as they say, for something completely different. The villa was stunning and the views of the beautiful turquoise sea were breathtaking; this was just what we needed. On the second night of the holiday Tom and I returned to the villa after a meal out. As we looked out over our balcony towards the bay we admired the beautifully lit up pool of the neighbouring villa.
“Let’s go down to our pool,” Tom suggested. We wandered down to find our pool lights weren’t working; it was pitch black. I looked up in wonder at the stars; you don’t get that in Brixton. As I looked back down Tom had gone. Then I looked further down and I realised he was on his knee. As one of my best friends often says in a moment where words fail you, ‘Eeeeek!’
I was caught a little off guard. We’d talked about marriage but I didn’t think a proposal would come in the pitch black – we could hardly see each other! “Yes,” I said through tears. A ring was slid onto my finger. ‘It’s massive,’ I thought and then I caught sight of it. A multi-coloured parrot ring with pink, faux diamond eyes. The perfect fit but not quite what I’d imagined.
After we had gathered ourselves together and headed back inside Tom explained that he’d wanted to propose by the pool but when we got down there, discovering that the lights were out, he’d already plucked up the courage to ask and went ahead despite the lack of light! The ring was a prop belonging to the flamboyant character Brian Badonde from the TV show Facejacker, which Tom was producing. We would choose the real ring together when we returned to London.
That night we were once again giving the cancer the V’s. We believed we had a future together and we would face the challenges that lay ahead as a team. One of the nicest parts of that evening was making the calls and sending out the texts to loved ones; for the first time in a while we had good news to share – we loved each other and we were getting married.