(Although this is a post primarily about Kili, just to let you know that I’ve not had any sickness, nausea or any nasty side effects so far from the Temo. The last pill-popping part of this first cycle of chemo was yesterday; today was therefore the first of 23 days off before I hit the hard stuff again. I’ve been tired and slept a lot on Saturday night (11/12 hours in a couple of periods) and slept most of this morning. I’m not sleepy and tired all the time, though, which is good, so all in all, I’m ok. I even managed to go along with the carers and sharers on a shoe-shopping trip for the kids yesterday and they each came away with two pairs.)
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
In 2004, Graeme was 25, a keen football and hockey player, regularly walked/hiked with his friends (usually planned around a suitable pub for lunch, as one does!), and had a bit of wanderlust in him. Climbing Kilimanjaro was a natural fit for his adventurous spirit. I don’t remember if I ever knew whether Graeme saw an advert for the trip or actively searched for a challenge.
Either way, he came across and signed up for a fundraising challenge for Scope to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in the summer of 2004. Kili was, and remains, one of the standard “larger-scale” fundraising challenges for many charities. As I proved a few years later, it’s an attainable goal for the non-technical hiker but a challenge nonetheless. It’s also got the gravitas of being the highest mountain on its continent and the highest free standing mountain in the world. From the charities’ perspective, it’s relatively cheap and therefore more money can be raised for the cause. Win win.
Graeme’s regular sporting/walking activities set him up training wise. On the kit side, he already had a lot of things but he just needed a few bits and bobs. On the fundraising front, as is usually the case for these occasions, he plundered his friends and family for sponsorship. Me, G and Hoarder Rent cleared out a whole load of cr*p from the garage one week when I was home (possibly for Easter) from law school and then went along to a car boot sale at 7am in Middlesbrough on a Sunday morning. It certainly seems, from that experience, to be true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! It was good that we got junk out of the garage (to be replaced over the years with more junk) but it was all the better that it was sold for a good cause.
I had finished law school and was home briefly before setting off for a holiday* in June 2004 and helped Graeme to pack, a few days before jetting off with my friend. It makes me smile now that I was, quite primitively by comparison to now, in a hotel room in New York waiting to hear that Graeme was back home safely having not even taken his mobile phone away from him! Just four years later, we had a phone signal for part of the trip up Kili and I suspect that the signal is even better now! LO209 might be able to vouch for that?
I think that there were around 40-50 people on Graeme’s trip. They were all booked on the same flight from London to Nairobi and had been seated in alphabetical order. My brother, Graeme Turner, was seated next to the ever-glamorous (even on Kili!) and more importantly lovely, effervescent, funny, warm, mad as a box of frogs (and now-treasured family friend), empathetic and all-round super lady, Jacqueline Wearn. Graeme and Jackie immediately bonded over a deep fear of flying and (this might be a detail that I’ve added but knowing the two of them so well, it could well be true) a snifter to calm the nerves.
Scope made a video of the trip that Graeme showed us. As Jackie had enjoyed her birthday on the mountain on the last night of their adventure, she had been presented with a birthday cake! I remember watching her on video (without having met her) give an off-the-cuff thank you speech. She said, from my memory having last watched the video a fair few years ago, that someone had asked how she would top her birthday next year, to which Jackie said “well, a day at the Sanctuary and dinner at Claridge’s would be nice!” but then, joking aside, said that it had been an amazing trip and how she was so pleased to have shared it with them all.
Watch and Bangle
Flash forward nearly 13 years, and the same Jackie Wearn who was alphabetically placed next to my brother, has become an integral part of our friends-family network. Not too long after Graeme’s diagnosis, Jackie came up to stay with Graeme and our folks, and as was the case most weekends during his illness, I was home for the weekend too. We (all of us) loved her immediately and it felt like we had known her for a long time (in a good way!). She lived in London, so the two of us would frequently meet up until I left London in 2008 and when Graeme visited me a couple of times, we met up with Jackie too. She came along for a weekend with the four of us to watch Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid (a young Fernando Torres scored a couple of goals I believe in a 3-2 win for Atleti).**
Along the way, we’ve had many good days and nights in and out, up North and down South. Graham and I asked Jackie to read a poem at our wedding, which she did with aplomb. Jackie’s best friend since school, the lovely Liane Carroll, also came into our lives via that alphabetical coincidence on the plane to Nairobi. Liane sang and played at our wedding both in the church and at the evening reception. Graham said in his speech at our wedding how amazing it was how so many people had come into our lives almost by accident and become such treasured friends, and specifically mentioned the Jackie/Liane connection via Graeme.
The timing of this post is not random. We’ve just enjoyed a weekend boost courtesy of a lovely few days with Jackie coming up to stay. She truly is a wonderful soul to have around for every one of the six of us:
*My overseas trip was indicative of my quite different sense of adventure from Graeme’s (i.e., it was less physically demanding) as it involved a trip to Sandusky, Ohio, to go on the Top Thrill Dragster (the highest and fastest rollercoaster in the world at the time) followed by a week in New York, New York for essentially an extended shopping trip!
**Graeme had wanted to go to see Ronaldinho play so we had booked the trip around a home game for Barcelona. The match before we went Ronaldinho got sent off and was therefore suspended for the game we saw! Six years later, hubby and I used air miles to pay for a weekend in Barca planned around the fixture list for a home game to watch Messi play. The week before we went, as we watched live on Sky, Messi picked up a yellow card for handball, which was (and still might be) in Spain an automatic one-match suspension. It was the first suspension of Messi’s career, which the commentator mentioned. Third time lucky from a Cole-Turner perspective, we had an extended family holiday in Barcelona a few years ago; me, G and the Rents went to the Camp Nou once again with feeling and finally broke the duck! Messi played and scored. Hurrah!