I don’t have a bucket list but when I reflect back on what I have done since 2003 when I was first diagnosed I realize what I have achieved. Cancer made me focus on undertaking things which were more important than navel gazing and it is in the years since then that I have lived the most.
So what have I done?
I opened and ran a hotel in a beautiful and unspoilt place on the coast of Turkey. I loved it, I was as everyone will tell you a rubbish hotelier. It was more like a private house for friends and family than a hotel. We had some wonderful parties, swimming in the pool under the stars, the occasional guest … it was a magical existence.
I sold liner swimming pools for a brief while. I’m not sure that I’m any good at sales but I drove around the coastal area of Turkey trying to convince people who had hotels and pensions that they needed a pool and that was with the turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean just over their shoulder. As you might expect it was not a success.
I dipped into the world of mass agricultural production. I live in the market garden of Turkey, tomatoes, aubergine, peppers, orange groves so why did I grow pepinos! Have you even ever heard of them? No! With good reason, because they are utterly tasteless, a fruit which looks like a mango but without any of the deliciousness. I didn’t make a single penny but having done it I will respect farmers forever more. In the summer the greenhouse is 100 degrees, in the winter you have to constantly check the temperatrue and light wood-burning stoves to keep the plants from freezing. No different from having 2500 children, every root another life to look after. It was inevitable that a school was to follow.
And my proudest achievement is that I opened a school in the local town. Well what actually happened was that I found a building and then ripped out the insides, followed all regulations in order to open a language school and then went to the local education authority where they told me I couldn’t do such a thing. I do not like the word CAN’T … so went to the higher authority and got all the right permissions, people in place, a headteacher who liked to sleep in the office, that was when he came to work, a local English teacher who would never plan a lesson and arrive at the school step with cigarette in hand straight from the coffee shop and a game of cards.
None of this would have been possible without Katie, throughout all of this she was my right hand, my partner in crime, a fellow Brit living in the same village and so we set up our school and ran the hotel together with a collection of dogs, a cook and willing helpers. Nobody ever told me that this would be too much, a hotel and a school at the same time and I never felt that it was either. Amazing. Now the thought of having to do either is simply impossible.
But stalking me was my friend C, and it kept cropping up. I was in the midst of a building site when I had a suspect cyst on an overy removed, it was benign … but that little bugger C just wouldn’t let up and just before the school opened officially at Christmas 2009 they identified a tumour which had eaten most of my sternum. Normally I should have panicked, a business to run, major surgery, chemo and radiation to be had but with Katie and the rest of the team to carry on with the school and hotel I didn’t feel overwealmed. I never regretted having done so much, it all simply flowed on. I was just 40 and that is 7 years ago.
What a lucky girl I have been throughout all of this.Today I’m sitting here looking at my life and I feel full of love and happiness and thankfullness that I have been given so much time and health. And I’m still dreaming and making plans, just a couple more trips to be taken, things to do, places to visit …