41) Be a model and work the catwalk
Wow the response to my List for Living has been incredible. Some people have now come up with their own lists of the things they’ve always wanted to do. A BBC friend has been so inspired that she’s in Africa right now! I can’t get over how many people have contacted me offers and suggestions. Thank you so much. As I’m shattered from the chemo, most of it will have to wait a while. But not everything…
After hearing about my list, a woman called Adele got in touch to ask if I wanted to be a model. Every year she organises Tea for Ovacome, a champagne afternoon tea and fashion show to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and funds for the Ovacome charity. Like Adele, the other models all had personal experience of the disease. I didn’t need to be asked twice!
I’d put this thing to do on my List for Living as I wanted to celebrate who I am now. Cancer changes you in so many ways. Not just medically and emotionally but also physically. It can make you ever so skinny. Or, as in my case, you go large.
When the disease came back a year ago, I was fit and healthy. But the chemo, the steroids and the not doing too much has meant that I’ve put on weight.
The clothes that we had to model were all on the small side but luckily I found a couple of dresses that I could squeeze into.
I may not look like I used to but my body has done a brilliant job in keeping me alive. Far too many women die within a few years of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Amazingly my body has beaten the odds. It manages to keep battling against the stupid cancer every time it comes back.
Compared to choosing my clothes, getting my hair sorted out was a lot simpler. My lovely hairdresser Angela offered to prepare Candice. The WAG wig was demanding some serious TLC. I left her with Angela. After cutting and curling she was beautiful again and runway ready.
As we rehearsed on the big day, Candice made herself comfortable. A couple of hundred people had bought tickets to the charity event which was at one of the fanciest hotels in London. In just a few hours they’d be watching us strut our stuff.
I have to admit that I felt like a right idiot to start with. I wasn’t exactly graceful. I’m pretty tall and so normally I don’t need to wear killer heels. However it felt empowering to be with so many strong women who had such similar stories to me. We each had two looks to model. Daytime and then night wear.
Just before the show began, I felt a bit anxious, nothing too bad but it did make me wonder why I’d wanted to do this. I think that most of us had the jitters. As we chatted nervously one of the models pointed out that we’d all been through a lot worse.
So true. This time last year I was in hospital after my massive operation, I’d been in intensive care after I came close to dying and I needed a Zimmer frame to help me get around. Now I was about to sashay down a catwalk.
We waited in our daytime outfits in a long, narrow corridor which was lined with abandoned furniture. Then one by one we headed out into the opulent room.
By the time it was my turn, it felt like my heart was beating as loud as the music. Wearing a summer dress and a big smile I walked out in front of the audience that included mum and some of my friends.
Being a model, just for a few seconds, was a surreal but I loved it. And the people watching sounded like they were enjoying the show too.
When I came off the catwalk I felt quite emotional. Backstage we all hugged each other before rushing off to change our outfits. My night time look wasn’t exactly subtle.
This time as I waited for my catwalk cue I felt much more confident.
We might not have been supermodels but we were something much more powerful, we were all cancer survivors.
What I like about my list is that you get much more than you bargained for. Thanks to the charity event I’ve met some very impressive women who’ve beaten cancer or like me are living well with the disease.
It also dramatically shifted my mood. In the days leading up to doing no 41 I’d been quite miserable. The relentless treatment and tiredness is tough to deal with. But that high from the fashion show is still with me.