Chemo#17

Hooray this was my last ever chemo!

Well, not quite. But last for some time, hopefully. Appropriately enough, I had the treatment in the same side room as my last, last ever chemo, last year.

For the final dose I had to go past the garden of tears to get to the chemo unit. It’s a small square of green outside the hospital where you can go if you need a moment. It was there that I posed for photographs to celebrate my last chemo nine months ago. This garden reminds me of the brief time last year when I was cancer free.

When I saw it I thought I’d be sad but I felt surprisingly good. It’s hard to believe that I’ve had so many toxic chemo cocktails and yet I didn’t feel too ill. I think that my spin around Silverstone with David Coulthard from my List for Living gave me such a boost that the side effects hadn’t been so awful.

As I entered the revolving doors I was glad that I was able to walk into the hospital. I had the physical strength to get in there myself. I didn’t need any assistance. And, most importantly, I was still able to have treatment. I may be living with cancer now but it can still help me. That’s perhaps also why I didn’t feel too terrible. Chemo has become part of my life.

I may have felt well when I went in. But hours of poisoning later and it was a different story. I felt so drugged up. It seemed like I’d been given extra strong stuff as it was the last one session. Chantal, my friend the flower girl, slowly led me back out of the hospital afterwards. My woozyness and the wet weather outside meant we didn’t linger for photos. Besides, I knew that I’d be back but I wasn’t focusing on that.

For 11 out of the past 14 months I’ve had cancer treatment. I really need a break from it all. Chantal drove me back to my parents in her flower van. As we headed through the rain to the countryside I was dreaming of my chemo holiday.

No 36 on the List for Living

36) Be driven very fast around a race track in a sports car

Yay! It’s another big tick for my List for Living.

But it didn’t quite happen how I imagined it would. When I came up with no 36 on my list I thought that a friend of a friend with a flash car would take me for a ride. We’d probably drive around a small, local race track and that would be it.

However my friend Amanda who’s a sports presenter for CNN had a rather different idea and offered to help arrange something much more special. The former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard straight away agreed to take me for a spin around Silverstone. Who better to drive me than someone who’d twice won the British Grand Prix on the legendary circuit.

We set a date in-between my chemo sessions near the end of my treatment. It gave me something really exciting to look forward to.

I have to admit that I was nervous. These days the most frightening things in my life tend to be appointments with my oncologists to discuss my stupid cancer. So as DC helped to get me all kitted up, it felt brilliant to be scared about something that was going to be so much fun.

It was pretty surreal being there. The day before I was in a hospital bed hooked up to a drip of toxic drugs. As the poison slipped into the veins I looked at the race track on the internet using my iPad. I tried hard not to listen to the two elderly patients next to me who were comparing their cancers.

Less than 24 hours later I was at Silverstone.

Porsche lent us a 911 for the occasion – £100,000 worth of car. When it comes to being in a hospital bed verses a Porsche, I know which one I prefer!

We zoomed out of the pit lane. As soon as we went past the green light at the start of the track DC accelerated so hard that it took my breath away. I wanted to scream but nothing came out. He told me this was just a warm up so I’d get used to the speed. A warm up?!?

‘’Are you ready for the first corner?’’ I just about squeaked a yes.

I soon understood why he’d checked. Braking into a corner felt almost like doing an emergency stop at full speed.

Then we got fast, real fast.

David was very relaxed, pointing out the best parts of the circuit. Apart from his hands on the steering wheel, he didn’t seem to move much. Meanwhile I lurched from side to side, gripping the door handle for support. Once I got my breath back I managed lots of screams and plenty of oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god. My fear was so funny and we laughed our way around the track.

There were a couple of other cars out there. For a few seconds we hovered behind them. Then over the noise of the engine I shouted “take ‘em”. DC was more than happy to oblige asking if I wanted him to use the inside or outside lane.

I’m sure the other cars were driving quickly but it was clear we were in a totally different class. Every time we overtook them, it almost felt like we were supersonic.

Our top speed was around 145 mph!

It was terrifyingly thrilling and yet I felt very safe. Even if I couldn’t stop myself from being thrown around the Porsche every time we went around a corner.

We did two laps of the Grand Prix circuit. It was an amazing ride. When I stepped out of the car I was a bit shaky but very happy.

Cancer takes away lots of the good stuff in your life. It creates many lows. You spend far too much time thinking about death. My List for Living is all about ensuring that I have plenty of highs too.

This gave me such an adrenalin buzz. It felt like I’d just a won a race. Standing on the edge of the track with Amanda and David afterwards, I realised that doing something incredibly scary had made me feel so very alive.

Amanda Davies, myself and David Coulthard
©James Rudd

A massive thanks to Amanda, David Coulthard and his BBC team, Silverstone and Porsche for making it all happen.