Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A case of mistaken confectionery

Last Friday 18 June 2010 was a big day for me - we had the launch of Myeloma (bone marrow cancer) Awareness Week 2010 at 12 noon in the Mansion House in Dublin which is the residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin.

We had been working on the launch for months, weeks and we were anxious that everything would go well.

The day started well for me - I looked out the window first thing in the morning and there were two magpies sitting in the garden. I quickly recited the rhyme: "one for sorrow, two for joy". Whew, I thought, two for joy, I am okay I thought.

I was hyper as I had not been able to sleep the night before - partly because of the excitement and partly because I am on steroids. I guess I was also just anxious that everything would go well.

I showered, dressed, changed outfits, did my make-up, decided - bare legs or tights, made my son Cathal's lunch, got his school bag ready, put breakfast out, woke the kids, supervised the morning school routine.

Then I loaded the car - six boxes of our mugs for myeloma for our fundrasier, two banners, laptop, projector, camera, handbag, change of clothes, high shoes (as I can't drive in them), make-up, briefcase with all the literature and my speech, a scissors, sellotape and a birthday candle.

We dropped Cathal off to school and my daughter Emma (our helper for the day) and I drove straight to Dublin to the Mansion House. We made good time and we parked in one of the spaces that the staff had very kindly reserved for us. We unloaded and started to get the room ready. We had the use of the formidable Oak Room and the drawing room behind it for the day. Very impressive space the drawing room, all mirrors and plush furniture and drapes and nice paintings. There was a baby grand Steinway piano and while it was still just Emma and I in the room she played It’s All About You by McFly. It sounded amazing.

Then we got to work and my co-ordinator of Myeloma Awareness Week arrived with balloons to be blown up and with a gigantic projector screen. All the piecees of the puzzle were soon in place and all we were waiting for were the guests and our birthday cake which we were having to mark our website’s first birthday – oh and our guest speaker Miriam O’Callaghan,

While waiting out the front of the Mansion House and having some pictures taken a man approached with a box and said: "Do you know anything about a birthday cake?" "Yes I said, we are expecting a birthday cake." So he handed me the box and walked off. I put it inside under the table ready for the moment when we would formally mark the first birthday of our website http://www.mymyeloma.ie/ .

In the meantime we had some more pics done and as we were taking them I looked to the right and saw two magpies on the lawn of the Mansion House. I recited the rhyme again: "One for sorrow, two for joy". Whew, there were two and we were okay!

Miriam arrived – she had been delayed in RTE. She was immediately wonderfully warm and enthusiastic and dived into the middle of the photo session in the garden. There was no awkwardness or formality – a warmth and a instant ray of sunshine.

Pics done we went inside. I was MC for the event and we had about 80 people. My Dad was first up to speak about what it was like for him to live with the fact that I have a serious illesss. I had told him in advance not to say anything that would make me cry. As he spoke I got emotional and Miriam came over and stood beside me and put her arm around me.

She heckled my Dad a few times trying to ecourage my him to tell us the things I had told him not to say as he had just told the audience that there were things that I had told him not to say!

Miriam spoke, she used no notes, no prompts – it was from the heart. It was wonderful and she just added such a wonderful lift to the whole event. Then we had some medical professionals including the wonderful doctor, now a Professor, who saw me through my stem cell transplant.

Then the talking was over and my daughter Emma was called up with the cake – a giant, pink cupcake with little white stars dotted around the top. It was stunning and the photographers started to take snaps of the cake. Miriam was handed it and she pretended to eat it as did Emma and I. There was a lot of flash bulbs going off. Then we left the cake down and went in for refreshments.

I must admit I thought it a bit strange that when I went into the refreshments room thre was another cake in there – an enormous one with the words Happy Birthday My Myeloma on it. That’s nice I thought, the Mansion House must have given us a cake also for the day. I preferred the cup cake as it was much more striking so I took a few of the stars off and ate then and Emma had a couple too.

There was mixing and mingling and a wonderful hope-filled atmosphere as patients and family members shared stories. My Dad’s speech was the star attraction and people queued up to shake his hand. I was immensely proud of him and I could see that my Mum was too. It was effortless for him although he told me after he had been nervous.

A journalist called on the phone for an interview and asked to speak to my Mum. I gave mum my phone and left her to it, having pre-warned her that she was talking to a tabloid newspaper. Ten minutes later she gave me back the phone.

"How was it", I said,

"OK", she said.

What did she ask you?, I said.

I don’t know Mam said.

What did you say, I said

I don’t know, she said! I forget.

Guess who is dreading the tabloid newspaper on Monday.

People started to trickle away as the event ended and as I looked around the almost empty room I noticed that the pink cupcake cake was still there. It had not been cut or touched. I placed it back in it’s box but not before Emma and I had one more star each from the top and took some more silly pics of us pretending to eat it. Then we left it with the rest of the things to go to the car/van as no one else wanted to take any cake home with them.

We were saying our goodbyes when a very stressed looking girl came out and said: “Does anyone here know anything about a large pink cupcake, cake?” Emma and I looked at each other and immediately sidled out the door to retrieve said cake from beside the car where it had been deposited with all the other bits and pieces from the launch. On the way in we met my colleague who told us that the cake was not ours after all, that in fact the one we had cut and eaten was ours. "Oh I said, no harm", and I brought the cake in and handed it to the girl and the Mansion House manager. "ER we can’t seem to find the lid of the box", I said, and "er, I am sorry that the bottom of the box is wet, I spilled some water."

"Who owns the cake?" I asked.

"Well the Lord Mayor is having a birthday party tonight for her sister and this is the birthday cake", she said.

Well Emma and I almost choked on the stars we had taken from the top of the cake! We then went on to try and explain how the delivery man had just handed me the cake on the side of the street and walked off.

We laughed about it – not a case of mistaken identity but a case of mistaken confectionery!

"No harm done", I said to Emma as we walked out to the front of the Mansion House to the car. "No harm done at all and what’s a few little icing stars between the Lord Mayor and one of her citizens, sure no one will ever know we had her cake!"

Then suddenly it dawned on me – the photos that the photographers had taken for the papers – what if they end up on the front page of tomorrow’s newspapers – how will the Lord Mayor’s sister feel about her birthday cake being mock eaten by complete strangers. A few frantic calls later and we had the reassurance that none would be used. We said our goodbyes and drove away from the Mansion House tired but very satisfied.

As we left Dublin and headed for the N7 in bumper to bumper Friday evening traffic my eye line was drawn towards a signpost which had two magpies sitting on top of it. "One for sorrow, two for joy!", I recited again. Whew - there were two of them, we were okay.

Friday 18 June 2010 was a truly joy-filled day. But then some scientist had said that that particular day was the happiest day of the year.


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