Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays…

DH and I committed something of a rookie error in our family planning. My birthday is in August, and so is our wedding anniversary. And then DD was born on the first of the month. I told DH not to touch me ever again in October or November, but lo and behold, DS arrived two years and three weeks after DD. Add a couple of summer-born nieces and a nephew born 12 days after DS into the mix (we know what our siblings were doing in the late autumn…) and we now have a crazy six week period where we have six family birthdays (three of which are in the same week) and an anniversary. Most of which come out of the same pay cheque. Gulp.

So the day after my radiotherapy finished at the end of July we were plunged into the balloons, candles, and cake of Party Central. That Saturday, we had a soft play party for one of DS’s nursery buddies in the morning, followed by my squidgy niece’s first birthday bash about half an hour away, and then over to our other beautiful niece’s fourth birthday (the usual rather splendid mini-festival by the Thames) at tea time. The kiddies were amazing, in great spirits all day (much of which they spent naked and splashing in paddling pools, in between eating vast quantities of sugar and bouncing), napping where they could and still singing along to James ‘Sounds Like’ Blunt in the car on the way home at 10pm. My sister made a very lovely and emotional toast to her baby girl and me, saying it was like a dream come true that the big bits of my treatment ending coincided with celebrating C’s big day. There may have been some happy tears, I couldn’t possibly comment.

The celebrating continued with our friends S&J on the Sunday, during which I took advantage of not being the designated driver and imbibed rather too much champagne and Barolo in the sunshine, resulting in the infamous Lobegate row between me and a rather more sober DH. The following day was my delicious DD’s fifth birthday – where on earth did that go? A half decade already! – and we dressed the garden with butterflies for a little tea party for her best friends. In another bit of classic Pinchy planning, after everyone had left at 6pm, we had to pack to leave for Disneyland Paris – the kiddies’ joint birthday treat – early the following morning.

Disney was everything it should be. We went to Florida on our honeymoon and I’ve always wanted to take my children. Paris is so close, and our three days at the Hotel New York, 10 minutes’ walk from the parks, were really magical. At just five and not-quite-three, they were the perfect age, in total awe of everything from Sleeping Beauty’s castle, to the Buzz Lightyear ride (DS is obsessed with Toy Story) and the It’s A Small World boat ride, which we had to go on twice (and still can’t get that slightly sinister theme music out of our head…).

We were all in one room, which worked better than I thought. We got up around 8, dug into our bag of snacks, hit the park for two hours, came back for the last breakfast setting for brunch at 11am, then went on more rides, had another snack, and then all ate out around 7pm. By the time we’d got back to the hotel and bathed after supper, we were all ready to crash. And, after queuing for an astonishing 90 minutes, we even got to meet the real ‘Rapunzel’, thus making DD’s birthday wish come true.

There were some downsides, of course. The trip was excruciatingly expensive before we even got there, and everything at Disney is crazily overpriced. The food is largely disgusting and£11 for a children’s portion of fried crap seemed to be the going rate. You would have thought a pint of cider was actually molten gold. The queues are quite long for smalls – a minimum of 20 minutes and often double that. And the service is hilariously French, to the point of the ‘cast’ of the parks appearing to be caricatures of French customer service personnel, they were so rude and generally unaccomodating and unhelpful. Perhaps it was all a giant post-modern self-referential joke. But I don’t think so. No-one said ‘have a nice day’, which was fine, obviously, but it was very much the opposite of what you might expect from one of Walt’s establishments.

 

A couple of days after our return, it was my turn for birthday pressies. I was spoiled rotten, it has to be said, including a gorgeous nude patent handbag from DH, stunning leather jacket (which Grazia would probably describe as ‘butter-soft’) from my sis, Pennyhill Park spa voucher from my mummy and Pops, a Mulberry heart key ring from S&J, and many other very thoughtful gifts. I am a very, very lucky girl. And of course, the best thing was not the undeniably lovely pressies, but the most fun night out with a really fab group of my amazing friends and family.

We met in All Bar One, all marvelling that we could not remember the last time we were in a bar as couples, then hit Jamie’s for an absolutely debauched dinner. I dimly remember eating my linguine, but after that, nada. I think there was some chat about tattoos, and I had limoncello for pudding (never a good sign). No memory of this, nor the other bar we apparently went to, where DH was asked to put his shirt back on after launching into one of his regular Freddie Mercury impressions. He did look after me, though, even giving the reluctant cabbie ‘the cancer chat’ to persuade him to take the wobbly 38 year old home. Oh the shame! Great fun, though. I was looking pretty good at the start of the evening (after a good haircut at Aveda booked as a surprise by DH as he said my hair was looking ‘a bit cancery’!!), but when I woke in the morning naked but for my silicone chicken fillet still stuck to the mini-boob, I felt rather less glam. Sadly, I do not seem to be ageing as elegantly as some of the excellent wine I’ve drunk this summer.

After a memorable barbecue a week later (which culminated in me chanelling Barbara Dickson for a scary version of I Know Him So Well. Pinchy may not be Polish for ‘nightingale’: our guests were actually trying to leave as I sang, ushering their children away from the crazy lady), we all had a bit of a break from Good Times last week. DD had a week in kids’ club, and I was back to the badlands of Cancer Central with a bump. I am back on the Tamoxifen after seeing Dr Houston, my oncology consultant. I had a very interesting kinesiology session with my amazing friend E before this, as I was clearly hugely intolerant of the drug. She did an energetic detox on me which appeared to suggest that it would now be absolutely fine for me to be back on the drug, and I would have no side effects, with the caveat that my body could not process the whole daily 20mg horse pill in one go, and I should split it, having 10mg in the morning and 10mg in the evening. I had read about many women doing this on the advice of their doctors anyway, and I have to say, so far, so good. No hot flushes, and I haven’t tried to kill anyone. Houston said if I felt murderous again, DH should call him (they are golf buddies now, don’t forget…). I said that would assume he wasn’t the subject of my hormonal rage.

Then last Thursday, it was the 12th of 17 Herceptin drips. It was raining and I was very down that day. I would quite happily never see that chemo suite again, you know. In my head I am so over this caaancer business, and everytime I have to spend a morning up at the hospital it feels very depressing. You never, ever get used to the needles, and sitting among people who are mostly much older, much more ill, and much less optimistic. I just don’t feel part of the cancer community at all, it’s not something that I feels defines me in any way, and I just want to get out of there as soon as possible every time. I cried for most of the day. My hand is still bruised from the damn canula, but luckily an evening out with E&G was in the diary, and some very good steak and Malbec sorted me out.

And finally, to the latest birthday this summer: my darling cheeky little DS was three on Monday. We had all the grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, not to mention his fairy godfather (sorry JB, you know what I mean!) over for a lovely tea in the garden on Sunday, which again resulted in much naked shrieking (not from me, I hasten to add. Not this time, anyway). The house is now full of Fireman Sam and Toy Story stuff, including the brilliant ‘real’ Buzz Lightyear, who is strangely attractive for a bit of plastic. He’s got all the chat; I think I might be falling in love with him. Then DS started pre-school yesterday – just upstairs in his nursery, but a real change for him. He was a little star and I think he’ll settle in fine.

So all in all, a busy, busy summer thus far. And I haven’t told you about the house we bought while all this was going on…