Girl on Top (Part 16) – Standing on the Top

After two weeks of being hospitalised and the cause of my spiking temperature still unknown, it was concluded that something more sinister might be at work and that I may have somehow contracted the H1N1 virus, commonly known as Swine Flu.

I was held in a private room at the hospital, whilst test were run, and any visiting friends and family were instructed to wear protective clothing before they could see me, which included a gown, face-mask and gloves.  It seemed almost laughable that, along with the cancer that was wreacking havoc with my body, I might also have a separate disease fighting against me.  Regardless of having to go along with the hospital formalities and adhering to procedures as best I could, I somehow knew that I hadn’t contacted the virus and that the temperature was purely down to my cancer.  At one point during my stay in ‘quarantine’ I had some delicious oriental food smuggled into me, which had been provided by a friend of mine who worked in a restaurant!  We all sat in my hospital room, filling our mouths with the wonderful tastes, my friends lifting their face-masks up in order to tuck in!

Just under a week after I was suspected of contracting the virus, the results finally came back showing that I was clear of any strains of the disease. It was only a small victory, but a happy one.  It was decided that the best course of action would be to transfer me to the local hospice, where I could build my strength ready for my birthday party, which lay just around the corner.

The Hospice in the Weald is set in peaceful countryside, just outside Tunbridge Wells, and, on my arrival there, I knew that my stay was going to be a very happy one indeed.  The true kindness and warmth that surrounded me was inspirational and for this I will always be grateful.   As soon as I was admitted, I began to prepare for the party – for me this wasn’t going to be any other birthday, but a time for mass celebration with my friends and family from near and far.  My only fear was that I wouldn’t be well enough when the time came to enjoy it.

The team at the hospice knew that my goal was to regain strength in time for my party and they did everything they could to encourage me to reach it.  From helping me to gain psychical vigour, to assisting me with day to day tasks, the staff were incredible.  Even when I desperately needed to find a dress for the celebration, having lost two stone very quickly, the owner of the local boutique, Kitch, arranged for dresses to be brought to the hospice in order for me to choose one.  She was one of the wonderful volunteers, who went above and beyond in her duty of care to the residents there.

The day of my birthday dawned and, as I awoke, I surveyed the peaceful landscape outside my window.  Although the sky was cloudy, the day was warm for that of mid-March.  The green fields which stretched beyond my vision, gave way to an oast house on the horizon, capturing the soul of the Kentish countryside beautifully.  I yawned before slowly beginning to lift myself from the bed, apprehensive of exactly how I would feel when my feet touched the floor and I gained my balance.  Standing, I took a breath; so far, so good.  I breathed deeply again, but this time a huge sigh of relief.  There was no sickness or weakness – this day was certainly going to be one to remember and I would do everything in my power to make my birthday party the greatest imaginable.

At 5pm, my brother collected me and drove me to his house where I began to prepare myself for the party.   Three hours later, I stepped out into the chilly but clear night.  My dress fitted me perfectly and this, coupled with opaque tights and ankle boots, made me feel as if I really was Cinderella about to go to the ball.  During the short drive to the venue, I silently questioned exactly how many of my friends and family would be there.  I knew that family members had flown over from Lithuania to be with me, but how many of my British friends had been able to make the party was still unknown to me.

As I carefully opened the door of the party room, my heart leapt with joy; I could barely believe the vast amount of bodies packed into one space.  Over eighty people smiled at me, and a huge cheer went up to greet me, as I stepped over the threshold.   I steadied myself; this really was a dream come true and more than I could have ever hoped for.  I knew that I was going to have the night of my life!

Amidst the joyous dancing, laughter and wondrous food, my friends gave me a present that was as equally amazing as the party itself; tickets to see Adele on her tour at the O2 Arena.  I could hardly believe my eyes, as I gazed upon the tickets in my hand, presented in a huge card signed from all of my friends.  I had regained my strength both physically and mentally for my party, but now I had another goal to aim for in only a few days time.  I had to make sure that I was still strong for the concert, and I would do everything that I could to make that happen.

Although the celebrations were physically draining on my body, I made sure that I stayed at the party until the very end, and even danced to my favourite Lithuanian song into the early hours of the morning.  I truly felt like a celebrity; so many people wanted to have their photo taken with me, and to sit and chat for a little while.  I returned to the hospice shattered, but also overcome with happiness.  I had made it.   My 35th birthday had been the most special of my entire life.

Three days later, I awoke to the spring light peeping through the curtains of my room.  Again, I steadied myself, took a breath and tried to ascertain exactly how I felt.  I realised that, although I didn’t feel as good as I had done the previous Saturday, I was still ready mentally to take life by the horns and make the journey to the O2, to see my favourite artist.  I had waited so long to see Adele live and my illness was certainly not going to stop me from completing my birthday celebrations in style.

The concert was utterly incredible and everything that I could have wished for.  Although my legs were not strong enough to hold me, I was pushed around the arena and surrounding areas in a wheelchair, finally taking my seat at a balcony quite close to the double stage where the performance took place.  Adele’s beautiful voice, mixed with her cheeky sense of humour, kept me enthralled to the very last note.  I left with a broad smile on my face; my two dreams having come true in the space of just a few days.

The year yielded an early Easter, and Good Friday brought with it a beautiful spring day.  As I eased myself slowly out of my bed at the hospice, and prepared myself for my usual bath, I ran through the day’s itinerary.  I was to visit the local hospital and tests would be run on me, to determine whether the cancer had spread and the plan of action which needed to be taken.

After a short journey to the hospital with my old house mate, the necessary tests where run; a CT scan on my head, lungs and other organs.  My friend drove me back in her car, and we busied ourselves by reminiscing on old times.  On my arrival at the hospice, I made myself comfortable in my room, and said goodbye to my friend.  However, just as she was turning the corner on her way down the corridor, my doctor approached her, asking her whether she could stay with me for a bit longer.  The results of my CT scans had come back, and he wanted to discuss them immediately, with her by my side.

A sense of fatality filled me.  I had been in this situation so often in the past eighteen months, but I somehow knew that this would be the very last time I would have words of regret delivered to me by a medical professional.  I braced myself and listened, as my final diagnosis was recited.  The CT scans had shown that the cancer had gone to my brain.  In short, the disease had now totally assaulted my body, creeping and seeping into every crevice of my anatomy, storming through my organs with a vengeance and wrecking any hopes of survival that I might have had left.  Slowly, I turned to my friend, speechless. In silence, we wept, our hands intertwined, our faces stained with tears.  There was nothing more that I could do – no more fight that I could put up.  It was over.

I lay in my bed that night, the silence of the hospice engulfing me.  I closed my eyes, tying to comprehend what I now faced.  What if it happened tonight and I didn’t wake up the next morning?   The very fact that my body was swiftly giving up on me scared me the most.  I was no longer in control of it and I could no longer dictate to it as I had done all my life.  Up until this point, I had been able to regulate my body in one way or another.  Now, finally, it was governing me.  There were things that I needed to plan, small but vital tasks that I needed to complete.  I assessed the situation and made a decision, I would spend the next few days getting my affairs in order.  Once these were taken care of, I could breathe a steady sigh of relief.

Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday brought clouds and rain, but regardless of the weather, I spent a few very happy days in the company of my friends, brother, sister-in-law and little niece.   As she skipped around, her mouth covered in chocolate, her thoughts on Easter bunnies and yellow chicks, I smiled.  I knew that I would not see her grow into the kind and beautiful girl that I knew she would be, but her happiness around me was enough.

The next day, I embarked on making sure that everything was just as I wanted it to be.  Suddenly, a huge wave of relief engulfed me; I knew that my ending was near, but I also knew that I had said everything that I needed to say, and done everything which needed to be done.  My party had been one last, wonderful celebration of my life; a happy farewell to those I held dear.  I sat down and  wrote a letter to my family and friends, trying to express from my heart exactly how I felt for when the time came and I was no longer with them.  Sealing it, I drew a breath; it was all done.

I started writing this blog nearly eight months ago, blissfully unaware of the future, full of hope, dreams and determination.  Now the time has come for me to conclude my last entry and I would like everyone who has read and supported it to know how I now feel.

I am standing at the top of a mountain, looking down.  I see laughter and tears, happiness and heartache, bravery and weakness.  I see every one of my friends faces, as they cheered and danced at my party.  I see the familiar forms of my family in Lithuania, as I last remember them, the summer sun shining down on them, content and carefree.

I may have felt a certain amount of trepidation in the past few weeks, but this has left me now.  Maybe long ago I sensed that my life would be short and that I had to pack as much as I could into it.  I travelled the world with haste, as if I somehow recognised the dark shadow of cancer lying in wait for me, unseen, just around the corner.  Perhaps deep down I realised that, one day, it would finally catch up with me.

So here I stand, looking down at the good times, the bad times, the sunshine and the rain.  I have lived my life without fear, and I will continue to do so until the last.

I would like to thank everyone who has brought me joy and who has enriched my life, be it just for a fleeting time, or for longer intervals.  I will spend my last weeks safe in the knowledge that I am loved deeply by my friends and family and that, in return, I love you all too.

Remember me sometimes, when you feel the warm breeze in your hair, when you laugh and dance to your favourite tunes and when you  celebrate the good times with those close.  I am walking in the Lithuanian countryside, I am strolling on a beach in Malaga, I am exploring the heady skyscrapers of Singapore, and I am no longer afraid.

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24 thoughts on “Girl on Top (Part 16) – Standing on the Top”

  1. May peace fill your days, love fill your heart and know you have made a huge positive difference to everyone you know and those you don’t know who have followed your inspirational approach to life. Namaste!

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  2. Utterly devastated. I feel so grateful to have you in my life and to have shared so many brilliant and fun times. Thank you for being the most incredible friend to me for the past 10 years. I cannot believe how strong you have been throughout this whole process, battling this evil disease. You always put others first, despite how terrible you feel. I am going to miss you so much and will never forget what a wonderful and beautiful person you are. Love you forever xxxx

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  3. One of the saddest things I have ever read, but also you managed to make me smile through the tears at how you have embraced your life by making the most of every opportunity you had. I have never felt more proud of having the pleasure of knowing you. When ever I was having a relapse, I thought of you and pushed myself to do more. I thought,if Laura can go on holiday when can’t I, if Laura can be at work why can’t I. So thank you for making me take those opportunities while I can and live in the here and now. Love to you my little trouble maker buddy xxx

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  4. Dear Laura,
    Every night I pray for you ❤️ And will keep doing it . Thank you for your friendship although we never met. Your gorgeous face is the reflection of your good soul. I’m glad you’re not afraid, cause only good things will come in your life from now on. Thank you for making me see life differently. God send us angels to earth and you are definitely one of them.
    I love you 💕🙏🏽😘❤️

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  5. Dear Laura,
    You are a truly amazing and inspirational lady. I am proud and luckily to have known you. I will continue to think of you very very often. With much love. Andrea xxx

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  6. You were my first real friend I made on my own when I moved to England, nearly 10 years ago. We have had such an amazing time, salsa dancing, going out clubbing, movie nights, lunch dates and the last few years we also worked together. You are so very special to me and it breaks my heart to have to see you battle this monstrous disease. Even though you do it with such bravery and grace. It makes us all feel so helpless as there isn’t really anything we can do to help you, though we would if we could. You will always be my special friend, forever in my heart xxx

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  7. Dearest Laura,
    Thank you for our time together. You’ve made such a huge impact on my life this last year. You’ll never be forgotten, will always be on top and always close at heart.
    Love you to the moon and back … 🌝⭐️🌙
    💞

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  8. Dear Laura
    I am glad that I have met you even if it was briefly back at work but you have really touched my heart with your bravery!
    I am thinking of you – stay always on top of your mountain …
    Xxx💖xxX

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  9. Dearest Laura It is with the heaviest heart, I write to you now. Your latest blog entry has touched me hugely . I have been in the garden most of the day , attacking all the weeds and have had you constantly in my thoughts. I wish I were with you to hold your hand and give you a big hug. When I came inside , I read your moving blog and was of course, so upset . In fact, I then went back to the garden to pull up more weeds with a renewed vendetta against ‘ them’ , ( the weeds) and so take out my emotions on the garden !!! I spent lots of time thinking about the fantastic party we were all at , only two weeks ago. How glad we all were that your strength enabled to to be there with us. More so, that I was able to come back to the hospice with you and Hydey, and tuck you up in bed. I shall treasure the memories of that day for a long time. I am comforted to know that you have achieved what you wanted and can now be at peace . Your blog will be a huge inspiration to others and you must be so proud of your great achievement . We all hold you in our hearts and prayers and rest assured that you will be with us in spirit on many occasions.

    So much love and a big hug

    Carolyn and Tony xxxx

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  10. Laura, it’s hard to know what to say when life throws a curve ball and you have no choice but to face it head on. Some things, I have learned, make absolutely no sense (at least not in my mind). I suppose if I were more religious, I might be less judgmental of the way things unfold sometimes.
    I know that we don’t know what the days/weeks ahead hold and so I decided to share some things with you. They’re the thoughts I have about you when I think of you, see a photo of you or when I hear a song of Lost frequencies “Are you with me” in Malaga´s beach:)) or our childhood memories, teenager time, our yard in 28 A.Jucio street, in our homeland Lithuania, Plunge. Our first ball games( who wins, kind of between you and me>:)) long summer swims and a fruit steeling on the way back:-) and running as fast as we could:)) or selling chewing gum:-)( it is between you and me and a third musketeer.-))).Bike rides, first boyfriends, talks until our parents shouts to come home, putting first lipstick, haircuts, or getting piercings, first discos in a school..and so much more…. Your mums loss, my fathers loss..Every year I visit my fathers cemetery and I always stop at your mums too…… After so many years we reunited in Málaga and it was one of the best laugh I had in ages with you and a third musketeer:-))).. it was genuinely non stop laughing , pure jokes , shining eyes… It’s probably the most important thing in a person. Thank you for an incredible time, contagious laugh unforgettable memories…. Last night, I went for a long walk on a promenade and I thought about you for most of my walk. I pushed myself even to run. But thinking about your struggles and your suffering, I pushed myself on. Your strength pushed me on. It became quite dark in the by the time I was a little over half the way. I thought it was a perfect way to think about you and the difficulties you have faced. When I was almost back a light caught my eye. It was the moon, and it was so beautiful. Even in the darkest time, the light is waiting to catch our attention and remind of us something bigger…You may not realise all the impacts you have had on this world. Or, you may feel that they are insignificant, but we know otherwise. I know that you have impacted my life significantly. What an incredible, strong woman you are. A fighter, a conqueror!!! Please know, that we are with you in spirit as you climb that mountain back to the light. Please know how much we love you and that you will always be alive to us!!!!!
    Love and blessings dearest guapa!!! (I am thinking of you every single day and praying for miracles)…
    I love you!!!! Shine On pupa ……..
    Love Raimonda.xxxxxxxxxx

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  11. Dearest Laura
    To bring such beautiful, joyful images to the page of such a sad situation is true mastery. You are brave and wise beyond measure…I am in awe.
    Big hugs from all of the Davis clan who all remember your fun and mischief in France very fondly.

    Ash, Bobby and Ella xxx

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  12. I think this is the most powerful thing I have ever read Laura, not only because I know you and know how amazing you are but also because I, like everyone including yourself have been hanging on your every beautiful word since the first post. And never could it have predicted that this final post would be coming. And so unfairly soon. To someone so good.
    It has been equally moving reading the comments, and like Katia, you were my first real friend moving here to TW just 2 years ago.
    But you have made an everlasting impact on me in this short time. Trivially: your kitchen was always pristine and I now use kitchen roll to get the look too! Every time I use kitchen roll I will think of you and smile. Importantly: in addition to learning from your illness to cherish the important things in life, even before all ‘this’ started, I always had huge admiration for how you handle things simply, courageously and with humour. And I will do my best to carry this forward with me on your behalf. I love you my dear friend. I am so very sorry for you, your friends and family that this is happening. And I will be forever grateful that I was blessed with the times with you that I had. Laura T xx

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  13. Dear Laura although I only worked with you a short time but i always felt that you were destined to live life to the fullest. I am so very sad that it could not be for longer. Your courage has shone through in your writing. You truly are an inspiration. If I can live my life 1/2 as bravely as you I will be blessed. You are in my thoughts xxx

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  14. Dearest Laura, your blog has been truly inspirational to read. Your writing is so amazing and talented. I have not known you long, but for the few short months I have, you are so brave, loving, courageous, beautiful and I feel so lucky to have met you. Your next journey will be true to you and you can only embrace it as you always have. We will all be there to meet you and the surrounding loving angels one day. How grateful we all are to have met such a wonderful lady. xxx 🙏🏻🙌🏼

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  15. Laura, Laura, Laura,
    Your words are indeed beautiful and only matched but your own beauty.
    I am very grateful for having met you and been able to spend a few evenings sharing in your laughter and joy. And to be able to share such joy, to hold such laughter is sign of a life truly lived.
    With much much love, Arancha.

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  16. Hi Laura. I’m just a random radiation oncologist in the US and stumbled upon your blog. I was deeply moved by your journey and thank you for sharing your hopes, dreams, fears, and triumphs with the world. Your experience reflects those of my patients, only I rarely get such an intimate view. Remembering your story will help me to be more compassionate with my patients, knowing that radiation treatments and visits to my clinic are but a small slice of a full life. Cancer never happens in a vacuum, for worse AND for better. Again, thank you, and I wish you and your family love, happiness, and peace to the end of your days.

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  17. I stumbled upon your blog. I was in tears reading your blogs. I finished all in one read. I will spread your blogs to my full capacity to celebrate your life! You are a true warrior battling cancer.

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  18. I just felt compelled to add another note for whomever might read this next. Let us all use this sad and totally unfair experience to remind us all about how precious life is and to savour every moment and to help others remember that as long as you have a tomorrow in front of you, there is always ALWAYS a chance to help make a day better for someone else. Laura lived her life to the full and always added fun, life and spark to others. For if we are not here to serve others, and to our best to live a fulfilling life, then what, really, is life about xx

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  19. Voras,

    I’m not poetic but so wish I could find, write and paint beautiful words about amazing you, and our time together. So I will simply say…

    I will always remember how we met…why it was tough…why it was worth every minute of us trying to make it work.

    Remember our walks through the park to TW town centre – you always walked too much, I always walked too little.

    I won’t forget having to take 10, 20 pictures of you, and you charmingly rejecting all of them – few people could take (and post) as many – ok, and as nice – pics as you.

    I will always remember our songs – Sheeran’s one is all around but tough for me to hear, as you never made it to 70.

    I will always remember your genuine laughter – I watch and re-watch a video of you dancing and laughing in Lithuania; in your wig.

    Keep smiling, keep laughing, keep dancing, keep traveling, keep walking…till we meet again,

    V

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