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Beat The Beast Challenge

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You will, I am sure, remember my introduction, on the 15th September 2016 to the most wonderful woman Allie, whose seat I sat in on the way to London on the 03rd October 2015. Six months post separation, eleven months into chemotherapy, and with a most uncertain future, I was a broken man, but something convinced Allie to message me. To encourage me.

Since that day Allie has been the most wonderful third leg to me, keeping me stable and balanced through the last of the treatment and the difficult days post treatment. Allie has been my rock, my sea anchor and asked for nothing in return.

Almost as if in a response to Allie’s commitment to me the brain tumour has appeared to have all but disappeared. A most wonderful discovery. But the brilliant oncology team tempered any exclamations of delight with a very cautious warning, that there is every chance that the tumour will bounce back and quite rapidly if it does. That while the scans may look so clear, so positive, experience tells them that there will most likely still be tumour cells left there, lurking, hidden under the scarring and bruising in the brain, waiting to grow back. Experience tells them that they may well have only managed to buy me an extra couple of years. The phrase, ‘Archie, you still have a life limiting condition,’ has stuck firmly in my mind. But still I went out searching for confirmation that others can see what I see. That I have been healed. Instead I found the same notes of caution from many an experienced hand. From vicars, friends and family, and medical practitioners. The memory of a friend made during treatment, who we both thought had beaten his brain tumour as he climbed out of his wheelchair, only to be lost to the disease a week later, was still raw.

So I still had this disease. I had beaten the initial prognosis of 3 years and so was now living on borrowed time. I had however been given at least another two years so it made sense that I made the most of that time in continuing to beat the beast, and trying to turn that 2 years into 20, or maybe even 40 years but most importantly, to ensure that I make the most of that time with friends and family, the children, and Allie if she wanted to.

So I had thought quite hard and discussed in some detail with Allie and jointly with family, friends, financial advisors and my oncology team the very prospect of marriage. The advice from all was overwhelmingly in the affirmative and very much along the lines of what are you waiting for? Seize life with both hands and embrace it in its fullness. So just before travelling to South Africa I travelled to Edinburgh and took collection of a ring I had commissioned to be made by Toby Ingram, an old friend from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, but now owner of the Wood and Silver Company of London. It was beautifully made with our own official motif designed and registered by Toby of two 'A's reflecting each other. Very clever and etched on the inside of the ring. He handmade the wood and cardboard presentation boxes with the motif etched on top and a beautiful lining with all the key words and phrases reflecting Allie’s and my journey together so far. Not a single corner has been cut. Most impressive. He then threw in a thumb stick to take up onto the hills with us. Each hand made for us, again with our Motif on but also a photo of the two of us on top of Arthur's Seat lasered onto the roe antler thumb rest. Amazing and far more than I had asked for, but a most wonderful gift made with the love and affection for her that I so wanted to be reflected in the ring that she would carry for ever.

But now I had a significant conundrum. Clearly the risk of me losing the ring or having it stolen from me before getting back from South Africa was too much of a risk to take. As I pondered what to do in Edinburgh Station I was called by the wonderful lawyer sorting out the flat into trust for the children and who cried when I told her our story on our first meeting. Karen asked how everything was going and then I asked her whether or not I should ask before or after South Africa. I was a man and just couldn't make up my mind as I pirouetted round and round in my indecision on the station concourse, under the orange glow of the train departures board, the only sound penetrating my thoughts being the announcements of the trains’ movements over the tannoy. After South Africa would be more practical but Karen thought that before South Africa would reassure Allie and give her time and space and peace to tell and celebrate with her friends before I got back. I was going to propose today. Why wait?

I caught the bus to Newhaven and decided to surprise her. Once in Allie’s flat and after some small talk, with the sound of the waves lapping against the harbour walls I plucked up the courage, took to my knees and proposed. Allie said YES!!! We cuddled to the sound of the waves outside her flat and I thanked God for this most wonderful of women. For exactly a year after meeting I have been given more time and a new friend, who the children like so very much, to spend that precious time with.

It was especially hard having to travel South to fly to South Africa after proposing, but at least our future was assured, and when I got back, the most important business of the day was telling the children. I was sure that they would be pleased but couldn’t be certain, so I was most certainly nervous for I really felt that I needed the children’s blessing if our union was to stand any chance of succeeding in a happy and loving atmosphere. Do I give them their presents from South Africa first as a sweetener or tell them first? I wanted a genuine reaction from them both so that I could understand how they truly felt about this news so kept the presents for later. I made Jamie Oliver’s Arnold Bennett Frittata for tea, we sat, I said grace and as they burst into hysterics mid grace I got a sense that now was the time. I waited for calm to settle around the table. Took a deep breath and with hope in my heart and a smile on my face told them my news. The children were thrilled and hugged me tightly when I told them. After tea they were then singing love songs in harmony on the keyboard in the flat as I washed up. It was a perfect moment for which I am very grateful to them, both.

Mum, on the other hand, had only one question for Allie. ‘Allie, now that we have had such good news from the scan and the prospect that you might have 40 years together rather than just 2 is quite possibly a real one, are you sure? 40 years with Archie. Are you really sure!?!?!?!?’

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Mum!! Xx

Toby made a wonderful video of the making of the ring. Well worth a watch. The link is below

Yours aye

Archie