X Factor, Shooting Star Chase and the bestie

It’s been a crazy few weeks. I’ve tried to launch a business that I haven’t actually had time to focus on. We’ve been to Disneyland Paris, thanks to the lovely people at Magic Moments. No sooner had we returned home blissfully and thoroughly exhausted on the Wednesday night, then I receive a phone call on Thursday morning asking if we would be the featured family on the X Factor for Shooting Star Chase. Of course, we said “yes”. Not because of the chance to be on telly or the chance to meet the famous judges, although that was fabulous, but simply because when you owe your life to someone, it is a debt that can not be repaid. So essentially, Shooting Star Chase can ask me to do anything and, chances are, I will do it.

I owe my life to Shooting Star Chase. “Owing your life” is a phrase that can be so easily banded about but I actually mean it. The day they rescued us, I had been to the doctors again. When you have mental health issues, there is a lot of paperwork. So I had filled in yet another form, the last question was, and always is, “have you had thoughts about ending your life?”. I ticked “yes”, because I had started planning. Once a planner, always a planner, even when you are suicidal. I rarely do things on the spur of the moment. My doctor clearly saw it. She later admitted that she had so nearly sectioned me but thought separating me from Moo would push me over the edge.  She was right so I sort of owe her my life too.

Shooting Star Chase is a charity, funded by the kindly generosity of the general public. The NHS didn’t save me, the PCT didn’t save me, Social Services didn’t save me although I begged them all for help. Shooting Star Chase did and I didn’t even ask them. They saw someone drowning and threw us a life raft. So I will do anything for them because, out there, is someone like me, drowning, and Shooting Star Chase may be their only life raft. If I don’t raise awareness, if I don’t push everyone I know to donate, they won’t raise the £10 million a year they need to help the 700 families who, like me, completely and utterly rely on them to live a blessed life.

So this is the background to my bestie, Pumpkin, deciding to do something mind-blowing. In April, it will be 30 years since we met and became the best of friends. On the day that Moo was born, she dropped her entire life and rushed to my bedside to be there for me while Moo was driven to Great Ormond Street. She stayed there for two days, not going to work, not being with her beloved; just by my side, talking when I needed to and being silent when I needed to be. She was my rock. And now she is doing something, quite frankly, insane.

Pumpkin has had weight issues all her life. She has also had the morbid fear of the age 43. She was 9 years old when her father dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of a hockey game at the age of 43. All her life, she has feared this age as she is aware that her fondness for cake and lack of routine exercise could set her up for a repeat performance. Her father was a fit and healthy member of the RAF. She’s not. It’s only a very slim chance but fear doesn’t do logic.

In typical Pumpkin style, she sat, wrapped in fear one day, and thought “Screw this. I can either live through my 43rd year being scared or I can turn it into a year where I do something amazing and turn it into something to remember with pride”. She looked around at what she could do and, for some mind bending reason, decided to do something for her Goddaughter, Moo. She teased me by sending me a text saying:

“I’m doing something that I never, in a million years, thought I would ever do for the only person who would inspire me to do it.”

Then she sent me a link to the Shooting Star Chase marathon team. I screamed. I thought she had lost her mind. When she asked me to help her get a place, I knew she was serious. I double-checked with her that she was absolutely sure. So I spoke to the person I needed to and, hey presto, she got a place. I called her:

“Hey, where are you?”
“I’m in the pub having a burger with my sister.”
“Put the burger down.”
“Why?” in a slightly terrified voice.
“Because you are running the London Marathon and need to eat healthily!” I shouted down the phone, rather excitedly.
“What?” said a very tiny voice.
“You have a place in the London Marathon in April 2016.”

Apparently, when she went and told her husband, he laughed for 30 minutes. Then he bought her a book called ‘Run, Fat Bitch, Run’ which is both highly entertaining and brilliant in aiding her motivation. To recap, this is a woman who didn’t run for the bus, never mind 26.2 miles. She occasionally went to aquafit but that was it. For the first couple of months, when it was a secret, she would sporadically send me texts that simply read “oh, fuck”. I’m not going to lie, I kept thinking the same. But she is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And has lost 20lbs in the process.

To say that I am proud of this woman would be the biggest understatement of the year. She is completely inspirational, huge of heart and of determination. She is now running for 30 minutes at a time, has knocked 5 minutes off her mile and has already broken even on her fundraising. For every place Shooting Star Chase has in the marathon, they pay £1,000 and all they ask is that their runners raise £2,000. So this is a warning to all my loved and cherished ones, I will be sporadically irritating you with begging letters to ask you to sponsor Pumpkin. I want to help her smash her target. I want to help pay back for the day that Moo was born and she was there with me. I want to help pay back Shooting Star Chase for all that they do for families like mine.

And as an aside, I do not call her Pumpkin because she loves cake and is shorter and a bit rounder than me. I call her Pumpkin because it is one of my favourite fruit, it makes my favourite pie, all sweetness and spice, and it’s very, very good for you. If you could turn people into fruit, she’d be a Pumpkin.