It was the day of Rosemary’s birthday treat. And in my book a 75th birthday was a milestone worth celebrating as energetically as possible. I’d planned everything – except, of course, my own physical condition.

Normally – in previous cycles – this would have been a day when I was coming out of the nastier side-effects of my chemo with enough energy to be ready for action. But this time I’d stretched the limits the day before

The day did not begin well. I felt weak, and – infuriatingly – I could already feel that later I’d be dealing with yet another round of diarrhoea.  And there seemed to be something wrong with my built-in thermostat. I was either shivering with cold or battling a hot flush.

No matter. I wasn’t going to cancel our plans, and – if necessary – I would fight back against my symptoms. My temperature (despite the way I felt) was normal.

So in due course we set off for London, arriving at my chosen hotel – citizenM London Bankside – a little later than planned, but early enough for a visit to Tate Modern. 

Had I actually felt up to it…

Sadly the prospect of an hour or two of slow walking didn’t appeal when my legs were starting to feel almost as rubbery as they had the day before, so I left Rosemary to enjoy that particular treat on her own. (Which, happily, she duly did!) I was reserving my energies for the evening – a performance of The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe, just a short walk from the hotel.

Having spent the afternoon resting I was hoping I’d be OK – but my internal thermostat was still all over the landscape, and my guts had, as anticipated, turned to water. I took Loperamide (as usual) and faced it out. Which was well worth the effort.

The staff at The Globe were… wonderful. They took the two old crocks in hand, guided us to a lift so Rosemary wouldn’t face the challenge of a long, steep staircase, and showed us to our seats in the uppermost gallery, right at the back – with a prime view of the stage – just as the play was starting.

The performance itself was colourful, energetic, fun, and – from my point of view – mercifully short. The full text runs for about three hours, but this ‘young people’s version’ took just 90 minutes. I’d ordered cushions (thankfully – do likewise if you go!) so I wasn’t in the discomfort I often suffer on hard seats, but I wasn’t wearing enough layers and I was starting to feel the cold. (The Globe really is an outdoor theatre – even if you’re sitting in the gallery!) 

That said, the play was beautifully acted, I enjoyed the music (and the musicians!), Ariel’s flight (shown above) was a triumph of both costume and stagecraft and the atmosphere was electric. I loved it. Despite everything. And we weren’t done – because I’d also booked us in to the Swan Restaurant, inside the theatre, for an evening meal.

I sat down to that with some trepidation. I didn’t have much of an appetite,  but nor did I want to chicken out completely. So I chose carefully. And the portions we were served were exactly what I needed – beautiful food, beautifully prepared, with sensible portion sizes.

I managed a starter and a main, but passed on the dessert.

And then – back to the hotel.

And I had to ask Rosemary if she would mind my going ahead, as quickly as I could. Because in my estimation I was only just going to make it. And when I did get to the hotel I simply undressed, put on my night clothes, and crashed into the bed. (Which occupied the whole width of one third of the room…!)

Leaving Rosemary – as I later realised – with a dead phone, no means of calling me, and no means of calling up a digital map if she missed a turn on her way back. (Really sorry, love…)

Luckily she made it back. To find me unconscious on the far side of the bed. With both of us wondering if my delapidated condition was the first sign of sepsis. Because, stupidly, I hadn’t packed a thermometer…

What would the next day bring?