Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve said that this has been the best week of LCFN so maybe this time I’ll just tone it down a bit and say I feel totally humbled by the people around me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a team game. I may be the lucky bloke out in all weathers but LCFN would be nothing without you people.

And this week just proved it: not once, not twice but three times.

There’s only one place to start and that’s last Saturday in the Yes Bar. Jane and I were booked to go out for a meal in Glasgow with two other couples, something we’ve been meaning to do for ages. Then in the week, McSnuffie messaged me and asked if we could meet up in the town because she had something for me. I explained my predicament to Jane and went in on an earlier train, as you do. We’d arranged to meet in the Yes Bar at 4 as the dinner table was booked for 5 so time was a wee bit short. And it was a football day. Looking as resplendent as ever in a striking red coat that would have done an Aberdonian proud, McSnuffs was carrying a large 15” pizza size box under her arm, wrapped delicately in a bin bag. I do love a surprise and I sure as hell was going to enjoy this one. The bar was quite busy but as we were sat upstairs, we had a spare table opposite on which to open the gift…

It was a collage canvas print of some of the best photos of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma that I’d uploaded to Facebook. In reality it viewed like a Who’s Who, or perhaps I should say a What’s What of the past two and a half years.

I loved it.

Instantly.

How can someone so unconnected with me as a person come up with a gift that’s so utterly connected with something that dominates my thoughts every waking hour? I was, and am still, gobsmacked.

Snuffs McShuggie: in that moment, you entered the LCFN Hall Of Fame.

With that warm glow still in my heart at 5am on Monday morning, I set sail on the final working week of the year, and ultimately the final assault on miles for 2015. I went into it thinking “it doesn’t matter how tired I get, or how broken my wee body feels come Friday, it’s going to get 17 days rest thereafter”. Strategically, that was a big deal, believe me.

One thing I’ve noticed this last wee while is that I’m not very good at keeping score. I have a spreadsheet (which I published online this week) that logs every one of the 492 days that I’ve been on the bike: distance per day, average per day, distance each week, distance each month, days to go etc etc. But what it doesn’t tell me, automatically, is how many times I’ve been over 200 miles in a row: I have to count those weeks by hand. Now for the past couple of months, I’ve been working on the assumption that this would have been week 29 assuming I could seal the deal, but on checking, double checking and treble checking today, I discovered to my delight that it’s not 29 at all. It’s 30. This is the stat that has driven me right through 2015. This is the stat that has made me do things that I might otherwise not have done. I’m a hard driving kind of a guy in any case but that stat, that run, that consecutive number of 200 mile weeks, is what has delivered me to where I am today. And hell, I’m proud of it. Really, really proud.

So I decided back on Monday that seeing as this was the last week of the year, I’d extend that record by Thursday night. There’s a quiet sense of satisfaction to be acquired by smashing days 1, 2, 3 and 4 because it makes Friday seem like a day of rest. Aye right… Well as it turned out, despite some soakings and blowings Monday through Thursday, I’d bagged 207 by Thursday and had another big one with a day to spare. That’s when I realised I’d miscounted. It’ll be easier next year: just add 30.

Two other things have dominated my thoughts this week, dominating to the extent that I’ve thought of little else while I’ve been on the road.

Princess Puddles has been in Grand Rapids all week, undergoing her latest round of tests. The big one is the MIBG scan that identifies any wee cancer cells, anywhere in the Puddleshere. It was the test that everyone was waiting on. It was late last night, when I should have been hitting the hay instead of staring at my screen every two minutes, that the news came through that the scan was clear. I was ecstatic, and I’ve over here: I can’t imagine the relief that Gail and her family must have felt over in the States. It was the news that they so wanted to hear this side of Christmas. For everyone involved with Team Eileidh and Solving Kids Cancer, it was a magical outcome.

But there was more…

Gail took the flag over to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. If she was able to get some shots with the doctors and nursing staff who are literally saving children’s lives, I knew it would be a game changer for LCFN. Gail did not disappoint. She sent back images of Eileidh’s team signing the flag, as well as some ceremonial shots on the ward. This took me right back to the Sick Kids Hospital in Belfast last year with Stephen and Leona. But this wasn’t Belfast; it wasn’t even in the UK; these photos were taken at the leading kids cancer hospital in the United States.

The connection was as immediate as it was important. LCFN had arrived on the world stage, courtesy of a wee girl from the Highlands that I first met in a Glasgow pub just over a year ago. I still have work to do, a lot of it, but those images told me in glorious HD technicolour that this journey has been so worth it.

The flag will be coming home tomorrow, with Eileidh, and I’ll be at Glasgow Airport before dawn to welcome them home. But the flag has a busy social life all of its own, and no sooner than it’s back on Scottish soil than it’ll be jetting off again. For tomorrow night, it heads out to Poland to spend Christmas with the 50 or so LCFN supporters who live over there. That itself will be a poignant moment because Maya Zubal, who’s currently fighting neuroblastoma in London, supported by her parents Agnieszska and Rafal, hails from Poland. LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma has come full circle. My thanks go out to Anna and Krys for taking on the onerous responsibility of looking after the flag child.

And so, as ever, to the miles:

I really don’t want to look back over the whole year because that will be coming up in the 2015 Greatest Hits album over the festive period, but suffice to say that after hammering my wee leggies took this week, the report card reads:

This week: 274

This month: 660

This year: 9,147

But that doesn’t tell half the story…

January thru April totalled 1,570

May thru August brought up 3,634

September thru December slammed in 3,943

I have not missed a single scheduled day on the bike since April. I’ve been averaging 52.6 miles for every working day since the start of September. These are numbers that I didn’t know I was capable of: but then a year ago I didn’t know that a fragile wee two year old who I labelled Princess Puddles after her post hailstorm antics at Celtic Park, was capable of fighting off the deadliest form of childhood cancer. And doing so with a smile on her face.

But the finale of this blog, this special blog, belongs to Snuffs McShuggie. Last night, on the eve of finishing up for Christmas, I shared on Facebook my favourite Christmas song of all time. I was a black American Motown and Soul kid in the 60’s and the Phil Spector Christmas album remains for me the definitive work at this time of year. So last night I shared Darlene Love’s all time classic track and McSnuffie came right back at me with the assertion that in her family, it was a tradition to watch Darlene perform it live on the David Letterman Show (which she did every year for consecutive 28 years, by the way, until Letterman retired).

From Darlene Love, to Princess Puddles…

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)