I arrive in Copenhagen to what a paparazzi scrum must feel like unfortunately though none of the signs had my new Nordic name Kay Kurtin on it so I had to push through and exit stage left for the hotel shuttle bus, which I had decided to use basically because it was free not because I was staying in one for the weekend. I took the bus to the Crowne Plaza to attend the Bristol Myers Squibb closed patients advocacy Advisory meeting. So it was all go from the get go! I got in and met Gilly and Luc my sometime in the future skydiving partner although we still haven’t quite figured out location. Lovely Luc if you didn’t know him you would rightly assume he is a 6 ft plus rugby player he gives the best bear hugs though without squashing what’s left of your life out of you (sorry cancer jokes are part of our coping strategies).
Thanks to Gilly I end up with microphone in my hand answering questions with a shake like an alcoholic on Good Friday from the amount of coffee I drank, to keep me awake since I got up at 4.45am. Upstairs for Lots of discussion lovely people, very fancy canapés which I remind Luc we shouldn’t really be eating after 3 glasses of wine, and needing to fast for our medication (we take the same legal drugs) what says Luc you must be joking I can’t be dealing with that three hours Ramadan twice a day, me and Gilly almost fall over laughing and lots of previously sympathetic to us confused looking Pharma people look on wondering what joke is (sorry you have to be taking the drugs not making them to get our humour) Luckily for Luc, Drug Adherence problems is a special session at ESMO advocacy track so I decide he will have to go. Later after more wine we lose Luc somwhere,hard I know given his size but the wine was free flowing. I am staying with Gilly for the night because even a bed in a hostel will cost more than a weeks wages during ESMO. We have a meal at the stunning Bella Sky it’s attached to the conference center, Gilly is speaking so she gets a room if it’s a double bed I hope she brought ear plugs. We meet Pan From the Anti-cancer fund who joins us for dinner lots more laughs about apricot kernels and smoothies being miraculous we wait up for Bettina then I bail out think I’ve been up 19 hrs at this stage so it’s definitely bed time.
Next morning without prearrangement and in a room of 3999 full chairs I sit on an empty one and realise it’s Pan again sitting next to me more laughing honestly thinking I will be asked to leave this serious event if this keeps up every session. I needn’t have worried cos it was straight into the nitty gritty of cancer treatment and stats these Oncologist’s don’t hang about everything runs on time they are very big on efficacy and efficiency haven’t figured out if that’s same thing yet. Lots of MPNE family about so hugs and happiness when we run into each other still can’t find Luc until later though, he stayed in a very dodgy named hotel not entirely convinced it was legit. So much to see and listen to and so much walking would have liked a Segway to get about could have followed the orange paths and shouted move cancer lady coming through would have made fortune giving spins to daft young women who wore high heels to conference really what were they thinking I’d love another bunion!!
Friday evening met a random Irish guy with totally un-Irish sounding name Pete Wallroth, now there is a guy I could run away with but I’m no cougar and it wasn’t his devilish good looks or his knowledge of hurling (pretty poor) it was his persona if you have never heard of him Google Mummy’s Star but be prepared to be blown away with emotion as we all were after meeting Pete, we went to the bar naturally and laughed at fact they had MURPHY’S of all things on draft in a five star Danish hotel. Could have spent the night talking to Pete but alas we had to part ways but hopefully we will catch up again next time he’s around his hometown of Limerick.
After we leave Pete I have a very strange über experience with Gilly, Iain and Anna-Maria that means we miss our night time meet up with the others later on me and Iain end up in a late night dodgy kebab shop where the Muslim lady on next table is happily smoking a bong, we wonder through the streets of drunken students to find our next über just as phone goes dead, Iain really needs a new phone, so just your average cancer patients night out in a strange country😂
Saturday miss first session I wanted at advocacy track because room is so full they put us in overflow, but forget to explain when they give you headphones that there are four different sessions being shown in there on different settings. I leave before I realise what was wrong already feeling hangry which soon intensified when I get charged equivalent of almost €8 for a miserable chocolate croissant and a titchy size cup of coffee for the 20k plus who attended not as patients probably not a big deal, but for us it is, decide I have to watch out for brown bags with free lunch after some sessions more carefully the sandwich crisps, nuts and water probably work out at a saving of €30 a day for a patient and really we deserve it more we are their main source of data pays to keep us from starvation at a cancer congress would not look well if we start collapsing from low blood sugar and besides every thing else is supposed to be patient centric these days so why not the lunch.
Next session is the biggie well for me it is, so I get there early stake my spot at front, behind the worlds best and then end up talking to Tony Ribas about hair dye (long story) anyway he’s very nice and happy if not a little surprised to also be talking about it I tell him about last time we met and promise no selfies this time. These guys are famous and I think sometimes even the young Oncologist’s can be intimidated to speak to them, but I’m a patient I have no time to waste with will I won’t I, worry, Just Do It.! They are human and like a funny moment like anyone. I don’t pass up my chance and when I go to the microphone and state who I am and that they are discussing the problem I face everyday now when I wake up, I can feel 2500 sets of eyes on my back but it’s ok it’s not as scary as waiting for scan results nothing tops that, not even sky diving as Luc keeps telling me. After the session ends some people shake hands and say thank you for reminding us why we are here well it sure isn’t for the croissants I want to say. It always amazes me that sometimes the patients are forgotten about even though that’s what all this science they discuss is about ultimately. They get so focused on the challenge it’s like tunnel vision. Maybe a Segway tour with megaphone announcement about patients centricity is in order for next time. As I’m going up to intro myself to Mr Lorigan I hear Kay, Kay coming softly from the behind me and lo and behold its my former lovely oncologist from London Paul Nathan so big hugs and kisses again it’s allowed now he’s not my Doc anymore, such a nice guy really glad to see him again after ASCO.
Retire to bar mid afternoon with Luc we are bold but it’s needed this stuff is heavy going and we are not the only ones there. Long conversation follows but that’s private!
That night Dick Plomp ( what a great name and guy) has arranged us all to meet for MPNE drinks in very fancy bar in city but I’m starving after being at a long evening industry symposium with Luc, Fredrik and Eveliina so badly need to eat before drinking. Myself and Eveliina head off in search of food and find a nice restaurant beside the harbour, its full of ESMO people! No escape. Its lovely to get chance to talk a bit more though with each other about our lives and troubles, and have a laugh too think I would like to visit Finland some day we are very similar in outlook on things. We rejoin the others and order a fancy pants drink each lord knows how much it was when you convert but at that stage no one cared.
I head home with my flatmates well all except Iain, no idea how he keeps going, we chat about all sorts and end up late night shopping in a petrol station for breakfast crossiants (cant afford to get caught again) we find a dodgy shortcut to flat after tea its time for bed. I hear Iain at some stage of night arrive in.
Sunday had a early meeting with a Pharma Rep lovely lady that is afraid of steep stairs that’s all I can say about that. After lunch there is lots happening in the Advocates Track meetings they have been really well put together thanks to the Chairperson Bettina, she didn’t stop all weekend hope she gets a well deserved break after this week. She has organised Paul Nathan to speak and when he sees the microphone coming to me to ask a question I think he’s going to laugh. He asks me later did he do Ok, bless him they get nervous too. Too tired and go to lie down for an hour in Gillys room as I am also developing Cankles not good, but view is so stunning I spend hour staring out window at birds mainly. There is an important evening session unfortunately I miss Gilly talk but catch the rest I’m sure she forgives me. I get invited to another pharma Do in city, but I’m not full of energy so retire to the Sky bar on the 23rd floor for some Gin and Coriander of all things nice combo though it works. I’m with most of the Eastern Bloc by the looks of things so it’s time to trash out their voting syndicate in the Eurovision, that got a good laugh apparently no conspiracy to be had just bad entries on our behalf. More late night food purchased with Zryinka and Nikolina which probably counted as dinner that night. It was that or Croatian Tuna paste on rice crackers so I went for the ham and cheese toasty which I ate while walking from bus so the calories don’t count.
Next day I had a big plan the girls were leaving in morning and Iain after another late night uber arrival was also moving to another flat, I was going to drop my bag at conference and go to town for a tour on the Hip Hop bus as the girls called it, but wouldn’t you know it bloody lashing rain, so had to abandon plans and stayed on to catch morning session which was actually really interesting so God works in mysterious ways or so they say.
So after all that I shared a Taxi to airport with Gilly and we went our separate ways her to France me to Cork through some kind of Tardis transfer area in Manchester airport that strangely doesn’t exist on the way to Copenhagen. As I boarded the plane though I got very weepy hoped no one noticed as I sat there blubbering looking out my window seat at the rain and no it wasn’t the rain and lack of visibility I was crying about or the fact I didn’t even get to see the very Little Mermaid, it was the fact it was all over and I was leaving them all again Iain, Luc,Gilly,Bettina Kari-Anne, Martina, Violetta,Imogen,Fredrik, Anne, Hans, Anna-Maria, Pan, the ladies form Eastern Europe the guys from Holland and Belgium, Dr Nathan, Pete my new buddy, and because Melanoma is so bloody Pants you never know if your going to see them again, you dread the time you turn up and one of them isn’t there cos they are no longer there or maybe you are the one not there to meet them ………….xxxxxxx