Firstly, I need to explain what Live Your Life Day is all about.
On the weekend over 30th July, companies across the Hospitality sector in the UK & Europe come together for one very important reason: to raise awareness about blood cancer and how we can combat the disease by increasing the size and potency of the stem cell / bone marrow donor registers.
30th July is the birthday of Beds and Bars People Director Franca Knowles, who sadly passed away in 2014. Franca’s mantra in work, training and life was Live Your Life. To honour Franca, her birthday, her tireless charity work – 30th July has been chosen as Live Your Life Day which is a day to support a charity. Beds and Bars’ chosen charity is Team Margot Foundation.
I worked at Beds and Bars. Franca was a beautiful and positive person who had so much love for life.
On my very first day at work at Beds and Bars, at a company conference in Barcelona, I was introduced to Yaser, one of our Directors, and I met his newborn daughter Margot.
A year later, Margot, at 14 months old, was diagnosed with an extremely rare dual lineage Leukaemia with both Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) & Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). The consultant haematologist had only seen 3 such cases in 10 years.
A worldwide campaign to find a donor began. You can read Margot’s story here.
Margot eventually found a suitable 9/10 HLA donor match and on Friday 21st February 2014, 140 days after first being diagnosed with leukaemia and following three courses of chemotherapy and a week of pre-bone marrow transplant chemotherapy, she received an infusion of bone marrow from a selfless, benevolent and anonymous 22 year old male German donor.
Sadly, Margot passed away on 27th October 2014. Franca passed away 11 days after Margot.
Now you know why Live Your Life Day and Team Margot mean so much to me and why I did the unthinkable (for me) and got into the tiniest plane and was launched from 15,000ft, at 125mph, to the ground.
So how was the jump?
Horrific. I had worked myself up so much that I cried before I got to the airfield. I cried during the briefing. Cried some more when they fitted me with the harness and cried on take off. I was a mess.
I go on holiday. I accept that, in order to see the world, I need to face my fear of flying and get on a plane. It’s fair to say that I’m not a good traveller.
But, with so many awesome people doing great things to raise money for brilliant charities, I needed to do something extreme to encourage people to do one of two things:
- Join the bone marrow / stem cell register, swab and potentially save a life
Without telling anyone, not even my family, I signed up with Go Sky Dive for a 10,000ft tandem jump. Why did I chose Go Sky Dive? My friend, Laura, is the Customer Experience Manager there and I thought a friendly face along the way would help me through it.
Upon reflection, and a vast amount of this reflection included thoughts like “WTF have you done?!” I started to think that 10,000ft wasn’t going to be high enough. Clearly, I wasn’t thinking even remotely logically, but hey, that’s how my mind works. So I upgraded to the highest possible. 15,000ft.
The day before the jump, hubby and I trekked down to Salisbury and checked into the B&B that I had booked us into. According to the booking engine, it was a pub with rooms; B&B, had an on site restaurant and was £70 for the night. On arrival, it was a traditional spit & sawdust pub, no restaurant, had a bed that sank in the middle (hubby and I slept nose to nose) and the rooms had a shared bathroom. It was, however, only £35. We went out for dinner. the first place we tried had kitchen woes and were not serving food. We headed next door, ordered and took a seat. A quick trip to the loos involved navigating the sea of sick on the floor, had no hand-soap and dryers that didn’t work. Food arrived. It was stone cold. Comp cocktails were offered. I’m sure they were made with Kia-ora. We headed back to our room.
On the day of the jump, we headed downstairs for breakfast and the place wasn’t open. Not a soul around. We decided to head up to the airfield.
I checked in with Go Sky Dive at 9am. I filled out some medical questionnaires and a disclosure. I didn’t read them. I knew what I was signing away.
I was weighed. A shocker. The heaviest I’ve ever been at 12 stone. That will change!
At 9.15am I was invited into the induction room where the most inspirational, and funny, briefing took place. We were asked if anyone feared heights or were raising money for charity and I raised my hand. I was asked to share who I was jumping for. I did and I cried.
I then played the waiting game until I was called for kitting up. We had some delays, due to cloud, and I distracted myself with Periscope and a video.
I was supported, encouraged and received awesome donations whilst I was waiting to be called. Thank you to each and every single one of you. You have no idea just how much each tweet, FB message, text and donation means to me.
5.5hrs after I arrived, “Would Flight #9 please come to the white tent for kitting up.”
WOW! (not the word I used, but more suitable for public viewing). I’m actually going to be doing this.
It’s no beauty contest.
I’m now being recorded. Time to find my game face.
I was interviewed, met my instructor, had my harness checked, told Mark I loved him (and where the passwords were to everything….just in case). Then we were off. It all happened so quickly.
This is what happened next.
I have so much love for the team at Go Sky Dive. Laura arranged for hubby to be there at the landing drop and I was so pleased to see Mark there. I sobbed my heart out.
I was a mess.
I did another video.
We were due to head to the Kings Head, Hursley (who have donated an awesome prize to my raffle) for lunch. I couldn’t. I was a complete mess. I am so gutted to have not seen Mark, Penny and the team; to say thank you for their generosity. To have a well earned pint.
We drove home and I kept bursting into tears. I was totally deaf in my left hear, partially deaf in my right. I was told to expect this but nothing really prepares you for not being able to hear. I am used to having acute bat ears. I couldn’t hear properly; the telly, Mark, the cats, the noise of the road. It was alien and I didn’t like it.
I had so many emotions all coming through at a gazillion miles per hour. So many questions: Was it amazing? What was I thinking? Did I enjoy it? Was it exhilarating? Was it life defining? Did I want to do it all again? Was it worth it?
I tried to do the online shop. Find some normality. All I can say, based on what arrived today, is never do an online shop after a skydive. I have more lemons than I can shake a stick at and more dishwasher tablets than I would probably use in a year.
24 hours on and I have the answers to my questions. It was god awful. But worth every agonising second. I faced my fears, yet I still have them. I feel sick at the thought of what I did on Saturday. I know it was an achievement. I really do get that. I am in shock at the thought that I actually did it but I had to do something extreme to prove to everyone who has donated, and is still to donate, just how serious I am am about these charities.
Would I do it again?? Absolutely not. It cannot be beaten. Unless you’re this guy.
What can be beaten, is the the number of people currently on the stem cell register.
Finding out more about how to register as a potential blood stem cell donor is quick and easy. Just click on this link to see how you could help. Please, register, swab and save a life.
If you can spare a penny, or a pound, please donate here.
Next up for me is a 10k race, a half marathon and a fire walk. I am not prepared for what any of these events will hold for me but, what I do know, the more extreme I get, the more chance I have of encouraging “just one more” to sign up, register, swab and a save a life.
For me, every extreme, personally challenging, event will be worth it if I can help to make a difference.
Thank you x
In Memory of Margot.