Breast cancer lesson number 96: Happiness is a journey, not a destination

The title of this blog post is actually one of my favourite quotations. Last year I organised for it to be printed onto a sign for the living room to remind me of that fact every day. The reason? I think we often spend too much time wishing our lives away and not enough time enjoying the moment. A lot of the time, the destination doesn’t quite live up to expectations or the excitement experienced on the journey. I believe that if you enjoy the journey, you’re less likely to demand as much of the destination – and are therefore more likely to enjoy it. That’s my logic and I’m sticking to it!

I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment of Friday (which included four separate journeys and a destination that was also a journey if you can get your head around that!). I enjoyed the leisurely lie-in, the tea in bed, laughing on the tube with Duncan, the band playing as we arrived at the Orient Express check-in in the Victoria and the best cup of tea in a paper cup I have ever had as we waited for our train. I enjoyed the Audrey carriage with its colourful past (it used to be part of the Brighton Belle train, was once damaged in a bombing raid and has stunning landscape scenes on its wooden panels). I loved the five-course meal (including enough cheese to feed a small nation), the banter with the team on board and actually being in photos. I even enjoyed the drive on the M25 to the Cotswolds for the weekend after it was all over. I enjoyed the details and nothing else mattered.

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One of my favourite moments, however, is perhaps not what you’d expect. I will never forget the faces of the commuters on every platform we passed. The train, with its beauty and elegance was an unexpected element in their day. With wide-eyed children pointing, commuters staring in wonder and workmen stopping to wave, the train brought with it as many unexpected smiles as it did happy and well-fed passengers. I was happy to be on board, but happier seeing the mark it left on every platform.

In lesson 95, I challenged myself to get in front of the camera and take part in the memories as they are being frozen in time. I am delighted to report that I rose to the challenge, and dragged Duncan along for the ride too. I look back at each and every one of these and smile. It really was an amazing experience.

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If you’re interested in the Orient Express, you’ll be interested to know that we went on the British Pullman on a four-hour round trip from London Victoria. Each of its 10 carriages, described as ‘palaces on wheels’ has a different personality. Audrey is one of the smaller carriages, meaning we were virtually guaranteed an intimate table for two and a big picture window. I can also confirm that the gooseberry trifle was delicious and Duncan did sample one of every cheese on the cheeseboard (and earned the respect of the waiter in doing so).

This memory wouldn’t have been possible without the kindness of the wonderful Willow Foundation and my lovely breast cancer nurse. The Willow Foundation was set up by former Arsenalgoalkeeper and TV presenter, Bob Wilson and his wife Megs, as a lasting memorial to their daughter, Anna, who died of cancer aged 31.They wanted to give 16- to 40-year-olds the chance to escape a serious illness by enjoying a special day out. And, since 1999, they’ve been doing just that. I, along with the many young women diagnosed with breast cancer every year, will be forever grateful.

My nurse recommended them to me and helped me with the application form and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough to you. If you are based in the UK and are eligible, I would encourage you to apply today! Click here for more details and to find out how you can support this amazing organisation. 

Thank you Willow and thank you Orient Express for gifting me a day when I enjoyed both the journey and the destination. It is a day I will never forget.

PS: A lovely lady called Tric reblogged one of my earlier posts: ‘what you lose I dignity, you gain in confidence’ at the weekend on her own blog My thoughts on a page. It remains one of my favourite posts, so click here if you want a second look. Thanks Tric.

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