“I woke up. Or at least I think I did.”
Hold on. I’ve used that line before! (Chapter 31, for those who haven’t read it yet. And why not?!). After a concoction of humming sounds and jet lag, sleep evaded me once more. I went straight down to reception, asked for a new room and immediately got moved to the 7th floor. In a different part of the hotel. Bliss.
Even though I had barely slept, I was hyped about what lie in store that morning: whale watching. I met with Bella and Paula at reception and they were just as excited as I was. We climbed into the rather snug minibus and twenty minutes later we were at our destination. It was beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to get out into the ocean.
‘We’re going to need a bigger boat’
With everyone on board, we set sail sail for the middle of the ocean, everyone on the look out for whales. As we skipped across the waves, I looked back and all around me. I couldn’t quite believe I was here, and I don’t think anyone else could either.
Five minutes into our journey, out boat started to slow down and suddenly came to a stop. Had we found whales? Our guide told us to look to our right and there, stretched out across the rocks, was a seal, basking in the morning sun. Everyone dashed to the side of the boat to get a picture. I was grateful for my zoom lens.
Photos taken, we were off again and it didn’t take long until I heard the first gasp of “Look! Whales!”. We all dashed to the other side of the boat and there they were, swimming with upmost majesty. For a moment I forgot I had a camera and simply gazed in awe at these incredible creatures. Then I remembers I had a camera and quickly started snapping pictures, not sure if we would get to see them again. We’d been told that more than 30 Orcas had been spotted on previous trips that week. We all hoped we’d be just as lucky.
And lucky we were. Deeper into the ocean and we got to see more whales, sometimes swimming in threes. I put my camera on to Video mode and started filming. However it soon became apparent that watching the sea through a viewfinder on a rocking boat was not the best thing for the stomach, and I started to feel ill. I needed to sit down, and looking for water, made my way inside.
Sitting inside was possibly an even bigger mistake. The rocking of the boat as it quietly waited for Orcas seemed to be magnified whilst inside, and I soon realised that being outside was easier on the stomach. I asked our guide if she had any sea-sick tablets. She grabbed a bag of ginger sweets. Really? I popped one in my mouth. Five minutes later I felt a whole load better.
It was soon time to head back to shore. As I sat in the breeze, a lady emerged from inside, looking like I had felt fifteen minutes early. She came and sat next to me and I asked if she was OK. She said she was feeling a little sick and so I called our guide over and asked for another ginger sweet. Even though she hated ginger, her survival instincts kicked in and she popped the sweet in her mouth.
I asked if she was on holiday and she told me that she was here visiting her son and girlfriend who had moved over to Canada a few years earlier. I looked at them, deeply in love, and they smiled and waved at me. I smiled back and wondered if I could grab another ginger sweet.
“And why are you here?” she asked. I explained that I had won a scholarship for an Acromegaly conference and was here to meet others with the condition. And so we spent fifteen minutes talking about Acromegaly, Wyburn-Mason syndrome and – of course – the book. She seemed genuinely interested and, feeling much better, I nipped inside to grab a flyer and gave it to her before we disembarked. I never miss an opportunity.
Getting Together/Falling Apart
Back on dry land, it was time to get ready for the ‘meet and greet’ that evening. I made way down to the bar having picked up my name badge and conference pack and slowly made my way around the room, people coming up to me and asking who I was. It was great to be able to tell them why I was there.
Slightly tipsy, I suggested to Deanna (the organiser) that we do a Facebook Live interview, a quick five minutes to talk about the aims of the conference. Live streaming always goes down well, and this was no exception.
That evening I spoke to patients, advocates, partners and more. I had a long chat with Kate Devanny who helps run Patient Worthy, a website dedicated to sharing stories of rare conditions. And I also got to meet J D Faccinetti who manages the Pituitary World News website. He immediately recognised me: I had written an article for him about my conditions just after the book was published.
It was a great start to the conference. By 10pm I was done. I’d had a few glasses of wine and was feeling tired, so I made my way to my room.
Five minutes later my nose started to bleed.
‘What the hell?’ I said to myself. I hadn’t had a bleed in a while and – thankfully – it stopped twenty minutes later. I put it down to the sea air and got into bed, hoping for a good night’s sleep so I was bright and breezy for the first day of the conference.