" Well," said the doctor, "there is good news and bad news. Which would you like first?" Opting for the bad - it's always reassuring to know that there is something else to soften the blow - I waited. Almost imperceptibly, she hesitated. "The bad news is that you have leukaemia. The good news is you have a 50-50 chance of living beyond the next few days."
The above comes from a newspaper article from the 2nd November 2004 TWELVE YEARS AFTER nineteen year old Emma Bowes Romanelli was given her good and bad news by a doctor in Stoke Mandevile Hospital ! This and the following article accompanied the release of Emma's book - a truly remarkable story !
'This week sees the publication of Bowes Romanelli's book, Between Angels & Demons, a moving and unexpectedly funny account of her battle against leukaemia and her determination to take up her place at Oxford, halfway through her chemotherapy treatment.'
'The former broadcaster Jimmy Savile, an active supporter of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, took the captivating teenager under his wing, organising days out for her and introducing her to the Duchess of York. Both became friends: the Duchess sent a basket of flowers to her wedding in 1995, Savile was a regular visitor to her family home, and Between Angels & Demons contains contributions from them.
"The great thing about Jimmy was that he introduced me to the idea of living with cancer, rather than dying from it. We had such a special rapport, and still do."
I have only very recently come across Emma's story via the Telegraph article. I have not seen ANY reference to this lady anywhere since October 2012. I found out why when I read her book. She writes with genuine warmth and admiration for the man she often simply refers to as 'Jim' !
Emma was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) a cancer of the immune system. Her condition was not rare but the fact that she got it 12 years after most children contract it made her chances of survival almost NIL ! Three weeks after being admitted to Ward 1X of Stoke Mandeville Hospital whilst enduring treatment that caused her to feel as though her body had been 'turned inside out' she made her first acquaintance with 'Mr Fix it' !
Jimmy was held in great esteem by the staff and patients alike at SMH so much so that, whilst other visitors to Emma were made to wear special protective garments by way of infection control, he was not !
The visit was a special one - it was just for Emma
The visit caused a good deal of excitement for the nursing staff too, who were 'eager' to witness the youngsters reaction ! It would not be the last !
After that first visit Jimmy left Emma his private phone number with a nurse which 'although scrawled haphazardly on an unassuming scrap of paper, the number was clearly worth more than it's weight in gold if the sense of ceremony and "cat that got the cream ishness with which it was purveyed to my hospital bedside that morning had been anything to go by'
Emma called Jimmy who told her that he had a 'job' for her at the hospital, is she felt well enough. This immediately appealed to her as a way of giving something back 'for the privilege of being alive' despite all her suffering. Jimmy had led her to believe that she would be helping surprise a young paraplegic woman in another part of the hospital. Instead, the Duchess of York appeared as a surprise for HER !
Thereafter followed other surprises including a seat near the Duchess at the World Wheelchair Olympic Games, an event that had been established at Stoke Mandeville decades before ! Emma had already met another inspirational man in the shape of Dr Michael Rogers who became disabled at the age of 23 as a result of a virus which left him paralyzed from the kneck down and only able to control his wheelchair with his chin. Emma referred to Michael her and Jimmy as 'the three muskateers' such was their bond !
Emma is a devout christian 'God is my friend' she says early in her book. She describes one night when she was rushed back to hospital after a short period at home 'bourne on angels' wings my astonishing mother flew through the night'. Her 'demons' were not just the cells that were attacking her blood but the 'poisonous syringe' that caused her so much agony and pain. Her agonies were not merely physical either as one side effect of the drugs she had to endure was what is known as 'steroid psychosis' episodes of which saw her behaviour become uncontrollable.
Emma took on her 'demons' and won. She got to Oxford University just a year after her diagnosis. The same year she met her husband to be and, eleven years later she wrote her book, I know no more about her post 2004 but here's what Jimmy had to say about her the same year
It is ironic that the same year Sir Jimmy met Emma, Valerie Sinason was, she says talking to a woman making claims about Satanic abuse in Stoke Mandeville Hospital !
Our Angel will trump your demon every time !
Emma donated 'a very significant' percentage of the proceeds of her book to the Teenage Cancer Trust - Thank you Angel !