My sixth JC column runs next week. I had always planned it as an appeal for the CTRT fund - my original arrangement was just to do six columns for the Jewish Chronicle, culminating with a direct appeal. But then they asked me to do more than six, so, for the moment I've said ok, (although I am starting to wonder if I am strong enough any more to keep to deadlines).
But I decided this sixth column should be an appeal anyhow, and wrote it earlier this week knowing I was heading for a crash and better get all work out of the way. Here's what I wrote:
Hi. Me again. Originally I just said I’d do a few of these columns and then curl back up in Hendon. But guess what happened?
Turns out I’m so good, the paper can’t manage without me. Well, that’s what the new(ish) chap said anyhow. Did you know a new guy’s been running this paper for some time now? Can’t use his name, he’s far too modest, wouldn’t even allow his own journalists to put him at number eleven in the JC Top 100 list. (How terrible for his mother, my mother-in-law said, sighing. What kind of a son does that to the family? And then, slowly, it dawned on her. She was making her way up the list to the very top, you know, the number one spot where she was expecting to find her own son. And then she realised just what kind of new editor we are dealing with. Like it’s not bad enough that he’s depriving his own mother of some well-deserved satisfaction, what does this ingrate do – he goes and lavishes that same blanket modesty over my mother-in-law’s son. Who gave him the right? She wants to know.)
So anyhow here I am again. I didn’t say yes straightaway, even though his opening offer was “anything that you want, Dina, just to save the paper” or words to that effect anyhow. Like, uh, no pay rise, no change in basic conditions whatsoever. Naturally, a little bit more negotiating – aw please, I said, can’t I just have a decent picture of myself to go with the column – which produced some hearty chortling I can tell you, and graciously I consented to, basically, rescue the JC. My mother-in-law thinks I could have held out until the issue in which they name her son as the JC Power One, but I explained to her that up here – at the top, you know – stuff just doesn’t work like that. It’s all a bit more subtle in the stratosphere, I said kindly. Hmph, my mother-in-law said.
I explained stuff to the new editor softly too; yes, he can draft me in to attract zillions of new readers, but I’m afraid he’s lost my mother-in-law’s subscription forever. And of course, none of the rest of the family will be buying the paper anymore, since that unfortunate bit of excess modesty by the new chap on my husband’s behalf.
In essence then, I’ll be writing here, but nobody related to me will be reading it. Which is a marvellously liberating sensation actually.
And so to business. I’m raising money. Is there any other kind of business? The money is to help build a cancer trials unit at Mount Vernon cancer hospital in North London. The unit will cost one million pounds. The girls at my children’s school, Hasmonean, have put on fashion shows and walked many miles to add to the coffers. The lawyers at my husband’s practice went on bicycles – some for the first time in fifteen years. A friend is running 500 miles. My husband’s brother handed out bonuses at his bank with one hand, simultaneously sliding the details of the appeal into the eager recipients’ other hands.
And still we are only about a third of the way to the total amount. I don’t want to run a marathon – I’m not sure I could at the moment anyhow – so I write instead. I wrote this book, Take Off Your Party Dress (Pocket Books £7.99) the proceeds of which go to the appeal. I write this blog, Take Off Your Running Shoes, and I told my readers that each of them should give a pound a week for a year to the appeal, £52 each.
And I appealed to the readers of my Guardian columns, who responded instantly and magnificently. But still we are not there yet.
When you want serious money you come to the people who already give. It’s the ones who write cheques every month, every year, who will continue to write cheques. It’s you – the Jewish community.
There is a plague of cancer out there – breast cancer is stalking our women and our daughters – and the cure is out there too somewhere. But we haven’t found it yet. Cancer trials are a route to the cure. The research done in this country is increasingly respected. Why? Because, thanks to the NHS, everybody, from whatever class, gets treated in this country, so the results from trials done here are valuable, in comparison to results from other countries monitoring only those bits of the population that can afford expensive cancer drugs.
Last week a social worker from a hospice came to visit me, and said: “Do you think much about dying?”
These are the reasons I’m asking you to donate to the CTRT appeal. Because you are my people, and you are the ones who give already. And because I am too young for somebody to be asking me whether I think a lot about dying.
You can donate online at www.justgiving.com/dinaspage or by post to CTRT Appeal, The Clocktower, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood, HA6 2RN.
But then I get home from hospital on Friday to be told that the JC editor won't let the column run as written - the space is for think-pieces and this one is too self-referential. Well, I get that....but we argue it back and forth, while I hurriedly write another column for the space (deadlines don't know about illness), and then finally, he says: "OK, when you reach £50,000, then you can run a direct appeal in your slot." So, that's the challenge. Editors...they're just so, uh, bracing, aren't they?