Alison Goulding: ‘We are not alone on this planet’

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I TRY to keep my inner brat in check, and as the years zoom past I like to think she’s getting quieter.

But sometimes I’ll get cut up by another driver, or run out of money, or find there’re no cheese and onion crisps left in the multi-pack and she’ll spring up, moaning about the injustice, the unfairness of it all.

So it’s a good thing to be reminded that these are piddling, trifling matters and that elsewhere there are people facing vast heartbreak and difficulty, not because they’ve done anything wrong, but simply because life is a pot luck job.

On Saturday I went with two of my favourite friends to a masquerade ball in honour of a lovely little lad called Kyran Richmond.

Now eight, he was born a healthy child but then started having problems with his sight.

Eventually, Kyran was diagnosed with Juvenile Batten Disease – a rare condition that destroys the brain cells.

He now has only 20 per cent vision in one eye and will develop epilepsy, lose the ability to walk, talk, eat and see, before developing dementia and symptoms similar to Parkinsonism.

There is no cure for Battens and his life expectancy is late teens to early twenties.

Kyran lives in Chilton with his parents and two brothers, who are all intent on giving him the best possible life and who fundraise with help from the wider family.

The ball was held at Headlam Hall and we had a brilliant evening. Everyone was dressed to the nines and there were some very alluring masks on show (my flatmate stepped in and lent me a zazzy black ostrich number).

Kyran’s favourite toys are his model dinosaurs and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of them so the decorations all had a dinosaur theme.

The wine was whooshing around, a four-course meal was served and a fire-breathing stilt-walker entertained us.

We then went home to my friend’s house in the countryside for tea and chatting before we wandered off to bed in the wee hours.

The next day, as I pottered about with the horses in the sunshine, I thought about what it means to face that kind of diagnosis.

No matter how positive you are about it, it must be totally crushing. And it’s something that no one is exempt from.

One day we will all have a mountain to climb: tomorrow, next week or years from now.

It might be us or someone we love facing some horrible disease – rare like Kyran’s or all too common, like cancer.

I know in our small party at the ball two ladies had already faced the latter at a young age.

Illness and disease is part of life, even if we (me) don’t want to admit it. Sometimes we get better, and sometimes, sadly, we don’t.

Thankfully we are not alone on this planet, and there are friends, family and even kind strangers, who can make all the difference in the meantime.

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