There we were in line at one of those silly sci-fi and comic book conventions, waiting to meet and have a picture taken with Benedict Cumberbatch. My friend Kathy was a much bigger fan of his than I was. Sure I'd seen him in Star Trek and Sherlock; he was OK, but my first pick was Tom Hiddleston. Incidentally the two actors are good friends. I was only here because she was my friend and really wanted to go and no one else could go with her. She didn't want to go alone, so that's how I got there. We'd been waiting in line for forty minutes and were finally only five away from the front and having our picture taken with him. We'd been talking the whole time because she was so excited that she was giggly like a teenage girl and couldn't contain her chatter. Her excitement was contagious, but I was growing tired. I'd had balloon sinus surgery just three days before and was still experiencing some side effects.
Finally she was number three and I was number four in line. That was when my nose chose to start bleeding. One of the lovely side effects I still had. While I was trying to squeeze my nostrils to stop the flow, I began digging through my pockets for the tissue I thought was in one of them. Shit! Where did it go? I asked Kathy if she had anything. She dug around in her purse quickly only to discover she apologetically did not. It turned into a real gusher; both nostrils. I now had blood running between my fingers and down the back of my hand. I had no choice but to get out of line and try to find someone who could help. I knew there had to be a first aid center around somewhere. It was also just my luck that as I stepped out of line to approach a security guard several feet away from Benedict, he happened to look up away from the camera. I was close enough to hear him gasp as he quickly came over to help me. I was almost to the security guard when he intervened with a handkerchief in his hand saying, "Here you are, Miss."
I stopped quickly and turned toward him. I gratefully took the handkerchief he offered me and put it over my bleeding nose. I wasn't fast enough to avoid him seeing the blood running out of my nose and over my lips. I could see a look of shock pass through his eyes as he asked, "What in the world happened to you?"
I managed to reply that I'd had sinus surgery a couple of days before and still had nose bleeds occasionally. He then put his arm around me and guided me over to a chair where I could sit down. He told me to stay right there, he was going to go take a few more pictures and then be back to check on me. I was flattered by his attention, but I tried to focus on getting my nose to stop bleeding.
He came back in less than ten minutes. My nose still hadn't quit bleeding. He took the cloth from my face and wiped the blood off while he examined it carefully. "Oh my! I think you're going to need a professional to take a look at that. It really should have stopped by now. It's not as bad, but it clearly hasn't quit and this cloth is nearly soaked. Let's find someone to take you to first aid, sweetheart."
My friend Kathy then rushed over to us. The security guard moved to stop her when she called out, "She's my friend! We're together and I need to see if she's OK!"
Benedict turned to her and the guard and said, "It's OK, let her through."
Kathy rushed up to me and asked if I was all right. I replied, "My nose won't stop bleeding this time."
Benedict got up and told the security guard what was going on and he radioed the first aid center to have someone come over and check me. He came back to us and kneeled down in front of me to say, "Someone will be here soon to help you. I just realized I forgot to ask your name Darling."
I looked into his beautiful blue-gold eyes and replied, "Annie. My name is Annie."
He smiled. Oh dear god in heaven! He had a beautiful smile! "A nickname for Anne?" he asked.
"No, it's literally Annie. I was named after my paternal great-grandmother who died of cancer when my grandfather was just a little boy."
"Oh, OK. Well, Annie, I'm Benedict Cumberbatch, but you probably already knew that. Please feel free to call me Ben; most people do."
One of the first aid staff, who happened to be a paramedic, had arrived. Ben moved out of the way and I could hear him chatting with Kathy who introduced herself. The paramedic decided to take me over to the first aid center. Ben said to stay there for another half hour and he'd come check on me when he was done. I walked with the paramedic and Kathy to the first aid center; I was feeling a little dizzy and definitely wanted to lie down and rest. When we got there, I was directed to a cot to lie down while he got an ice pack to place on the bridge of my nose. Kathy sat on a chair next to me and chattered the whole time. I really adored her, but her excited chatter could get annoying. At least it kept me awake and distracted from the monster headache I was getting.
Ben came to the first aid center to check on me like he had said he would. My nose had finally quit bleeding and I'd been able to get cleaned up. He was relieved to see I was ok. He gave me another one of his megawatt smiles and said, "You're far more beautiful without blood running down your face."
I laughed and said, "I imagine that will ruin anyone's looks."
"I have a couple of hours to kill before an interview. Would you ladies like to come back to the lounge with me and maybe get something to eat?"
Kathy stifled a squeal, but still made a slight squeaking sound and quickly agreed. I agreed as well. He took my hand to lead the way. Once we got outside the first aid center, we were joined by a small group of security guards to escort us to our destination. He drew me closer to him as we had to walk through a throng of fans; he even took Kathy's hand and pulled her closer as well. We finally arrived at the door to take us into the heart of building and away from the loud convention and throngs of fans. He released Kathy's hand, but kept holding mine and stayed close to me. We finally arrived at the lounge area where trays of sandwiches, mixed salad, fruit and raw veggies were just being placed on a table. Ben and Kathy helped themselves to the food, but I just took a bottle of water. I explained that such a severe nose bleed had left me feeling a bit nauseous with no appetite.
While they ate, Ben asked me about the sinus surgery I had. "I don't know if that's a good topic of conversation while you're eating," I replied.
"You don't have to go into gory detail; just give me the general idea."
I explained that I'd had sinus problems for years and it got so bad that I was having a lot of sinus and ear infections as well as nasty headaches. Then I described the balloon sinus procedure that opened my sinuses the way they're supposed to be in as general terms as I could manage.
"You managed to explain it effectively without grossing me out. Did it solve all of your problems?"
"It's hard to tell at this point. All of the pain and pressure I'd had for years is gone now and I can breathe better. I've been told I stopped snoring too. Unfortunately it did nothing to rid me of the headaches so I'm seeing a neurologist about that. I had an MRI yesterday, before I left and am still waiting for the results."
We then went on to different topics and talked for quite a while. I finally ate a sandwich and some fruit. Our conversation was interrupted when my phone started ringing. I picked it up and looked at the caller ID. It was my neurologist's office. "I have to take this call, please excuse me," I said as I answered the phone.
There was a door on the far side of the room marked "restroom" so I went in there so I wouldn't disturb anyone. I could faintly here them talking while I talked to my doctor who had called me personally to give me the results of my MRI. He didn't want to tell me on the phone; he wanted me to come into the office the next day. I told him that would be difficult since I was in another state right now. He reluctantly gave me the bad news over the phone after I insisted he just tell me. It was a brain tumor and judging by my blood work, malignant. I had cancer in my brain.
I walked slowly back into the room and sat on the sofa next to Ben. He immediately took my hand and turned my face gently toward him, "Annie, are you all right? Who was that on the phone?"
I was fighting not to cry and finally stammered out, "It...Was my doctor...the neurologist. He called about my MRI results..."
"That is not the face of someone who received good news. What did he say?"
I took a few deep breaths. I was trying not to cry or scream. I felt a mad rush of panic threatening to bubble to the surface. I turned away from him, but let him continue to hold my hand.
"How am I ever going to tell my Mother? She's...she's not going to take this well."
"Tell her what, sweetheart?" Ben asked softly.
I turned to him with the tears that had been threatening to emerge finally spilling over my lower eyelids. I could feel my bottom lip trembling and I knew my voice would do the same, but I managed to say, "It's a tumor. I have brain cancer."
His eyes registered shock and I couldn't hold back the tears anymore and began to sob. He pulled me into his embrace and let me cry on his shoulder. He stroked my back while I cried and held me tight. After a while, the tears subsided and he ventured to ask what the doctor planned to do about it. I said he was referring me to a neurosurgeon who frequently removed brain tumors. Someone then appeared in the room and told Ben he had fifteen minutes before his interview. He thanked them and then asked us what hotel we were staying at. I told him and he replied, "What a coincidence, so am I. How did you ladies get here?"
"We took a taxi because she flew in while I took a bus and neither of us knows our way around," Kathy volunteered.
"I'm going to send for a car to take you ladies back to your hotel and I'll see you this evening when I'm done."
Kathy looked embarrassed because she had tickets to an event she really wanted to attend that started in less than half an hour. I spoke up and told her to go on it, I'd be fine alone. I really wanted to go back to the hotel and figure out what I needed to do. She looked very unsure and concerned about me, but I insisted she go back and enjoy the rest of the convention. I'd never be able to live with myself if I ruined this event for both of us. I was kicking myself for saying anything at all, but it was such a shock that I couldn't hide it very well.
"Are you sure you'll be OK alone?" she asked.
"I'll be fine. I would actually like some time to be alone so I can process this...diagnosis. Please go and have fun; I feel bad enough about getting this news now when were supposed to have a fun weekend. I'll get this sorted out and we'll still have fun tomorrow and Saturday."
She looked a bit skeptical, but I insisted that she go on and enjoy herself. She gave me a hug and got up to leave. There was a security guard waiting outside the door who gave her directions to the nearest exit into the main part of the convention center.
Ben asked me if I was sure I would be OK alone for a few hours. I told him I felt like I needed to be for a bit. "Well...all right, but I want to have dinner with you. Do you think your friend will be mad if it's just you and I?"
"I'm not expecting her to be back until late. She has other events after that she wanted to attend. She is more into being here than I am. I just came along to be a supportive friend."
"In that case, I'll see you around six for dinner. I don't know the area so we'll probably just eat at the restaurant in the hotel, if that's all right with you."
"Yes that will be fine," I replied.
He took out his phone and asked me for my number. He programmed it in and said he'd call or text me before he came to my room that evening to get me. He then kissed me on the forehead and went to the security guard, just outside the door, who summoned his assistant. They both told me to follow them out. I went with his assistant who was calling a car to take me to the hotel, while Ben turned the opposite direction to go to his interview.
Ben's Hotel Suite
Ben's Hotel Suite