I haven’t written a blog post in over 3 months. My blog posts are usually written based on something that’s happened to me, or that I feel incredibly strongly and passionately about. If I try and write half-heartedly it doesn’t work. The words don’t flow and it doesn’t have the same impact on the reader. I’ve deliberated for ages over this post, but thought it was time I got it out.
At the beginning of January I found out a close friend of mine got cancer. This is the second time she’d got it within a couple of years and the doctors can’t operate. The moment someone tells you they’ve got cancer is such a bizarre moment. You’re immediately upset, devastated. You want to cry. But then you think, wait that’s pretty selfish, they don’t want to see me crying (I can confirm it’s not a pretty sight). So instead you try and be hard and strong, but then you’re worried that they might think that you don’t care that they’ve got cancer, that you’re like ‘oh that sucks’ and then just move on with your life. It’s a confusing and horrible moment and I hope you don’t have to go through it (although statistically most of you already have).
The day we found out, I cried a lot. Then I got angry. Then upset again. It kind of went on like that for a few days. Then I decided I needed something positive to focus on if I was going to be any use as a friend. Something that would help my friend focus on something other than cancer. I wanted to do something horrible to myself. Wait, that sounds wrong. I mean having cancer and going through chemotherapy is horrible. More horrible than you or I could ever imagine. With that in mind, I wanted to raise money and awareness for Heartburn Cancer UK, a charity in which my friend was an advocate for and which also helps raise awareness for heartburn as a symptom for cancer. So myself and a couple of close friends decided we would take part in Tough Mudder, a physical challenge of 12 miles and 14 obstacles, including mud & ice baths, being electrocuted and tear gassed whilst running ALOT. Some people love these sorts of challenges, but I struggle with exercise so I thought it would be a personal challenge to train for this alongside my friend going through chemo and hopefully get to give something back to a charity that does a lot for patients just like my friend.
We’re over halfway through the training now and it’s been hard. Not only physically but also emotionally. I’m not doing this to get fit, or lose weight or even really raise money for charity. All those things are an added bonus. I’m doing this to support my friend, to show her that I value her life. To show her that I don’t want her to suffer in vain, or die from this fucking stupid disease. Every time I run and my lungs feel like they’re going to burst, when my legs are sore and tired, when I push myself so much I feel like I’m going to throw up, I know that I’ll recover. But my friend is going through all these symptoms and more, having to deal with her children asking her daily if mummy is going to die, having to be honest with them and keeping a positive outlook but knowing the whole time that her future is uncertain and she has to prepare herself for the worst. Having to be strong for them and everyone else, not letting the world see her tears, because if she falters what will everyone else do?
People often don’t know what to say to someone who has got cancer. ‘Get well soon’ doesn’t really cut it. ‘I’m so sorry to hear that’ seems empty. Nothing you have to say will make that person feel better. There are no comfort in words or phrases or shitty sympathy cards. There is however a great website which I was put onto by a friend called ‘not another bunch of flowers’ designed by a cancer patient, which has an awesome array of quotes on cards. My favourite is: ‘I know #fuckcancer doesn’t help you get through it. I’m here anytime you need me’. Another good one is : ‘I’m so sorry you’re sick, I want you to know I will never try and sell you on some random treatment I read about on the internet’. I think that is something that annoys me the most. Cancer is a destructive cell disease and believe me, if fucking vitamin C injections or positive vibes worked, the government would be selling them by the lorry-load. Operations to cut out the cancer and/or chemo/radiotherapy are our best options in this country, without making ourselves bankrupt. There are stories of cancer patients selling everything from the house they own, to the clothes on their backs to afford holistic therapies and then dying of cancer anyway. These suggestions are not helpful and believe me, if there’s an article about cancer on the internet, a cancer patient will have read it. They spend many hours sitting, thinking, googling things they shouldn’t on hundreds of websites and forums trying to find a glimmer of hope that perhaps might save them –wouldn’t you?
What I have learned if anything through this, is to try and be a good friend. They know when someone is genuinely trying, even if we get it wrong. Be intuitive as to what that person might need, not what you think you would want in that situation. Remember you’ve never had cancer and no, it’s not the same as when you had that operation and you were bed-bound for two months. It is not the same as being sick or having flu. Because you get better. A cancer patient’s future is so uncertain. Waking up everyday knowing that there is a possibility that you might not see your children grow up or that you can’t make any plans because you don’t know how crappy you’ll feel after chemo or if you’ll even be around for your friend’s wedding in two years. There is no escape from those dark thoughts. But positive distractions and things to look forward to on a day to day basis does help. Most days I feel guilty because I get to have a ‘normal’ life and I don’t have to live and breathe cancer 24/7. It’s stupid, but I can’t help it.
The other thing it’s taught me is how awesome and generous and selfless a person can be. Not only people who want to help by donating their money or time to just show that they care. Even absolute strangers have shown their support, it’s incredible how someone’s story can have an effect on someone on the other side of the world. But more importantly I’m so overwhelmingly proud of my friend for being an absolute rock through all of this. I cannot count the amount of times she has checked on MY welfare, remembered the little things and wished me luck for whatever insignificant activity I was embarking on that day. Seriously, this girl is fighting death with every breath she takes yet still finds the time to think of others at every possible moment. I count myself so lucky to have her in my life and I just want to dedicate this to her, as she is such an inspiration to many and I wanted to share that with the world.