Sunday, 17 March 2013

Tears and Laughter

In 2008/9, as I was going through treatment, I met and formed close bonds with a group of women going through the same thing at the same time. We'd 'meet' online most days to support each other and work through the complexities of what was happening.  Four years later the group is as strong as it ever was and we are still in regular contact.

For a while, things have been a bit difficult again.  A number of us have been, and still are, dealing with  cancer-related health issues and there have been other trials and tribulations.  Some of us have lost more friends and colleagues to this disease recently and the scares have been coming thick and fast.  At the same time, we have now picked up our regular lives with work and family commitments plus all the fun things in life.

A few weeks ago that sparked a thoughtful discussion about our feelings.  One minute we may be mourning someone we'd come to care for and know well, while the next we are sharing details of happy days out or a meal with friends.  Reconciling the paradox without feeling guilty isn't always easy but, especially when the person we mourn was someone with a great zest for life, enjoying the fun things in our own lives seems a fitting way of honouring them.

I have been reminded of that discussion this weekend as I met, at an historical market, another group of friends who have supported me.  In years gone by one of the people I'd have seen there was Gerry; this time was the final selling of his remaining stock. Although I shed a few tears I also laughed and smiled as we recalled some of the fun times we'd all had at events.  Gerry was certainly one of those people who had a great zest for life.

Of course, this situation is not restricted to those of us who are living with and/or beyond a potentially life-threatening illness.  Joy and tragedy live side by side for most people at some point.  However, for those of us here in the Land of New Normal the contrast can be that bit sharper.  We know that life is precious and most of us have resolved to live it to the full, so our pleasures and relationships can be a bit more exhilarating and special. We have formed close bonds with others in a similar situation, so when we are concerned for them we tend to be very concerned indeed; and when we lose one of them, the loss hits us hard.

It feels important to acknowledge this and be honest about our feelings, which does happen in that group of us who first came together online in 2008/9.  When one person is happy and enjoying life, the rest are happy for her.  When someone is concerned, frightened or sad, the others are there to assure her of our love and support. And we can cope with both occurring at the same time.

So provided we don't all fall into Black Canyon at the same time, there will be someone to guide us through the difficult times.  Come to think of it, even if we do all go over the edge together, one of us will have a rope while another finds she has a bag of gingerbread women and yet another will have a first aid kit.  Moreover, it won't be long before someone starts a sing-song.

And, given the hand we're playing, what more can you ask?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Good for height and half a centimetre post

Over the weekend I was looking back over my journal entries for the time I was having radiotherapy (hence the title of this post!) and reflecting on what I had written.  The highs and the lows; the frustrations and the entertaining moments; the words of wisdom and the words of encouragement from friends old and new.

So here are a selection of my thoughts at that time.

The daffodils are out in the Tabulae planter; a lovely cheerful sight as I leave the house each day.

Sat around in the clinic for ages waiting to see the registrar only to discover that he thinks the HER2 test result is sitting in a file at the other hospital!

I wept through the set-up today.

Lovely aromatherapy session with A - rosemary and neroli.

"Don't feel guilty about what you can't or don't manage to do", said T to me as we said goodbye at the Support Centre [at the end of my radiotherapy treatment].

I felt they just couldn't have cared less about how I was feeling.

... realised that we'd all been dredging up our 'A' Level physics in order to understand how a linear accelerator works!

From the waiting room we watched a couple of porters spend ages loading up a trolley with chairs balanced in a precarious tower and the pushing it towards the door, only to discover (as we'd all anticipated and suggested) that the stack was too tall to clear the doorframe!

I recalled how I'd had the support and encouragement of friends old and new.  In particular I have been remembering three who sadly are no longer with us.

Cat, Julie and I were part of a thread on the Breast Cancer Care Forum and we were all having rads at the same time.  I have written here before about Cat, and Julie died at the end of last year.

The other, Gerry, is a friend who at the time was healthy but who over a year later was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer.  He died last April and I plan to be remembering him with some friends over the coming weekend.

The planter is still at my front door, the daffodils are just about out again and I'm eagerly anticipating their cheerful sight.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Reflections on a Small World

A few weeks ago my old school friend the Feisty Blue Gecko posted about coincidence and recounted how she had met, at a work meeting in Myanmar, someone with whom she used to travel on the school bus. The Friday before last I had a similar, if slightly less dramatic, experience.

I had gone to an event at London Olympia's exhibition halls.  It was fairly busy and I was having a late lunch sat at a small table in the corner of the Hall. A man came up and, in the soft Scottish accent mentioned by FBG, asked if the seat opposite me was taken.  It wasn't and he sat down. After a while he leant towards me and addressed me by name in a slightly (but only slightly) hesitant tone.  It was the chap who had lived next door to me in Perthshire when I was growing up!  We hadn't seen each other for about 25 years and both now live in the Home Counties. So we had a good natter catching up on what we and our respective families are doing these days.

I would not normally be at an event on a weekday, especially one like this that carried on over the weekend. However, I have annual leave to use up before the end of March, so I thought that I may as well use a day for this.

I find such serendipitous meetings all the more pleasing for being unexpected and couldn't wait to relay this one to other members of my family.

And while the FBG and I were in the school orchestra together, her bus companion was in my year.