Lately, in part because life is in a relatively calm place, I’ve had time to think about a few things. One of these is friendship and serious illness.
One of the hard things about being sick is having to accept help. It’s lovely and wonderful to have the help, and it would be far worse if none was offered, but it is strange to be the taker all the time.
Ive been pondering what it must be like to be my friend now. I think it must take courage. To keep loving me knowing that it is reasonably likely that I’ll shuffle off this mortal coil earlier than usual. It’s signing yourself up for pain. I worry that it is also signing yourself up for something of a one way friendship as at times I am completely without capacity to give.
I’m immensely grateful for my friends. Most of my closest friends pre-diagnosis remain my closest friends. My childhood best friend is more like a sister than ever. With all these people there is cancer but there is also just life – work, relationship and parenting issues, gossip, outfits and home decor to be discussed and put to rights. There have been a few disappointments- a close friendship no longer as close perhaps because my sickness reminds her of other painful deaths.
There are also new friends I’ve made along the way, many of whom have come into my life because of cancer. There is my wonderful former nurse whose care for me was so complete and excellent that words don’t do it justice. There is our former nanny who is one of life’s truly good people and who not only cared for Violet beautifully but also kept me company in the most thoughtful of ways. There is my new “mum” friend that I’ve made through Violet’s dance classes who takes my cancer in her stride, is always thoughtful and caring but doesn’t seem to consider it my defining aspect. There is my friend who I met through Instagram, who wrote an amazing article about me early on and who is so very generous to me on a number of levels.
There are also my fellow citizens of this kingdom of the sick. Some have made it to the other side (Jacqui and Libby I’m looking at you) and I am so desperately hoping they can hand back their passports permanently. Some are still here in the treatment trenches with me and some, so terribly unfairly, have died. We share a very real awareness of the fairytale and the abyss and to talk to them is always comfort.
Mostly I have been pondering on whether I am a good friend to those who are so very good to me. I hope so. Consider this slightly clumsy post, my own slightly clumsy ode to you all.
“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
― E.B. White,