Today started like any other, it ended with a familiar tale. Another call from a close friend to let me know they’d had a breast cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, all my friends and colleagues so far have been lucky enough to survive the ravaging torture that is the necessary treatment. There’s a little bit of me that wonders when our luck will run out. And we will lose one of us. That is a real fear and something to deal with.
So, these incidents stimulate and prompt many emotional responses, and rational and irrational thoughts. The familiar pattern of shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance is triggered. It’s a classic, well documented response. But the frequency of these cases has enabled a skipping through the first stages and takes me straight into depression and then acceptance (and back again). It’s just all too miserable and we have no choice but to get on with it.
But this is all easy for me. It’s my friends and colleagues that have needed to generate the resolve to battle the big C. And good on them all for that. So far, they have all approached it with quiet, accepting and steely strength. I much admire them for that. Their responses have been a combination of getting on with things with as much normality or routine as possible. There have been checks and balances in lifestyles too, ensuring there is less of one thing or another, and perhaps more of something seemingly better for one’s health. There’s been a bit of life laundry going on as well – getting rid of things or people that they have come to realise aren’t what they want in their future lives. And understandably there’s been some tidying up of affairs – which is sensible, but it must be a very strange experience – at odds with the ultimate aim of getting through this and surviving to tell the tale. One of my friends is an out and proud ‘flattie’ as she puts it, after having a double mastectomy, exploring her new body and lifestyle all over social media. Giving hints and tips to other women.
Today, my friend was a ‘warrior queen’. It was a response that matched her character type. She was pragmatic, practical and planning. That’s response number one. She wanted to assure me she would tackle and battle, she would win and it would not get the best of her. She wants to live. And she wants things to be all sorted for any event, and for her loved ones to be looked after. Her concern of the day was that I should not treat her differently and we should be the same as usual – not to wrap her in cotton wool – or to limit expectations of her or how we spend time together. I will love her whatever; pre- and post-surgery, macrobiotic or vegan or meat eater, teetotal or party woman, hair or no hair, good wig or questionable scarf. Of course, tomorrow will be another day, and response number two will no doubt be more emotional. And we predict a pendulumlike ebb and flow of all those emotions and more. They need to be expected, valued, understood and consciously processed individually and together. And talked about, asked about, listened to. It is always a rollercoaster and for that ride, I’m sat in the next seat.