The radiators and the drains

Going through a really tough time often brings friends closer together and they show just what wonderful, giving, caring and kind human beings they are. These people make you feel truly blessed. They lighten the burden and help cheer you up when you really need it. They also give you a chance for normality. They tell you about their life, you support them, offer advice, share jokes… Friend stuff.

When it boils down to it, there are two types of friends. The first are the radiators. These are the kind of people who emit positivity. They leave you feeling good about yourself and you really look forward to spending time in their company. They are the ones that you belly laugh with and who you can accidentally spend 2 hours on the phone to when you only called to ask a quick question. If you have a couple of radiators in your life, you’re pretty lucky. Make sure you treat them well and try to be a radiator for them too.

The second group are the polar opposite. These people are the drains.

Drains are the type of people who thrive on negativity. When you spend time in their company it’s usually to complain, bitch, moan and generally leave you feeling tired and stressed. If the mere thought of spending time with someone makes you feel exhausted, that person is a drain.

Being ill changes a lot of things, least significantly, you can’t socialise in a way you used to and for some friends, that seems reason enough to up sticks and walk/pedal/paddle out of your life.

For others, their reasoning for abandoning you when you need them most is that they find it too difficult to be around you. Sick people are scary though right? Best wait 6 months or so until you appear to be well again and the illness that’s turned your world on its arse can be ignored. 

Others take an even more cowardly approach and literally delete you from their lives. I shit you not, I’ve had friends delete and block me from facebook in the middle of my cancer treatment. Who does that? Well, I won’t name names but some people do. And have.

As a generally positive person, I’ve kept my mouth shut about some of the hurtful behaviour of people I care about in a hope that I could get over it and go back to normal. Yeah… That can’t happen. Friendships can be mended but those cracks will always be there and you can’t ever forget that.

Some friendships sadly just run their course and no one is really to blame for that. Each person is left with happy memories of times past but the chances of you meeting up and hanging out in future are slim. You move on. It’s sad but it’s normal.

The last group in this category are the ones I’ve made the decision to leave in my past. These are the type of friends that were never really good friends in the first place but it’s taken the kick up the backside cancer gave me to realise that there’s just no room for the selfish, needy, rude and arrogant, let alone classifying them as a friend!
Kind of like cleaning out a wardrobe, this is a cull that’s probably waited way too long to happen but, once it has, leaves you feeling relieved and with much more space (and time)!

Time that can be dedicated to all those lovely radiators.
They are worth it!
Here are a load of photos of my wonderful friends. All radiators, all awesome!

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My long suffering friend, Avril

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One of oldest and best friends, Pauline

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An old photo with 2 of my oldest friends, Jana and Joanne

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My best friends from uni, Tery, Nicola & Fiona

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Glenda, Alan & Steph: the 3 best radiators ever!

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My fab friends from work

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My BBQ buddies

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The tribute

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Losing someone you love is indescribable. The pain is physical as well as emotional. I lost someone recently.

Her battle with secondary breast cancer was a quick one. After a pretty nasty infection and a stay in hospital, she was moved to the hospice to recover enough to go home. I saw her there on the Friday and she looked great. We made plans for fun things to do once she ‘got out’ and made our usual inappropriate jokes that would have us giggling like teenagers. We ate our way through a bag of M&S goodies and generally caught up on all the goings on of our lives.
Before I knew it, I realised I’d been there for 3 hours and decided I had better go and let her rest. We made plans for my next visit, I hugged her, kissed her head, told her “love you” and headed home. I felt relieved that she looked so happy and well. All the worry and fear I’d felt over the past few weeks while she’d been in hospital started to dissipate.
A few days later, her health started to deteriorate and on the Wednesday I received the devastating message that she had passed away.

I wanted to write this blog as my tribute to her. To put down in words how much she meant to me and to describe what made her such a wonderful person. Sadly, I don’t think even if I wrote 10 books, I’d be able to do her justice.
Instead I’ll share a few of my favorite memories of her with you.

1. The first time we caught each others eye while someone (an annoying someone) was talking and I KNEW she was thinking the same thing as me and it made us both stifle a giggle.

2. A few weeks into radiotherapy and I had become hot and burned. She was having chemo at the same time and she was using the cold cap (to try to prevent hair loss) and she was freezing. We had a cuddle to ‘balance each other out’. We understood each other and gave each other exactly the right kind of support.

3. On our train journey to Solihull to meet our chemo buddies, we laughed all the way there. About nothing and everything. It was always so comforting to have a  friend who could truly understand everything I was facing, who I could be honest with and have that honesty returned when she needed to talk.

4. The hilarity in our far too hot hotel room and trying to invent ways to cool down. And failing. Spectacularly. This included both of us sitting on the edge of the bath with our feet in the cold water, lying on the floor with a wet towel covering us, taking turns to fan each other with a magazine and leaning up against the (mildly) cool door in fits of laughter.
Chemotherapy induced menopause is horrific but looking back on that night, all I can do is laugh.

5. Every time she used her medical knowledge or just her calming influence to talk me out of a panic attack. Going through cancer treatment with a qualified doctor was helpful, the fact that she was also a brilliant friend, well that was just my good luck.

6. Visiting her in hospital and giving her a manicure, moisturising her ‘cankles’ (horrible drug side effects) and generally getting to feel useful during a time where all I wanted to do was help her.

7. Every time we laughed, ate cake (during the steroid munchies) or had marathon late night texting conversations that took insane tangents and had me snorting with laughter despite the pain and fear of cancer treatment.

I know that we were both grateful to cancer for one thing: our friendship.

I miss her every day and still find myself reaching for my phone when I see something I know she’d laugh at. How long until that stops?
She made me a better person and gave me more support than my entire medical team combined.
As I struggle through without her, I try to remember how much she rooted for me and wouldn’t want me to feel, so deeply, the hole she has left in my heart.
No one deserves this but least of all her. As a friend she was kind, caring, funny and thoughtful. As a wife and mum she was loving, passionate and fiercely protective. As a human, she was an incredible asset. Her intelligence and compassion would have made her an outstanding doctor and I’m furious that her chance to practice was cut short.

Lindsay: she was one of a kind and taken far too soon. I’ll always be grateful for our friendship and I’ll never forget her.

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The Holiday

I took a little blogging holiday for a bit. I’d like to say if was to give me time for some deep reflection but it was actually so I could bugger off to Majorca for a bit of vitamin D.

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It turns out that I did get a bit of time to think about a few things I’d like to write about that have been niggling away at me too.

The first is that I’ve been trying to write a tribute to a dear friend I lost recently. I find writing candidly about my own experiences fairly easy but trying to do justice to someone I love so much is giving me sleepless nights. I haven’t made any startling discoveries about why I’m having such a difficult time with it. Perhaps because the pain of her loss is still too raw? Or maybe because, deep down, I’m still waiting on the same thing happening to me? I don’t know… Let’s revisit this another time.

The second thing that’s been playing on my mind is other people’s perceptions of me. I must admit, in the past I have put a bit too much stock into seeking approval from others. During my treatment however, this went out the window. I was more interested in things like not dying. You know, normal stuff!

An incident took place recently though and I was given a pretty brutal talking to from someone very close to me and it’s cast up a few concerns.

I’m aware that people may think I use cancer as an excuse to avoid doing things, mostly socialising.
There’s an element of truth there I suppose. I do still suffer from pain, fatigue, hot flushes etc but I also still suffer the emotional side effects just as much and this can often be too difficult to talk about.
My tolerance for alcohol, loud noises and busy venues is dreadful now too. The idea of a booze fuelled, late night in a crowded bar used to seem like a dream weekend/holiday but I physically can’t do much of that anymore and seldom feel up to it. I’m often anxious and my hangovers are horrendous.

I want to be the old carefree me but she has gone. I’m what’s left.
I still really appreciate being asked and every now and again I surprise myself (and others) by taking part. My treatment is in the past but cancer will always be a part of my life.

I also worry that I’m missing really important things going on in my friends and families lives. I found out someone I love is struggling to cope at the moment and it’s devastating to know they chose to keep this to themselves. How can I continue to bang on about my amazing relationships when I’m not holding up my end of the bargain? Talk to me. I’ll be there for you if you let me!

A few of my friendships feel as though they are dwindling away and I can’t help but question the reasons? It may be that they have gotten so used to living their day to day life without me. It may be that the post treatment me is too different to the person they once knew. Maybe I’m less fun/thoughtful/energetic and haven’t been a great friend to them! If this is the case, it was never intentional. With that said, there’s no way of rectifying the situation if I’m genuinely in the dark.

So, my request to you all if you are in a situation where you are upset or sad about the route a relationship is taking, is to reach out, talk and be honest. Don’t end up regretting it if you don’t.

On a brighter note, I’ve been reminded that some friendships are for keeps. My 3 flatmates from uni and I got to hang out together last weekend for the first time in almost 10 years and it was amazing.
We spent the day with their kids and the evening chatting, eating and drinking prosecco (see, I do have a drink sometimes). The following day we did the Race for Life together. It was absolutely brilliant and reminded me how easy real friendship can be.
I had the hangover from hell but it was totally worth it!

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