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 Godmother

Let’s take another little journey back in time. When I was first diagnosed, I was inundated with messages from friends, family, neighbours, even Steph’s work colleagues! It was lovely to know so many people were thinking of me and wishing me well as my gruelling treatment was about to begin. The only problem was, I still felt very alone. No one could give me first hand advice on what was coming. All I really had was Google and he is a scaremongerer of epic proportions. I quickly learned he wasn’t my friend.
One day I checked in on facebook and saw I had a message from my cousin Steven’s wife, Jayne. They live down South so I only saw them very occasionally.
She told me she’d had a cancer diagnosis several years ago and explained that she remembered this stage clearly. She told me if I ever wanted to talk, ask questions or just rant about the horrible unfairness of our situation, she’d be there. All of a sudden, I wasn’t alone.
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We both had huge things to deal with in the coming months but we supported each other every day.
Jayne’s cancer treatment meant that starting a much wanted family was going to be tough. We both went through IVF at the same time (I was having eggs retrieved, she was having them implanted). She fell pregnant quickly and those around her rejoiced. Those who knew a little more were also on tenterhooks, awaiting every scan with nervous anticipation. I knew every important date, as she did for me. I’d return home from hospital with messages from her asking how it went and how I felt. I’ve never been as honest with another person. Not that I’m secretive or reserved, I just try to protect those I love from the harshness of the truth. A little sugar coating is sometimes necessary when you see the pain and fear in your family’s eyes.
That’s why my relationship with Jayne is so special. We tell each other the things we would normally hide. Before my mastectomy, she sent me a beautiful gift of a Pandora bracelet with my first charm. I’ve had a new charm for every big stage in my treatment (and one for my engagement).

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I never went to hospital workout my bracelet. It felt like having Jayne there with me

Towards the end of her pregnancy, tradgdey struck and the baby passed away before she could be born. She was named Poppy and she had beautiful long fingers. The funeral took place as I was finishing chemo and was too unwell to travel. I’ve never experienced pain for someone else the way I did then. Grief so raw and physical, it was the worst part of my entire treatment. We were both supposed to have our happy ending but life, as it tends to, has other plans.
I hope I helped her one some way during that time but I was a fish out of water. I was so far away, and all I wanted to do was hug her and cry with her.
Time passed, my treatment ended and I was ‘released’ back into the real world. Steph and I took a trip down to London and Jayne and Steven met us there. We had an absolutely brilliant day and had a chance to catch up on all the hugs, tears and laughter we’d wanted to share with each other for so long.

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A very happy reunion

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Steven & Jayne

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Steph & I

Shortly after our trip, Jayne fell pregnant again and we all felt very mixed in our emotions. I wanted to be happy for her but all I felt was fear. I was terrified of how she would cope if anything went wrong. She, as always, was an absolute trooper and I’m delighted to say that she had a healthy, happy, perfect baby boy who they named William.

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William: the most gorgeous baby on the land

William has given me hope. Good things do occasionally happen to good people and I can’t think of two people who deserve it more than Jayne and Steven.
And to end this blog on even more of a delightfully happy note,
they’ve asked me to be William’s God Mother. I’m over the moon. This little guy is going to grow up to be so strong, courageous, helpful and positive. Just like his wonderful Mum. Xx

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A beautiful family photo

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 Rewind

When you are feeling anxious or depressed, it’s really difficult to do normal things. It’s tempting to hide in your bedroom and watch Netflix all day and night but this week I decided to do things that challenge my inner hermit. I’m so glad I did!
I got all dressed up and went with a crowd from work to the Rewind festival at Scone Palace in Perth and we had a blast. We braved the dodgy weather, ankle deep mud and portaloos and danced to our favourite 80’s bands, drank cider and laughed a lot.

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The highlight of my day was being told that I’m very much viewed as one of the team. My social anxiety made me very nervous of making myself part of such a tight knit group but I needn’t have worried. It was lovely to have a day that wasn’t dominated by worry and sadness and it was a great boost to know I CAN do things like this. I got very tired by around 8pm and asked Stephen to come and get me. After lots of hugs, I left with a smile on my face and about 10lbs of mud on my boots.

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Today I’m feeling very lucky to have a whole new group of wonderful friends.

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I went back to the doctor today and have agreed to go onto a higher dose of the antidepressants I was on previously as I know I don’t have any bad reaction to them. It’ll take a while to get back on an even keel but I know it’ll happen and I know I’ll be supported until I get there.
He gave me a sick note for a few weeks but I told him I didn’t want to use it. I’m actually looking forward to working this week. I’m obviously more mental than I realised….

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