Back in Easter 2016 ,my first best friend told me that she was having treatment for breast cancer. I was devastated- this was the first person of my own age to have a life threatening disease and she was about to turn just 50. I felt the need to see her and to support her, even though she now lived in Texas with her American husband and daughter. So I planned my visit to USA the following month , during May half term holidays.
I had never travelled long haul alone before and when I arrived in America , there was a storm and I had to drive, on unfamiliar roads through torrential rain in a hire car, with steering wheel on the wrong side, to her house. It felt daunting at the time, but nothing like as daunting as facing breast cancer and chemotherapy , and that thought saw me through and got me there, where I was made most welcome.
The timing of my trip was important, as I was going to be there for her last chemo session, to see her ring her bell and to look after her daughter while she was having the final treatment. They showed me the hospital where of course, being in America, she was paying for treatment . She sat in her familiar armchair while they fitted her up to administer the powerful chemicals through a drip. I was a useful distraction as she introduced me to everyone there : this is my friend who’s come all the way from England to see me! That was always greeted with the same reaction ‘awesome!’ . She coined a new adjective for me ‘brawesome’ which added the element of bravery to the very American word awesome, which made me laugh.
I left her and her husband at the hospital and drove back to the house to play with, and distract, their young daughter. We baked together, walked their jack russell called Patch and she showed me her crafts . Again, I hope that I was a good distraction from worrying too much about her Mum. Later in the day I drove back to the hospital to be there when my friend rang her last chemo bell. It was a very moving moment and I was privileged to be there to witness it with them. As you begin your treatment, this must be a day that you dream of seeing.
Sadly however, that was not the end of her cancer journey as during routine follow up check ups, the doctors detected cancer in her brain. Of course we were all devastated and terrified and were full of the sense of unfairness – she’d already battled breast cancer, now this!! But her faith has helped her to face this diagnosis and she remains well and under the regular watchful eye of the medical profession, undergoing frequent CT scans to monitor her health. But her future is uncertain.
We ‘speak’ most mornings on WhatsApp, as I’m waking up, she is heading to bed and we share our news. She has her mother staying at the moment from Scotland, so that must be a wonderful comfort to them both, as it is when you are unwell I find, that you need your Mum the most, but usually the Atlantic ocean separates them. I would just like to say that it is in fact my first best friend who is the ‘ brawesome’ one and if I ever have to face cancer, I hope that I can do it with the dignity and positivity that she has shown so far, and continues to show.