19 October 2012

Cancer is a bitch

This week we found out that one of our beloved friends has leukaemia.  Aged but 30 years old and not feeling particularly sick, she went to the doctor about a bruise that wasn't healing and less than a week later she's having chemotherapy and her husband's heart is breaking as he rallies to provide her with the love and support she needs.  

This is the second of my girlfriends to be diagnosed with cancer this year.  The first was diagnosed with breast cancer, gave up a boob and underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy to kill off the disease. She's now in that post poison stage where life becomes relentlessly normal while you wait and see.  She's back at work, her kids are playing up and her husband still doesn't clean the bathroom quite the way she would. Life changes.  Life doesn't.

Another friend my age has had cancer for 11 years.  He's down some lymph nodes, a rib and his Bondi lifeguard lifestyle but he has a beautiful daughter, wife and doesn't skip a beat when it comes to giving his all to life.  A couple of weeks after his last chemo round, he rowed a silly amount of kilometres as a member of a support team for an ocean swim over in WA.  Just to be helpful. Life changed.  Life did not.

And this is the bitch about cancer.  Diagnosis is a shock. Treatment is nasty. It all takes time and you are powerless to do anything useful (unless you happen to be a research scientist finding a cure RIGHT NOW).

Ultimately it's a battle they face on their own.  They will argue again with their partner about the housework, you'll moan again about your weight and the clock will keep on ticking.  You can offer the support, you can share the love, send cards, raise money but ultimately it's all peripheral.  Cancer follows no rules, shows no mercy and it takes considerable strength not to drown under the weight of the word, let alone the actuality of the disease.

As a friend, you can't share the poison, you can't magic the cancer away and and you can't fix it by writing a list. A person once told me the most tedious thing about cancer is reassuring people when all you want to do is drum your feet on the ground and scream "how the hell do I know??" and "Why me?" and "I don't like casserole so stop making them for me."

So, for this friend, no casseroles.  I'm a crap cook anyway and she lives in another country and exporting bad casseroles is surely illegal.  I'm going to be resolute about being there for her and for her husband.  I'm going to be educated so I don't just say "there, there".  I'm not going to be a better person despite all intentions but I'm going to think positive thoughts, send prayers and I'm going to be present and in touch.

For while they are small things, they are all I have to offer.  And if you happen to have discovered a cure for cancer - please let me know.  I know somebody very special that would think that news marvellous.

In the meantime.  Big love LD.  Big love.

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