Saturday, July 12, 2008
Racing for Life
Early in 1994, my parish priest asked me to call on a woman who had breast cancer. "She needs a friend but won't let anyone near her," he said, "perhaps she'll talk to you." That's how I came to meet the most beautiful, vivacious, intelligent and angry woman who was Angela. She had been treated for breast cancer ten years earlier but it had been secretly spreading through her body and now it was too late for further treatment. She was going to die but she wasn't going quietly!
The one thing I'm good at is listening; Angela ranted and threw me out but I kept going back for more and gradually we developed a friendship that is still painful in its loss. I would take her to stand at the top of Baggy Point and together we would scream out to sea, at the cruelty and injustice of this awful disease. This helped her and I recommend it as a way of releasing all that pent up anger and fear. We had several relatively calm months when we put together a book of memories for her daughter and any future grandchildren there might be. she never gave up her anger but some of the fears were addressed.
Then on, January 9th 1995, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. On the way to the hospital for surgery the next morning, I forced my husband to call at Angela's house so that I could tell her myself. Our roles were reversed, she now became the strong partner in our friendship; as her condition deteriorated she urged me to fight for her sake as well as mine. She died on 4th November 1995. I'm still here and not a day goes by without my thinking of her. She ensured that by giving me the jug pictured at the top of this post; she called it 'the ugliest jug in the world' but most precious to her because her parents had bought it on their honeymoon in Italy and now most precious to me.
I always wonder why I have survived and many women, like Angela, have not. The treatments available have improved but there is still much more to be discovered and understood. Everyone is touched by cancer at some point in their life, either personally or through family or friends. Everyone has a story to tell and some, like Juliet on the Muddy Island, get into action. She is preparing (in her inimitably amusing fashion) for the Race for Life, raising funds for research into cancer. If you would like to boost her morale during the last few days of her training, you might like to pop over to the Island and leave her an encouraging comment and maybe even boost her fund-raising. We survivors and all who follow will be forever in your debt.