Wednesday 25 May 2011

Some people are AMAZING... positively SAINTLY!

I have a friend who I will call Sarah who I briefly mentioned in the last entry. Sarah has Secondary Breast Cancer which has spread to her lungs, spine and liver. She is currently having horrible intravenous Chemo which makes her feel pretty naff most of the time and all her lovely hair has fallen out. Yet Sarah has a cunning way of getting you to come clean with what's bugging you - and also of phoning you when you could really use a good chat with a friend. She is a saint.

I felt bad because, with all the stuff that's happening at the moment, I'd been neglecting her. She can't go out much and she was forced to give up work ages ago. When she does go out it's usually to have needles stuck in her at the local hospital - or to be "wired" up to a machine while they pump nasty chemicals into her body. Not surprisingly being such a lovely person, Sarah has loads of friends who come round to see her, yet I was acutely aware I'd been neglecting her - and she's the main non-eating-disorder-related-person who has helped me get through the last 15 months.

Sometimes I get really cross with her because she has a habit of turning the conversation around to me and my problems when she has so many problems of her own. She's always chirpy and smiling, and offers emotional and practical support to other people who aren't handling their cancer as well as she appears to be. Before this round of Chemo she used to lobby for better patient understanding; she was even invited to talk to a conference in Munich about how professionals can better understand the patients they are treating.

So she called me today and said she'd put the kettle on. So I "downed tools" and took a break. Part of me feels really bad and selfish for unburdening all my problems on her while each time I tried to ask her about herself, she deflected the conversation back to me.

But that's typical of Sarah who is one of the most selfless people I have ever met.

I first met Sarah 15 months ago when, during the lowest months with the eating disorder, I was desperate for emotional support. An obvious place to find it seemed like the local church. So one Sunday I sat down in the local church. Everyone ignored me or just gave me polite smiles - and all my instincts cried out for me to walk out and leave. Then this tiny smiling woman around my own age rushed over and invited me to sit with her. And after the service we just talked and talked... It was as if we'd known each other for years!

Although we both had very different issues - Sarah with her cancer and me with Ben's anorexia - our experiences kept hitting common ground. We really seemed to understand each other. I stopped going to the church after a while (apart from Sarah I never did get the emotional support; everyone kept a cliquey distance) but Sarah and I have met up for coffee every week since.

Sometimes I provide (hopefully helpful) emotional support for her - and sometimes she provides it for me, as she did this afternoon. But whichever way round it is, time flies by and the whole morning or afternoon is gone before you know it. The same with telephone calls. Thank goodness we get our local calls free!

I am very aware, however, that my problem does, hopefully, have a light at the end of the tunnel at some point in the future. And, on the whole, things are getting a lot better. I'm not sure what the prognosis is for Sarah, though. I'm not sure whether remission is on the cards or not. I do know that current Chemo seems to be working, though, which is good news.

Sarah has certainly opened my eyes to what living with cancer is about; I didn't realise how ignorant I was about the condition or its treatment. Likewise she's an expert on eating disorders. I don't know anyone else outside the wonderful eating disorder parents' circle that is, with the exception of my dear, supportive sister. Most people just don't want to know or only want to know a bit - like politely asking how things are and then moving on.

So Sarah's taken the edge off my stress today. I should have spent this afternoon working, but what the heck!!

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