For Mary x

One of the greatest gifts I had was the perfectly timed call and advice from Mary. I still remember where I was and what state I was in when she called to offer me a lifeline. It was to be the first of many, and makes the sudden realisation of their ceasing so heartbreaking.

So here’s to you Mary. I didn’t expect you to die yet. I can hear your voice so clearly now just like I can still hear Kate and Jackie, and that somehow feels like you are still here talking to me which is comforting.

With your no nonsense style and your laugh and never ending source of positivity and hope. With the way you always used my name when you spoke which was cute. With your reminders to live, have faith and trust. With your superhuman ability to take so much and keep going back for more. For the privacy in which you endured this.

I met Mary at work before either of us got cancer. Over 9 years ago. I thought she was fabulous from the start with her straight talking, no nonsense honesty.

When Mary got diagnosed with breast cancer, she did what was only natural to her, she made sure those of us who should be checking our breasts for lumps knew what one could feel like. Even then she was thinking of others.

Always working, never drawing attention to herself. Always hoping. Always believing there would be another drug available when this one stopped working. A living breathing example of courage, love and hope.

Her advice “Rachel don’t panic if they can’t cure you, just focus on the fact that they are and can treat you”. She repeated this mantra to me, to herself and no doubt to many others she has helped along the way, regularly.

And that’s why it was such a shock to hear so suddenly that the drugs had stopped working finally and that there wasn’t another option. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. So sudden.

Mary, I’ll miss our calls, our lunches, having a good gossip with you, your encouragement to drink beetroot juice, and just having you prop me up when I was having a wobble, but that’s selfish of me. I am just so sorry, the speed of your decline stopped me being able to support you at the end, like you did for me at the beginning. I know you were surrounded by love from Chris and your family and friends and I’m just glad I had the chance to tell you the difference the world felt just knowing you were in it. And how much I owed you.

One of the greatest gifts of connecting with people through cancer is that relationships are fast tracked, bypassing the usual getting to know you rituals and straight into the meaning of life and death conversations.

But the risks of connecting so deep on this level are huge.

It’s difficult to explain or protect yourself from, and I don’t know what the answer is.

But when someone you love and have shared your deepest, darkest and most beautiful moments with dies, it feels so lonely suddenly. And yet it’s completely unavoidable.

Because if protection means having missed these types of relationships with Mary, Jackie and Kate, and many more sadly, then I still wouldn’t have changed a thing.

It just hurts and it NEVER gets easier.

So do yourself a favour, in honor of Mary, if you’re a women reading this, check your breasts now please. And be happy and positive and live well for those who can’t anymore.

Good night and sleep tight Mary X