I’ve been blessed over the years to make some amazing friends. And of course when disasters happen, everyone says you discover who your true friends are. But I think I was just lucky all along, because the friends I have, have always been there for me, before and after disaster struck.
When something like cancer or amputation happens to you, it’s not just yourself that gets a reality check, but the people around you do too. It can really help put things into perspective for people, help you see what’s important in life and what is just trivial and not worth worrying about. And of course this is fantastic. But I started noticing that some of my friends wouldn’t moan about their day at work anymore, or complain about a bad experience at the hairdresser, or bring their problems to me. They thought these things weren’t important compared to what I was going through.
But I needed to still hear these things. I needed to feel like I could still be a friend to people. And that everyone’s moans and problems are important, not necessarily in the grand scheme of things, but we all need to moan and vent and get advice or support from our friends. It’s a 2 way street, it’s about recongnising you have to give so you can receive.
So I kept a lot of the true monstrous awfulness of what I was going through from my friends. I recognize that this may sound contradictory or even hypocritical. But I didn’t need my friends to know the reality of being on a cancer ward in an old Victorian hospital with 2 toilets to share between 60 or so male and female patients and staff who were stretched too thin…(The first year I had chemo I spent nearly 3 weeks out of every 5 on that ward. Bone cancer chemo is pretty full on, each of my chemo cycles was 5 weeks and I had 6 cycles. And every cycle I had a serious infection of some kind, because you have no immune system at all. And I needed a blood transfusion every cycle too. And people I’d made friends with died. And there are so many other stories I could tell, but I’ll save those for another day.
I kept all this from my friends. I very, very rarely had visitors in hospital. And when I did see friends, I’d only see them on the days when I felt OK. And I’d make an effort to look OK, the wonders of make up! And for me that meant I could still be the same old Louise, bitching and moaning and acting silly and listening and giving advice when needed and all those other things.
Of course the downside you’ll no doubt have noticed to my grand plan, was that I wasn’t being honest with people. But I didn’t need to be honest with everyone. I’ve always had my mum, who knows everything, without me needing to say anything. And Al, who had to come home from work every day to the sight of me laid out on the sofa unable to move. I didn’t see the need to let everyone know about the grim realities of my medical life.
Of course I did talk about some things with certain people. But I’ve NEVER wanted my medical problems to be the sole point of conversation. I never wanted to be seen as the fragile patient. I have enough of all that crap already. I want to be the same old Louise when I’m with my friends. And whether my approach has been the right one or not, I’m not sure. But it works for me. I still have my friends. And I still feel lucky and blessed. And people do moan about the hairdressers (you know who you are!!).