Earlier this year, I wrote that at some point I would write about “all the people who’ve helped and supported me through what I can only call the shit-stormy periods of the past two and three-quarter years”.
That was in March, just after I’d run a half marathon on one of the coldest days of the year. I have nerve damage in my feet – peripheral neuropathy, a side effect from the chemotherapy I had as part of my breast cancer treatment that started three years ago to this very day. Most of the time, I almost don’t notice it. However, it was particularly painful as I was running along the River Thames on that cold day, when London was in the midst of a horrendous cold spell dubbed “the Beast from the East”. To distract myself, I started thinking about all the things I had to be grateful for from when I was in treatment for my breast cancer – and, as if that weren’t bad enough, melanoma too, a couple of years later.
Then one Sunday this summer, in July, 60 miles or so into a fabulous but challenging 70-mile bike ride from Crystal Palace in London to Whitstable on the Kent coast, my right foot was killing me again. It was very, very hot – probably one of the hottest days of the year so far. Extremes of temperature clearly make the peripheral neuropathy worse. Again, some distraction techniques were called for. As I was thinking, I decided I really had to put it all down for the record.
So here goes. The list is not meant to be comprehensive and it’s in no particular order. It’s for all the friends who reached out in whatever way during those times. If you did something and it’s not included, don’t be offended. It was all very much appreciated and your kindness and thoughtfulness made things a lot easier than they might otherwise have been. I will be forever grateful. Thanks, therefore, to so many, including those who:
- randomly cooked meals and dropped them off, including but very much not limited to when my husband Andy had – at my insistence – taken our sons skiing when I was stuck at home having daily radiotherapy sessions
- drove or offered to drive me to hospital appointments
- phoned or texted when they were popping to the shops to ask if I needed anything
- sent words of encouragement or sympathy by whatever means
- gave me a box full of “things you might need during chemo”, including hand cream and a hot water bottle
- took me on a walk up Sugar Loaf Mountain in Wales between chemo sessions and visited between Xmas and New Year, days after I’d had my big op
- gave me a lovely snuggle blanket because they knew I’d be spending a lot of time on the sofa
- cycled from north to south London against a strong head wind – it might also have been raining! – to pay a visit after my op
- kept playing tennis with me throughout chemo
- sent hand warmers after reading about how cold I was when I was suffering under the cold cap during chemo
- presented me with a bottle of nail varnish from Liberty to use when my nails (which chemo had trashed) were in better shape
- issued an invitation to take me out sailing when I was better – and kept following up until it happened
- appeared out of the woodwork to wish me well after they’d “heard from a friend” or colleague that I was unwell. That takes nerves. Cancer is scary and the easy thing is not to say anything.
On the blog front, a shout-out is due for those who gave feedback on draft posts or who took time to make thoughtful/sympathetic/encouraging/funny comments on actual posts..
And there’s all the stuff involving my beloved Tooting Common, the park at the end of the road. Thanks on that front to the folk who:
- took me there to pick raspberries after one of my first chemo sessions
- accompanied me on walks and trips to the cafe during treatment and recovery
- encouraged me and cheered me on when I started doing the Saturday morning 5k Parkrun there after I’d finished treatment and was trying to get fit again.
And then there’s the Spanish friend who wrote and dedicated a sonnet to me. Yes, really. Now how many people can say they’ve had a sonnet written in their honour? Not bloody many, I’d venture. And there’s the other Spanish friend who wrote me the most beautiful long and heartfelt letters (or rather emails) that I will never tire of reading.
And, of course, there were the cards and the flowers that made the living room look like a flower shop.
Throughout the whole thing and beyond, there has been work, which really could not have been more supportive. Also, I have to mention Breast Cancer Care Worldwide chat on Twitter (#bccww) – a testimony to the positive power of social media.
On the melanoma front – which to be honest I kept relatively quiet about, at least initially – there were the friends who bought me running socks for when I was up and running again or who gave me scar-reducing cream for the scar I now have on my right calf from that particular operation.
This might all seem a bit random but I wanted to get it out there and have it on record. There you have it.