Monday, 14 October 2013

Meet Claire. Meet Cancer.

Until recently I thought that the worst thing that could possibly occur would be for something to happen to Rory.  I can't even bring myself to say the words, but you know what I mean: The Unthinkable.  For a parent to lose a child...well, the thought just crushes me.  You know what those thoughts are like:  You can't help yourself from briefly imagining the worst, and then you're rubbing at your eyes, crushing at your head with your hands trying to physically remove the thought to convince yourself that it could never happen.

But several months ago, I realized that there was worse: What if something happened to me?  Oh, I know that sounds selfish, and on the surface, how can that be as bad as the first scenario?  But when I think about it - really think - what destroys me is the thought of my son hurting and grieving and desperately wanting me, and the knowledge that I wouldn't be there to comfort him.  He's my baby and I'm his mum, and while he's a child., I should be there holding his hand and reassuring him, I should be cuddling him when his heart is breaking and wiping his tears away and helping him to find acceptance where understanding is impossible.  The thought of not being there to do that and the unbearable grief that he would feel without me floors me.  Perhaps this is what people spoke about when I was pregnant - how it feels like to love your child so much that their happiness and welfare comes before yours - before anything -  every time.  I voice this thought to my husband.  "It's bloody morbid, that's what it is," he says, with a long suffering sigh.  He's right.  It is.

But my friend Claire had to live with the this thought every day for two years, because at the age of 36, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and right from the start, it was made clear to her that this was it:  There was no way to fight against it, no second chances, no possibility that she'd pull though.  It was terminal and aggressive, and it was going to take her away from her husband and two young children, and there was not a damn thing that anybody could do about it.

Claire was one of a very special group of ladies that I am a part of.  We met online many years ago (which conjures up images of internet geeks playing Dungeons and Dragons. We don't) and happened to have babies at similar times.  This led to a close-knit community of around 50 of us who chat most days about our lives, our children - everything.  We've been there for each other for sleepless nights, post natal depression, divorce, domestic violence, and a lot of laughs...life really.  When she first discovered the lump in her breast, we all encouraged her to see a doctor, reassuring her that it was probably just a cyst.  When she told us it was cancer, we supported her and told her to have hope - that so much can be done these days that she was likely to be fit and well in a couple of years.  When she found out that it was terminal, none of us knew what to say, but we said it anyway, and we tried to be there, keeping things normal and holding her up while she was falling apart.  When she finally died in April after facing life with cancer with admirable humour and bravery, she left a gaping hole in our group.  She was right there until the end, chatting away, making us laugh and with a gift for saying exactly what needed to be said in exactly the right words, especially when one of us was being a complete tool and needed to be told.  We couldn't believe she'd really gone.  Still can't.  And the most painful thing of all for me is not that I've lost my friend, but that she had to live for two years, knowing that she'd never see her children grow up or be there to make sure that they read that book she loved when they were old enough, or to check that they'd cleaned their teeth properly before school, and knowing all the time how devastated and lost they were going to feel when she finally went.  Because no matter how many times a counsellor tells a child that mummy's sick and never getting better and that one day she'll die, how can you really prepare a child for something like that?

On 19th October, some of our group are doing the Race For Life in Claire's home town in her memory.  We want your money.  We want to contribute to the research and treatment of this frightful disease in the hopes that one day no child will have to lose a parent to it when they're so young, nobody will have to die this painful, drawn out death, no circle of friends will be incomplete because cancer stole one of them away far too young.

Our Just Giving page is here: https://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/lllers/  if you can't donate, please share this blog post - tweet it, email it, share it on Facebook - do whatever you can do to make it go viral, because the more money we can raise, the more work can be done to prevent and cure cancer.  Thank you.



13 comments:

  1. very moving and very very sad. I'm off to donate.

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  2. Lise, that's so SO beautiful and you've got it just right. The thought of me dying is something that concerns me. Not for me, but for my children.. :( xxxx

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  3. Oh Lise.

    I have no words. It is and was utterly utterly shitty.

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  4. Shit. I'm so sorry, that's awful.

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  5. I miss Claire so much. She always said the funniest and sweetest thing. I laugh every time I look back on her FB and see that post about outliving Maggie Thatcher, but with a heavy heart at the same time. I was never as close to her as some other LLLers were, and that makes me sad that I didn't make more of the time we had. I will be thinking of you all on race day :)

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  6. I will be donating as soon as I get paid.
    This post has moved me to tears, I'm not usually the crying type. It was the bit about her children. I lost my mother when I was 6 years old and you have hit the nail on the head about how awful it feels. Nearly 22 years on and I'm still a mess about it. I hope Claire's children heal a lot faster than I have.

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  7. You absolutely nailed it Lise. My worst fear is Anya going through the hell I did losing my Dad young. Xxx

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. I was only telling a friend of mine the other day how the thought of not being there for my children scares me. Life is so precious and can be taken away in an instant.

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  9. Beautiful post. Such a brave lady. It is my worst fear and the thought of it alone brings a lump to my throat. I hope her children are ok.

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  10. I'm so sorry you lost a friend, and her poor family too- I hope they are coping as well as they can x

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  11. Amazing post my lovely, I myself have tried to write this comment about 10 times without welling up with not much success so god knows how much this post took out of you! I am truly sorry for your loss (and that of her family and extended circle of friends). One of my best friends was diagnosed with quite aggressive breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 32, the year she planned to be married, the year I was pregnant with my little girl. We spent a lot of that year comparing symptoms (you'd be surprised how many are the same during pregnancy versus chemo!!) and I am really happy to say she is still here fighting, happily married and trying for children of her own.
    Reading your post brought back those intense moments after she said the words no-one wants to hear, when so many things were rushing around in my (hormone crazed) head! Thank you for bringing it to us all and for sprinkling it with your wonderful humour and honesty. xxx

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