Today, I joined a friend first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the hospital whilst she had her chemotherapy. I first met this fabulous lady at a fundraising event 18 months ago when she was in remission from her cancer. Since meeting we have been in touch regularly and together with another dear friend who sadly passed away last year, formed the ‘champagne and shoe girls’.
This merry band of crazies would meet up for a fun and laughter filled day, often with a glass of champagne (despite any drug regimen) and find the most outrageous shoes to try on and buy! Oooh we found some crackers and I have a selection of crazy pairs that although I know I’ll probably never wear, I love just because they were part of a day out with the girls. You see although we know each other ‘because’ of cancer, sometimes we just want to do something silly, something that’ll have us all in stitches of laughter, something that others may look at and question. I find it particularly hard when I overhear someone questioning why we’re giggling away when we must be cancer patients as one of the group is in a headscarf or their hair is just beginning to grow back… but sometimes we also want to have this laughter with people who ‘get it’ and with whom we can casually drop a ‘concerned remark’ into conversation whilst discussing the importance of sequins and colour on a pair of 5inch heeled shoes!
My friend’s cancer has spread and she’s now having chemotherapy to get rid of this little lot. She’s doing brilliantly. Her count continues to go down and we have a couple more sessions to go. My ‘support’ is easy… I get to hang out with my friend and natter the day away, perhaps go out and purchase food treats or a different coffee/tea to that served from the trolley… but mainly it’s just us catching up. The only difference from normal is that we have to wear our own shoes and there’s no champagne! Strangely a day spent like this goes so fast and we’re always left saying ‘oooh you haven’t told me about X or Y’!
Chemo wards aren’t scary you know… they’re just a room filled with fabulous people who are attached to drips for the day. Each of those people are there for a similar reason but each have a different tale to tell and stories to share – I’m not talking of cancer but of life! Before I’d entered a chemo ward, I thought it would be full of people with no hair who were semi-conscious. I thought that it would be a sad place of people ‘fighting’ to survive and being pumped with toxic drugs. I thought it would be a place that people didn’t talk and there would be a silence only punctuated by the glugging sound of fluids being pumped into them. And I don’t mind saying that I was anxious the first time I was invited to spend time with a friend on their ‘chemo day’.
In reality it’s like a coffee shop or bar. Lots of people from all walks of life, all ages, both sexes and, of course, different stages of cancer sharing their time. They ARE sitting there plugged into the drip machines but what you don’t hear or see is sadness. What you see is an eagerness for the chemo to be finished so that they can move on with their lives but what you also see is a camaraderie that’s so inspiring. You hear other people’s conversations and they must hear ours too.. you hear people discussing what they’re going to have for dinner or which film they’re off to see at the movies. Preparation for a birthday party or a trip overseas…in fact the conversations really are akin to the conversation you’d hear in the coffee shop and if you close your eyes, you could so easily be there.
BUT that said, a day in hospital is a long day without friends or company. So if you’ve got a friend having chemo or spending time in hospital for anything, do think about whether you could share an hour of your day with them and instead of that long phone call to finalise plans for a party, pop in and talk to them there. It’s not scary. It’s not frightening. And your friend (and the others in the ward that you have little chats with) will appreciate the company… and I’d put money on it, you’ll have a great time too.