The world’s a little dimmer without your shining light

You’ve heard me talk before about my lovely friend, Tish.  Today I heard the news that she passed away yesterday morning.  My world just got a little bit darker.

Tish came into my life a few years ago when we both attended a charity ball in Brighton raising funds to build a new Macmillan Support Centre (Splash of Green).  The ball was (and has been annually since) organised by a mutual friend, Della.  Della had put Tish and I on the same table along with Lindsay and Kerry.  We had a blast.  We laughed and giggled the evening away and became great friends.

I wrote about our little trip to Brighton.  We had a hoot.   What I didn’t tell you.  I didn’t know how.  Was that Kerry passed away last November.  We didn’t get the chance to celebrate her 40th birthday with her.  I’m sure Kerry loved the planning and plotting on our trip to Brighton though.  Tish and I visited my bench in Berkeley Square and raised a glass to Kerry to wish her a happy birthday.

My bench in Berkeley Square has featured a great deal with Tish and I over the past year or so.  We’ve visited it together and separately.  I’ve loved that I get a text from Tish saying she’s there.  She needed space and somewhere to think and has headed to my bench.  I’ve loved that she found sanctity on my bench too.  I’ve loved that she’s celebrated there with me also.

I can’t believe that a year and a few days after Kerry’s passing, I’m here writing this now about Tish’s passing.

Tish has celebrated the great things with me and also the not so great things.  We’ve met up before or after medical appointments.  Texted, called or sent a card to say that we’re thinking of each other at a time of scanxiety or treatment.  I think we ‘got’ each other.  Despite being in each other’s lives for such a relatively short time, she was truly a great friend.

In recent months when she’s not been so well, I’ve spent time with her in hospital receiving chemo or visited her when she’s been staying ‘overnight’.  We’ve met up in town when she’s having appointments.  We’ve put the world to right face to face.  Lately because of fluid on her lungs, we’ve ‘talked’ more by text.  Long lengthy texts that I’m sure our mobile providers love the cost of.  We’ve exchanged cards and postcards.  We’ve encouraged, supported, motivated and loved.

Tish showed me many things in our short friendship.  Her generosity of spirit.  Her incredibly positive attitude.  Her endless love.  Her ability to plan for a future.  To take life and give it a jolly good shakeup.

For example, last year when she was told her ovarian cancer had recurred.  She did what any crazy fun loving, life living person would do… booked a trip to Australia!  One of Tish’s sisters lives in Australia and had got married in Mexico.  Tish had been to the wedding and had met a man there, Dave.  He lived in Perth.  Tish said it was crazy timing and crazy to think that anyone should come into her life now.  Her month in Australia was made all the better by a truly caring and thoughtful man.  He visited a few months ago and was planning to come over here for Christmas.  I’m so terribly grateful that Tish had this love in her life again.  Despite his living so far away, he was always in touch with her and obviously cared deeply for her.

Tish has always  believed that she can help her health by maintaining a positive energy, meditating, eating well and with nutrition to help fight cancer and keep her cancer-free.  Dave supported her in this and she attended many meditation classes and events in Perth.  She came back from Australia really stunning the medics and proving once again that she can beat this dreadful disease.

Life sort of took over recently with trying to sort out finances and thinking about selling her flat.  We talked about some of the stresses in her life that were now pushing ‘Tish’ time out and the importance of putting it all back together again.  Tish booked into the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre a few months ago.  I talked about my going at the same time but decided that we both needed to talk about things separately.  She took her great friend Maxine.  Tish came back refreshed and ready to renew her positive spirit once more.  Tish urged me to book myself into Penny Brohn.  I’m now supremely grateful that she did and off there very soon.

I can’t imagine the pain and loss that is being experienced by her daughter, her parents, her siblings and Dave.  No parent should lose a child, at any age.  No young girl should have to deal with the loss of her parent.

Just one final word.

Tish I’m incredibly grateful and thankful for you to have been a part of my life.  You’ve taught me much more than you could every know.  I shall miss you dreadfully and right now don’t know who’s going to put my world right.  Who will I text with tidbits of crazy news?  Thank you for your support, love, laughter and encouragement.

Text to a friend

Whilst away at the European Sarcoma Conference I knew something wasn’t right.  I think I knew that Tish would be protecting me whilst I was overseas.  She fully supported my being involved in conferences, boards, cancer networks etc so wouldn’t want to burden me whilst I was abroad.  But I’ve had this dreadful feeling all day.  Below is a (long) text message I sent to a friend:

“I need to run something by you. I don’t know that you’ll understand nor that I’ll be able to tell you all I need to say but I need to know I’ve tried and need to know you’ve listened.

You may remember me talking about the ‘champagne and shoe’ girls. A little band of cancer warriors, Kerry, Letitia and I. Kerry and Tish had ovarian cancer and I was introduced to them quite some time ago but we hit a chord and just ‘got it’, ‘got each other’. No matter how bleak a prognosis or indeed how bleak we felt, we’ve been able to spark each other, support one another, have a laugh and look beyond.

This time last year Kerry passed away. I had the call from Tish at this conference in Berlin and my heart broke just a little bit more. Kerry was always so strong. We had a giggle. We both enjoyed bubbles and we also enjoyed the same shoe collection and spent an hour or several trying on new pairs.

But Kerry was truly Tish’s support. They both had the same diagnosis and a similar prognosis. Tish and I have been close this last year and there have been many times when she’s been feeling down or I have, we’ve met up, put the world to rights and left back in our positive places. Some times we’ve not managed to meet but talk by text. Tish has been very poorly but after living her life and going to Australia embraced life once more and foiled the experts with a change in her prognosis once again.

She’s recently taken a turn for the worst and I saw her last a few weeks ago when she was a shadow of her former self but still had a smile and a hug for me.

She was admitted again to hospital a week or so ago and we’ve texted. The last texts written by her 22yo daughter last night.

I don’t know what to do. I’m being told by text that she’s weak but ok. But I fear the worst. Selfishly. Wonder how I’m going to cope without my rock to meet with at my bench or text or talk with. Somehow the world is so much better when Tish makes it better.

I’m so scared and don’t want to be the last champagne and shoe girl here. They both had a husband or daughter in their lives and I don’t. It makes no sense.

I’ve got a couple of missed calls and voicemails on my mobile but my PIN number doesn’t work so can’t pick them up… Please tell me they’re from you?

Not really sure if I’ll send this or if you’ll read it… Or what I want from writing it. I just know I want Tish to prove them all wrong and grow old being cantankerous and naughty with me.”

Precious people

You know from previous posts that I’ve a dear friend going through chemo at the moment.  Some days are tougher than others and some days are just plain exhausting for her.  However true to her enormous courage and strength she tries to do so much and mostly for others.

 Yesterday she was at the House of Commons with Target Ovarian charity for a reception with guest MPs, Lords and Trustees together with doctors and researchers who are working to improve the lives of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  It is also an opportunity to speak with politicians and other guests about this rare cancer and raise awareness.  Particularly poignant as last year Letitia attended this event with Kerry, who sadly is no longer with us.

Today however was a treat day.  She was attending the new cancer centre at UCLH for a session with the team about meditation.  There has been over the years quite a bit written about meditation helping people cope with long term illnesses and, of course, the reduction of stress.  Recently there has been a few articles written about the definate benefit for cancer patients and indeed Penn University in the US have a course of mindful meditation specifically for their patients (see my notes from the workshop at the YSC Atlanta Conference in 2010).

We had arranged to meet for lunch, headed into Covent Garden and found ourselves at Brasserie Blanc.  OK so it was a little deliciously naughty but hey, we deserve it!

We were tucked neatly into an alcove which looked into the middle of Covent Garden but from where we could dine and chat without being overheard or interrupted.  It really was a super spot and it was only at 3.45pm that we realised the time!

And doesn’t Tish look fantastic.