Ten months ago, a friend asked her doctor to be referred for a mammogram. She hadn’t felt a lump, and had no other symptoms. She wasn’t in the age bracket where they are offered free of charge. She knew she wouldn’t feel peace until she had undergone the screening. They found a lump, and within a week, she had undergone a mastectomy. She took her kids to school that morning, and myself and another friend held her hands as we walked her back to the car. She was going straight to hospital. I didn’t want to let her hand go. I would have given anything for her not to have to endure what was ahead. In the months ahead, she underwent a course of chemotherapy and then radiotherapy. It seemed like an endless night, and there were many days when she languished in bed, too spent to communicate. The day came when the treatment finished. It had begun swiftly and brutally, then one ordinary day she walked out the door after her last treatment and into daylight. An ordinary day for all but her. Changed forever. She offered me a lift to the train station on the way, and impatient drivers refused to make room for her to turn onto the road. She joked that she was going to lift her wig, and holler, something along the lines of “now, do ya think you could let me in?!” All these silly people, thinking that their time is so important. Unable to wait five seconds to let a good woman in. The storm changes you.
Her family arranged a surprise picnic to celebrate the end of her treatment. It was held on a thirty degree day in Spring, a slight breeze tempering the heat. Perfect. She walked up, crying. This is for you. We are assembled for you. We couldn’t step in for you on the days when the thought of more treatment seemed unbearable. We couldn’t take your discomfort away. We can do this. Your daughter’s made a glorious cake and cookies, and we enjoyed an Australian BBQ and salads. You got through it, sweetheart. The dark night of the soul has passed. Her message to others is to routinely check yourself. To have the necessary screenings, if only to put your mind at ease. It is harder to feel comfort in burying your head in the sand, when you have a friend that has saved her own life by not doing so. Cheers to you, my darling. I look forward to enjoying many more Australian picnics with you.