When I first had my cancer diagnosis I was gutted. I remember so clearly driving back from hospital with my husband and actually wanting to just drive off the road. It sounds dramatic, and it was, I had no idea how I was going to deal with this news. Then I looked at the man next to me, who I love so much, and life seemed worth fighting for. What I didn’t expect, was for my friends and family to rally round to such an incredible degree. You are going through this horrible experience on your own, but at the same time, you are being lifted by your team, all of whom have a particular role in your new-found state. Going through my treatment, I would call on each one for their particular expertise. At the beginning, I wanted to give something back in return as I was so grateful, but in fact what’s important is to accept the kindness of others, and know that you will do the same for someone else when it’s they go through something horrible. Each friend is important, but your core team will be there for you, each, in turns out, with a specific role.
The StraightShooter Survivor
She’s already been through the treatment, and she tells it like it is. It’s the person you call for practical advice from the moment you first find out, to the recovery period. She doesn’t hold back, and will tell you all the gory details, preparing you for the realities of what you’re about to go through. In my case, this was my friend Chloe, who was always at the other end of the line
Immensely practical, this friend will come to your side to organise your day-to-day routine. Cooking great batches of healthy food for the freezer, making freshly squeezed juices, cleaning the house, and making sure you get exercise every single day, even when you hate the idea. My sister Ruth fulfilled this role – she was like a magic fairy, coming in to sort me out.
The Healer Expert
Your expert friend, who not only understands conventional medicine, but also food as a medicine. I was really strict with my diet from the moment I found out, but not in a bonkers way. Everything Andrea told me to do, I followed, but she wasn’t draconian about it. Andrea’s basic rules are: eat hot foods during chemo and cold during radiotherapy; cut out alcohol, sugar, wheat, dairy and eat very little meat; and always put a Japanese pickled apricot in your belly button before chemo!
A couple of days after finding out about my cancer diagnosis, Clare drove up to see me. She has tons of positive energy and knows me well. She looked at every area of my life, where toxicity could have occurred – food, lifestyle, thoughts – and helped me vision a future for myself to help me get better. Combatting cancer isn’t just about taking the medicine, it’s about reviewing your life, and taking steps to be healthy in all sorts of ways.
What struck me when going through this process was how kind people are, and for me the lesson was to accept that kindness, without having to return anything. Your friends and family are there to support you, and you will do the same for them whenever you are needed. They will all fulfil a different role, and your relationship will never be the same again, it will be stronger having been through this together. There may also be a couple of people who let you down – this happened to me, and I was angry they weren’t there for me – but now I just keep them at a distance, it’s fine, but I know who my true friends are.