I haven’t really had to deal with death much, aside from elderly grandparents. A pseudo friend died of Leukaemia when I was 17. Another friend from school died a few years after. That’s about it.
Since I’ve been diagnosed with cancer I’ve managed to get into a huge community on Twitter of other people who are going through the same or similar things. Well, similar in the sense that they’re also dealing with or have dealt with cancer. There is a marvellous group of incredible people who I connect with almost on a daily basis. They are so supportive and understanding and have become people I would describe as friends.
One of my favourites is Amy Mattingly, and unfortunately today is her memorial service.
Even in her last couple of weeks she was still checking in with me to see how I was doing. She was interested in knowing details of my recovery and how the swelling was progressing. In the week she found out her SIRT couldn’t go ahead (an experimental treatment that wasn’t funded by the NHS, so she crowd funded and we all pitched in to help), she was telling me how much motivation I had been giving her that week (me giving this amazing human motivation? What a compliment). She was happy for me getting to the pub, she was happy that I had no treatment left, she said I deserved a big holiday. All this, only weeks before she left us.
I like to think she’s on a big holiday now. But I do know the truth of it is that she’s dead. Gone forever. Cancer really kills. And she’s known it was coming for some time. Her final tweet was a great, but true and humbling:
‘Advanced cancer is like SkiFree. No matter which route you take down the mountain, the big robot guy eats you in the end.’
I know a few people with terminal cancer. There is no hope for them of beating their cancer. No matter how positive they are, they will die too, and it could happen at any time. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re positive or ‘strong’ or how hard you ‘fight’. I don’t know how you come to terms with knowing your demise is imminent. But I know you do, somehow. And these girls do SO gallantly that they give me strength to get through anything I have to.
It also gets you thinking about the question of whether it’s better to know about your death in advance or for it to happen suddenly? Either way, it shouldn’t happen in your 30s!
To all the people I know who despite their good attitude, positivity and staunch willingness to live as long as possible, will in fact the die of this horrible fate, If I had one wish in the whole world it would be to save you and restore you all to your cancer free state.
As I can’t quite make this happen, I vow to love and appreciate you while you’re here, to ask you how you’re going, to check in, to always care. And once the inevitable time comes that you are gone, I will remember you forever, my thoughts and memories of you will stay with me and I will live fully in your honour. Please know that connecting with you has changed my life.
To Amy, I will take your spirit and outlook and colour with me everywhere I go. You will be a beacon of light, always in me. You had a profound effect on me, you mean a lot. I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of life and I have come up with this. It is our ability to choose how we react to bad situations. And you’ve done so gallantly. This is our humanity. We can have everything taken away from us except our ability to choose how to react to it. And it is our legacy. The things we did in our lives that affected people, the people we knew, the people we loved. And you have reached so many people and you will be with us forever. It doesn’t make it easier, but I know you have had an impact on more people than most people do even if they make it to 100. Cancer sucks more than anything but we’ll keep trying to get to the root of it and kill it all. I can only thank you for being so incredible, so important. For being Amy.