The only upside I can see to having cancer is that I've met some amazing people. The beating bowel cancer forum, the twitterverse and through charity contacts I've talked to (in real life and the virtual one) some of the kindest, most inspirational, funny and insightful people I could hope for. Sadly the downside of being a member of the cancer club is that while as our population grows sadly too fast, we also lose members.
I'd like to mention two people who've touched me with their generosity and spirit and whose loss has ricocheted through our community of bowel cancer friends. I didn't meet either of these people in person but remain humbled by them and, for what it's worth, dedicate this blog entry to them.
Firstly Alison. Alison offered me the gentle kindness of a stranger when I was first diagnosed with cancer. I stumbled into the beating bowel cancer forum, feeling like a freak with the dreaded C word eating up my innards and found a community of people who welcomed me with sadness at my situation, but also with humour, empathy and warmth. Alison offered many words of personal kindness and the title of her blog 'why not me?' summed up her gracious spirit and gentle kindness.
Alison had so many reasons to feel bitter, her treatment by doctors was at times appalling, but she turned this experience to strength. Alison not only helped individuals like me on a day to day basis but she also supported beating bowel cancers mission to change the way cancer patients are treated. She worked voluntarily with the nhs, helping doctors understands patient's needs and this year told her story in parliament so MPs could hear first hand the experiences of a woman who was told she had cancer in a corridor. Alison was inspiring, gracious and kind and she died last month.
The next person who loss has affected the bowel cancer community deeply is Hannah. Again I didn't meet Hannah, I followed her on twitter and read her blog. I can't claim to have known her well. I can tell you that she was funny, articulate, had an amazing writing style and obviously lit up the world for those around her.
Hannah was apparently clear of cancer but had been struggling with the after effects of radiotherapy and had terrible pain. She was admitted to a hospice several times for respite care and pain relief but the cause of her pain was not established until it was too late. Hannah found out that cancer had returned and it had spread to her brain and her kidneys. Hannah died yesterday. Just 20 days after her 30th birthday. Too too young. Too soon for a girl who loved nail varnish and frozen yogurt, who was funny, feisty and loved by so many.
Alison and Hannah were friends who met through this horrible disease. Hannah mourned Alison with the rest of us and today we shed tears for Hannah. I am a stranger whose life has been touched by theirs. I have cried for both of them but I can't imagine what their families are going through. I can't attempt to give full justice to the impact of Alison and Hannah or to explain what their loss means to the people who loved them. I am just one of the strangers who have shed tears for them tonight.
Every cloud has a silver lining, I just wish that those clouds hadn't carried two of them away.