Tips, Experiences and Inspiration for Those who are Caring for the Seriously Ill. 

Guest Posts
Salty Cow

After being diagnosed with cancer as a teenager, it's not uncommon for me to enter my best mates house fumbling at my clothes, shouting something along the lines of 'remember that weird thing I showed you near my boob, can you have a look?'

She's used to it, after almost 30 years of friendship she knows no different. I guess that's what happens when your best friend has been a cancer survivor for as long as you can remember.

We met when we were just 15, through a bunch of friends who were society’s cast-outs: the punks, the drop-outs, the people who’d lost their way. I had been less than a year out of hospital for spinal cancer. She was living in a squat. We stuck together through the years, through failed marriages, cancer treatments, sometimes losing touch but always coming back together.

In the last 15 years she’s been by my side throughout the various cancer diagnosis’ I’ve had, even from a distance. Always there to give words of support by text message or a phone call.

For me, having a friend like this in my life is invaluable, she knows everything about me. I regularly strip in her living room to show her something that's worrying me. One thing about surviving spinal cancer at 14 and then getting subsequent skin cancers decades later is the constant worry. I can show her anything that's concerning me from the first moment I find it. She's like my mental note book of symptoms. I don't necessarily need to go to the doctors, but I do need to tell someone my concern. Someone who’ll monitor it in a rational way. She'll tell me if I'm being a hypochondriac or if there's a genuine concern. She'll tell me if something has changed. Having that safety net and knowing she's got my back is a lifesaver.

My health has taken a downward turn in the last six months and I've been diagnosed with late toxicity in my neck and upper back nerves. This has meant that I’ve slowed down quite a lot physically. Usually, I'm the girl that wants to take life at 100mph, so I'm adjusting to a new forced pace.

My bestie knows how much this bothers me, and also helps me pace myself, giving me moral support every step of the way. We had a full day together recently, and she suggested stopping for a coffee each time she could see me flaking. She carried my bags, she called me ‘an old biddy’ for having to stop so often. She worked the whole day out, so that I got plenty of opportunity to stop and rest without having to ask. She knows me so well, she knew it was incredibly exhausting for me but she also knows how stubborn I am and that I would’ve just kept going. 

We affectionately refer to each other as ‘hubby’. Like every good hubby we know each other's triggers, likes and dislikes. I couldn't have got through these years without having her by my side, with everything that life throws at us, it’s hard enough without adding cancer to the mix.

Who else would look at my chemotherapy-cream-scabbed-up-cancer face, laugh and tell me to go find my red and black stripy jumper as I'd be a great Freddy Krueger for Halloween?

We've laughed, we've cried, we've worked through most situations with the question "What are WE going to do about it?"

We've gone from two kids thrown out into the world, terrified that we might not make it, to two grown women in their 40s, who have made it this far. We still don't know the answers, but together we'll figure out how to work around life’s challenges. No matter what life throws at me, I'll always have her by my side!

Having that one mate who sees you for who you are - not for your cancer diagnosis, not for your health situation but for who you are - is the best. If you've got one of those, grab hold of them tight and give them a big squeeze, their support is invaluable. They’re worth their weight in gold.