“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”

A friend in need is a friend indeed…

It’s not often words fail me. As most people that know me will testify.

My career has been mostly dedicated to the art of the written word, the spin of our beautiful language and yet so often in the last month I have found myself unable to find the words to describe life going on around me.

My beautiful friend (BF) has cancer. Well she doesn’t just have cancer. She’s frankly battling cancer and if that’s not bad enough the crappy chemo is also trying to take her down. (I would replace crappy with another much more severe c-word but various other beautiful friends would really tell me off).

But this blog today isn’t about that battle. It’s not about the tears of sadness, frustration and anger we’ve all cried recently, it’s about the beauty of human spirit.

I live in what can only be described as a community. Some of us live close as a gnat’s chuff to each other (see the eloquence of my written word) and some of us have migrated a few more (thousand) miles away but what the bastard cancer has revealed is what a tight little community of fantastic people we are.

Human spirit has shone through in large dollops of friendship. When friends have felt helpless in this stupid situation that none of us can control we have resorted to practicalities. 

And when the practicalities have been done, we have resorted to full blown over emotional love-ins.

In a world where we can control most things – and a world where if we want something bad enough and we work hard enough, we can mainly achieve it. 

Cancer knows no such rules. Cancer just takes – and it doesn’t matter how successful, wealthy, determined or ballsy we are, we can’t control it or the journey it takes its victims on.

So we control what we can. The small details that makes the cogs go around the battle against cancer. The little details that can make things as easy as possible for everyone involved – and it’s these small things that make me realise how priceless true friends really are. Of course I already knew that – but I’ve been reminded a lot lately.

There’s not a day goes by when my BF has not had a food delivery, a friend pop round, a gift dropped off or a child distracted. And it’s these mini details that count. 

And then amidst all this cancer chaos, there’s the story of the actual small things – the children. Not just my beautiful friend’s small things but mine too.

Watching mine deal with such raw emotion first hand has been a journey in itself.

My 8 year old who walked up to my BF and asked her almost shyly (even though he’s known her since birth) if he could give her a hug. Which was gratefully received. The worry etched in my over anxious 12yo’s face as she tries to come to terms with the cruelty of life. And the power of friendships. Watching how they support my BF’s small things on a day to day basis mainly by trashing my house and doing my head in but never the less it distracts us all.

And then there is the small fry belonging to my BF. The stoic 12 yo who is still able to rebel against authority and yet watches her mum’s every movement. And the nearly 11yo who wears his heart on his sleeve and still finds a reason to smile every day.

This is life. It’s the day to day acts of our small things that we look to, to reveal how we should live. For the moment, for the here and now – and for the smiles you can get from finding a perfectly shaped conker or baking a rainbow cake.

Today I am watching the small things with increased respect. Obviously I’m still shouting a lot otherwise everyone would get very nervous.

This is life.  The community I live in that I’m grateful for, the friendships that are strong and true.

Those true friendships are not only supporting my BF but me too; I’ve had deliveries of flowers, vodka infused strawberries left on my doorstep (oh yes, you read that right) and stacks of croissants delivered for when the BF’s small things are also present at breakfast. 

Oh yes, it appears I have chosen my friends wisely. And then there’s my lovely friends who have simply sent a text to check up on ME (and it’s not even me going through the bastard cancer) that make me realise what makes the world go round.

And all through this there is the centre piece to this story – my beautiful friend. 

Strong, determined, fierce, vulnerable and of course beautiful. She managed to laugh as we shaved her head giving her a lovely mullet (we did of course do the proper thing after we’d all had a good laugh). She’s been cross, she’s shouted and she’s cried. 

And mainly she’s still in control – we’ve all had barked instructions from the hospital bed, the chemo ward and the bedroom. 

And mainly she’s trying as hard as she can to stick two fingers up at this bastard disease. I’m not sure I would be able to greet each day with the grit and determination she has. Mind you we did have to have words about some of the post cancer diagnosis outfits of choice. 

So here’s my revised survival guide for when things are crap. 

I appreciate that as a result many of you could need to review your friendships – and now is the time to do it, because should you be ill or your friend be ill, you need to make sure the right stash lands on your doorstep.

The key to surviving crap includes:
  • Vodka infused strawberries
  • Laughing 
  • Good crying*
  • Gladioli 
  • Spiced salmon and stir fry (cooked by friend’s husband, as this friend doesn’t cook)
  • Curries and chat on a Saturday night
  • Silly daft ridiculous texting
  • My beautiful mum
  • My family
  • My fabulous friends
  • And of course my small things

Now before you all get your hankies out at this overly ‘soppy as shite’ blog (again spot the eloquence of delivery), what I’m mainly trying to do is help you all live your life better. Of course NEVER under-estimate the power of wine.

And finally, if you don’t have friends that know how to make vodka infused strawberries (that were also coated in chocolate) you’re really missing out and I suggest you start interviewing for one now. Sadly mine is taken.

*Good crying. I have been told that if you cry a river and feel better afterwards, you can cry. If you cry a river and still feel pants after, that’s bad crying and you have to distract yourself and avoid at all costs.

Sarah Knight

Trainer and coach in communications. Plate spinner.

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