You know who your friends are

Bloody hell, that went quick. I’ve only just recovered from the physical bashing of  the chemo and suddenly I’m having my boob job on Thursday this week.

Everyone, including my acupuncture lady, keeps telling me to conserve my energy as it comes back to help me get through the surgery and recovery. Being me, I am playing fast and loose with my renewed zest, and fear I have almost spent all my credit on a very sociable week.

Normally, I’m awake past midnight about once a month, max. In the past seven days, I’ve been up late three times already, with another sensational night of wine and rare steak planned tonight to celebrate DH’s 38th birthday yesterday (it clashed with Mother’s Day – not entirely fair for either of us! DS and DD delivered scented daffs and made several cards, including one in which DD had written in her fledgling hand, ‘Happy Movvas Day’).

Mothering Sunday mantelpiece

Last Monday, we saw Elbow at the O2. It was an amazing gig (or ‘pop concert’ if you’re my age) and so good to be out having fun with DH, just by ourselves, enjoying a plastic pint and waving our arms in the air while bellowing ‘one day like this a year will see me right’ for the inevitable encore, with 20,000 other slightly jaded people in their mid-30s. Then on Wednesday I was out for cocktails, Thai and gossip with one of my favourite and best people, and on Thursday me and DH headed up town (after an eventful and extended journey thanks to some poor desperate soul being scraped off the tracks at Wimbledon) for an evening out with the gorgeously fun Chez Gathornes, our gang of uni muckers, named after our third year student house at Bristol Poly (which was the fractionally more impressive University of the West of England by the time I left in 1994).

All of which has given me pause to consider how a Big Event (in this case cancer, but this could equally apply to any other health crisis as well as other life-changing moments) really does highlight who your friends are. Most of my nearest and dearest have been rocklike, steadfast in their support, in constant touch, doing everything I need them to do, making me laugh, showering me with cards, flowers and thoughtful gestures, and generally Being There, for which I am incredibly grateful, and very, very humbled. A number of people who I hadn’t seen much of or heard from for a while, and some very new friends, have surprised and touched me by seriously stepping up. And a few people who I assumed would obviously be there for me sort of…haven’t.

I know cancer’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a scary word, and some people simply can’t deal with me having it. Others have too much crap going on in their own lives to deal with mine. In some cases, I’m completely OK with this, and I get it. In other cases, I remain confused and hurt by notable absences from Team Pinchy’s line up of superstar cheerleaders. I read in a book by someone who went through breast cancer that some of her friends also simply checked out of the friendship at diagnosis for various reasons and she had to accept this and just let them back in when she was well again. At the moment, my feeling is that these friendships may well be irrepairably damaged. I may be ‘away with the cancer fairies’, as DH puts it, but I am so sad about this that I don’t know if I will be able to truly forgive and forget, not for a long time anyway.

At the same time, I’m aware that I haven’t always been a great friend. I really struggled when we took two years to conceive DD and dear friends were getting pregnant and having babies all around us. I’ve also had to distance myself from one situation because after doing my best to help, I am now finding it too distressing to watch people I love apparently push the self-destruct button. But I hope that if any of my friends or family ever have to go through what we’re dealing with – and I touch wood and pray this doesn’t happen – I would be as supportive, loving, generous and generally fabulous as the vast majority of them have been to me. I feel extraordinarily blessed, and very appreciative.

And, it has to be said, scared out of my wits about Big Thursday and the aftermath. The anxiety dreams have started already…



  1. Sending you lots of good vibes for Thursday and hope you enjoy the birthday celebrations tonight!!! As for friendships, I think there are many that fit a certain time or life-stage and naturally fizzle out. It sounds like Team Pinchy is the solid foundation, the rest “extras”. You are absolutely right to focus on what you have in abundance – lots of people think the world of you and you’ll be in many people’s thoughts Thursday and beyond. Xxxx

  2. I truly found out who my friends were when I had my mastectomy. I have never made friends easily or had many and I was shocked to the core that people couldn’t deal with their pain. I have decided it they can not stand by me through the thin, then they are not worth having as friends.

    Good luck for Thursday, I will be thinking of you.

    • Thanks lovely. Glad I’m not alone! I appreciate that no-one else has my perspective on life while I’m getting through all this, and the fact of my cancer doesn’t change the crap going on for other people. But I have been genuinely shocked that some people who I thought loved me seem unable to handle this, when I have no choice but to live through it. And very pleasantly surprised, also, that others have gone above and beyond.

  3. I totally agree with everything that Sarah Knight has just written. You need to focus on yourself right now. Wishing you a very speedy recovery in mind and body. Lots of love and sunshine Bernie

  4. Thinking of you and sending good wishes for everything to go smoothly on Big Thursday. The impact cancer has on our friendships and relationships continues to surprise me too – it brings a very odd dynamic.

    I can also really relate to your anxiety dreams – I am getting mine already for upcoming checks – what the mind does is incredible, and worryingly creative.

    Big hugs

  5. Hi Maja
    I’m a pal of your Mum’s and have been following your progress with hope and awe having been through it all myself 18 months ago.

    The surgery was ok. Not something you’d want to do if there was an alternative but not particularly painful and the result healed up quickly. Try not to worry, think of it as a top end cosmetic snip!

    Keep smiling, I’ll keep on rooting for you

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