Like many of my tribe, I’ve always been a teeny bit obsessed by the social and personal column in the newspaper. Whilst normal people call this the births, marriages and deaths section, in our family this has long been known as the “hatched, matched and dispatched”.
It has been a measure of the years rolling by that my primary focus when browsing the HMDs has gradually shifted. As a tween, it was the bar and bat mitzvah pictures (particular the outfits and the hairstyles) in the Jewish Chronicle that attracted my attention. Gradually, as people’s grandparents began to pass away, I started to read the tributes in the dispatched columns. It was fascinating to piece together a life from the snippets in the notices. Old age and death felt so far away at that point. Almost before I knew it, it was the engagement announcements that became the most interesting – who did I know who was getting married and who were they marrying? And inevitably, as night follows day, it wasn’t long before friends were “sprogging up” and I became a critical reviewer of baby names in the births column.
I now seem to be at a very odd stage in my life, in that all forms of announcement have the potential for personal resonance. There is still a trickle of friends finishing their families. There is the occasional wedding. And yes, there are deaths too – not just in old age. The past few days have been like a snapshot of my own personal HMD column. It’s been the circle of life, writ large.
The news of Jojo’s death on Friday has prompted the most phenomenal outpouring of tributes and love. Jojo could have filled an entire newspaper with these messages, never mind a single column. So many people have been affected, so many people have expressed their love, respect and admiration for her. I have learnt so much about my mad ginger liver mets twin in reading these messages and have such tremendous respect for the amazing person that she was. Like many others, I find it very hard to come to terms with the notion that a young, vibrant, energetic woman can be there one minute and gone the next. There must surely be many echoes of her somewhere in the cosmos.
Jojo’s passing has left a gaping whole in my gang of cancer bitches. One seat at the table of seven is empty and can never be filled. But it is being kept warm. Just before Jojo died, Andrea found a tiny ginger kitten in her house. Our gang has called her Jojo Gingercat and she will forever remind us of her namesake. A new life – not necessarily one for the HMDs but nonetheless to be celebrated. Here she is:
There have been other new lives too. Friends have just had a little boy, reminding me of the birth of my own son, four and a half years ago. I will never have another child, a fact which I have still not completely come to terms with. In the pre Genghis days we hadn’t ruled out having a third. That possibility has been snatched away from me. I’m well aware that I am very fortunate to have two beautiful children – so many of my online community have been robbed of the chance of any kids by this horrid disease – but I resent the fact that my childbearing has been curtailed by illness rather than by choice. It has meant the death of the chance of life, and that stinks.
While that hope has died, another was rekindled at the weekend. A very dear and special friend married for the second time, to a very lovely and loving lady. Having both been unhappy for some time, their relationship offered them the chance of fulfilment once again. It was the first second wedding that I’ve been to and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I found just what I’d hoped for – an atmosphere of love, support, warmth, mutual respect and hope. I couldn’t be happier for my friends and wish them all the happiness in the world. Oh, and a very long time together before their story moves from the matched to the dispatched, of course.
Births, marriages and deaths. The circle of life. Welcome, baby. Congratulations, friends. And rest in peace, Jojo.
One of my club of cancer bitches, the beautiful Andrea, is campaigning for a change to the way benefits for cancer patients are calculated and paid. I asked her to explain what the issue is. So in her own words, here it is:
After finding out that my children are not entitled to free school meals even though I am claiming ESA (Emplyment and Support Allowance), I was incensed to find out the reason why was because in my lifetime of working I have paid enough National Insurance. There are two types of ESA benefit; one is contributions based and the other income related. I qualify for the former so am entitled to much less. ‘But I don’t understand?’ I said to the lady on the phone ‘I’m claiming ESA because I am off work due to having cancer, what do you mean my children can’t have free school dinners?’ In a nutshell the ESA department doesn’t care why you are claiming, or for what reason, they just make their calculations on whether or not you have paid in enough National Insurance. Hmm but this doesn’t make sense: surely if I have paid in enough to the big pot, when I am ill and need help i.e free school dinners/child care/dentist/opticians/blue disabled parking badge etc….and all the other benefits that you would usually get how can I not qualify? It seems that that is the case. So enraged was I, and on the advice of one of my auntie’s oldest friends who is a bit of a campaigner herself, I decided to start a petition. At first it was a knee jerk reaction – I was mad as hell and something had to be done. What could I do? I know: start a petition! But what will I do with that petition? At first I wasn’t sure! Now after four days and 3,008 signatures and more being added by the hour and a lot of advice from my darling breast cancer buddies (7 Bitches) and many other friends from the Younger Breast Cancer Network I know exactly what I need to do. After tweeting my local MP on Friday and him responding, I have now emailed him outlining why I am petitioning and how the benefits system regarding cancer patients needs to change and am hoping he will agree to meet with me and help to support me in my fight to get the government to create a standard benefit available to all cancer patients which is fair. I will try to get some kind of media coverage and do whatever I can do to have mine and all the millions of other cancer patients of this countries voices heard. Since starting the petition I have heard so many heartbreaking stories from families whose lives have been turned upside down by this dreadful disease but have also been left with no money, no way to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, going into thousands of pounds worth of credit card debts and even losing their homes. This is morally so wrong, especially for many people that have worked hard all their lives and paid their taxes, to be told ‘Sorry, NO’ when trying to claim some kind of benefit whilst battling a life threatening illness, going through rounds of chemo and radiotherapy and endless hospital visits. How is a person with a cancer diagnosis meant to get through all this treatment and get better if they have the added worry and stress of where the next meal is coming from, or how they will even get to the hospital for treatment? Something needs to be done, somebody needs to listen, something needs to change. If you agree and would like to help then please sign the petition and help me make a change!
So here is the link to Andrea’s petition:
Please help by signing.
I never thought I would be writing this post at least not yet. A couple of weeks ago we went on holiday en famile. It was supposed to be a family treat to give me strength for facing more surgery in the form of a second lumpectomy and SIRT. Instead, it turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I seem to have picked up some sort of bug just before or on holiday, which rendered me really low. That, together with the break from chemotherapy, made my resistance to the liver lodgers impossible to deal with. I spent a lot of time feeling very low and lying on the bed in quite a lot of pain and unable to eat very much, with some days being unable to eat very much at all. Not much fun when you’re on holiday to eat and enjoy the lovely Israeli food we had sought out. I also had my first experience in 20 years feeling sick and throwing up on the airplane on the way back – puking twice on the way home. On top of that I needed a wheelchair at either end of the journey to help me through the airport, which was some shock at the beginning of the holiday and a grateful relief at the end.
I came straight back to a consultation with my breast surgeon to discuss the lumpectomy. He was horrified by the way I looked and insisted that if I had not got better within a matter of hours that he would pull me into hospital. He wanted me admitted to get better, if not for the immediate lumpectomy operation then certainly in time for the SIRT a few days later. And that was it.
I have spent the past ten days in hospitals on the edge of London away from home and my darling children, unfortunately declining swiftly. The infection that rendered me low meant that my liver cannot continue to fight the cancer and there is nothing that can be done and I have been told there are now only palliative options for me. I am hoping to get into a hospice soon although it seems to be a one in one out policy for these wonderful places, for obvious reasons. There at least I hope there will be a degree of peace and a pain-free environment there for me. No one will be able to tell me if it is a few days or weeks, but it certainly won’t be long.
I have been deluged with messages of love which have been lovely, overwhelming, thought provoking and very welcome. There have been many comparisons to my blog and other writings on the subject. I don’t want anyone to compare me to anyone else. This blog, “Fighting Genghis”, was never meant to be a competition for admirers or fame and fortune. I have no issues with the words “fight” or “loss of survival” or “die” unlike other people I have known. It was just my story of what I have been going through over the past almost year. Please remember that. Everyone’s journey is different, everyone’s journey is unique. Please remember me and my family. Thank you for reading. Rosie