There’s generally not much conversation in the chemo unit, but yesterday was different thanks to Suzanne. She complained that the drugs compelled her to converse. She was also keen to show us her swollen ankles, the line they’d put in her arm and the bruises that had sprung up as a result.
Suzanne revealed that she had been given between two and six months left to live. Her cancer was everywhere. Mandy who was sat opposite, revealed that she had the same prognosis. What followed was a frank and honest conversation about their feelings, how it had affected their relationships and the perils of chemo.
Suzanne hopes that chemo will buy her enough time to put together memory boxes for her grandkids and tick things off her bucket list – one of them is to ride a Chopper bike with ribbons on the handlebars, just like she did when she was eight.
As she spoke, I had a mental image of Suzanne as a child racing her Chopper around the local streets, spirited, smiling and without a care in the world. It made me want to cry, but I guessed my tears would not go down too well and might put Dad off his chocolate covered cashew nuts (he said he wasn’t hungry, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist them!).
I half wondered if I should take down Suzanne’s address and send a Chopper round with the requisite ribbons streaming from the handlebars, but I didn’t. I gave her my M&S fruit salad instead and Dad took her hand on the way out and wished her all the best of luck.
Suzanne and Mandy are only a few years older than me and I can’t imagine what they must be feeling. And yes, in case you are wondering, it did make me feel VERY grateful to be alive, not in need of chemo and allowed to dream that I might live to a ripe old age.
‘Cancer comes with its gifts,’ said Suzanne. She joked about running up a huge credit card bill, before explaining that the illness had enabled her to have frank and open conversations with loved ones.
It strikes me that life comes with gifts. We don’t have to wait for a death sentence before telling our nearest and dearest how much they mean to us and hopping onto a Chopper complete with ribbons and a trumpet shaped horn or whatever else it is that takes your fancy. Honk, honk!
I am lucky to be here.