116. With friends and family in Holland

ONE YEAR AGO... spending a couple of days in Holland

12th April 2014

I meet my Good Old Friend for tea and cake.

She is a cancer nurse and has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of cancer patients go through their treatment. She is also one of my nearest and dearest friends.

I am discovering once more how completely wonderful it is to have friends who have known me for so many years. Good Old Friend and I met as teenagers, starting our nursing training together, and we have walked alongside each other ever since. I love my friend and would trust her with my life.

Good Old Friend thinks this definitely sounds like an early cancer, a treatable cancer, a cancer I will survive.

"I think," she says, "that this will be a part of your journey and it will turn out to be something really important and significant."

She talks me through the questions I need to ask the surgeon. Reassuringly, she explains that even metastasised breast cancer [cancer that has spread] can be cured with chemotherapy these days.

And yet for all that reassurance, she also tells me of her utter shock when hearing my news.

To find that she, too, was shaken: that has validated my own shock.

Her son [aged 15] had asked, also in shock: "Gaat Irene nou dood?" ["Is Irene going to die?"]

It's not all bad news...
Good times that week included time with extended family:
with my sister at my aunt's 91st birthday party

I am staying with my sister and my older daughter.

Whose Dutch, by the way, has improved enormously.

[That was one reason for sending my daughter across the Channel by herself: she took a self-taught Dutch GSCE that summer and needed practice. Thank you sisters and friends who took her under their wing - she passed the exams with flying colours!]

My daughter loves Knee Owl.

"Why don't you make me one?" she asks.

I will! What kind would she like?

"I don't know. Maybe I can invent something wrong with me?"

Ah. I see. Owls are there for the sick and the infirm. But because her knees are fine she won't need my friend's, and because she doesn't have cancer she won't need mine.

I tell her that she won't ever need an owl as an alter ago and a companion in illness, because she's got Pig. He is the best.