Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Rosie and the Magnificent Seven

I would never have expected that at 33 years old I would have had to say goodbye to two close friends within a month of each other. Indeed, this time last year the possibility of being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing a year of brutal treatment would just have seemed like something that happened to other people. But here we are.

A month to the day after our darling JoJo passed away, we also lost another member of our group of seven. Rosie was the 'big sister' of our group. She was incredibly clever and articulate and as have said in one of my previous blog posts, the kind of person I want to be when I grow up. I admire Rosie possibly more than anyone I've ever met and always felt a little in awe of her. Like JoJo, she was given a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer in her liver within months after her primary diagnosis. Like JoJo, she passed away less than a year after her primary diagnosis. Like JoJo, we miss her incredibly.

Rosie was one of the first women I spoke to when I joined the Younger Breast Cancer Network. We went through our chemotherapy for primary breast cancer at the same time. In November last year, she single handedly arranged a meet up in London which I was unable to go to - much to my disappointment - due to chemotherapy side effects. I can remember her e-mailing me and telling me how much she wanted to meet me and that she felt an affinity with me as we were diagnosed around the same time.

Rosie dealt with her illness with complete class and grace and always had the time to be a calming and soothing influence on the rest of us, no matter how much she may have been struggling herself. She made sure she was regularly checking in on me after my operation because of my less than positive experience in hospital.  She was the one who picked me up after Claire (another member of the network) passed away suddenly and I felt as if all the fight had been sucked from my body. I can remember her delight of being part of a 'gang' and how excited she was when we all met in London in February. In one of the many, many conversations between the seven of us, we found a picture of seven female superheros and assigned a member of our group to each superhero (yes - we quite often needed ways to entertain ourselves during treatment!). Rosie was Wonderwoman - I think this describes her perfectly.

JoJo's passing was so quick and unexpected and we never got to say goodbye, although we are sure she knew how much we loved her. Although Rosie's deterioration was quick, her passing was something that we had prepared ourselves for. The week before her death, the five of us visited her in hospital. That day we there was a glimmer of hope that she would pull back and that she would be back with us fighting Genghis once more. In fact, as we left she told us to go to the pub that afternoon and that next time she would be with us. Sadly the next day we were informed that her doctors had brought the devastating news that they could no longer treat her cancer and that the only options left to her were palliative. Once again it seemed inconceivable that we could lose another beautiful, wonderful young woman to this cruel disease. Rosie passed away a week after our visit. I am so thankful that we got to see her, to make her laugh, to kiss her and to tell her how much we loved her.

Rosie leaves behind two beautiful children, a devoted husband, family and friends. It is testament to how much Rosie was respected and admired by others that after her death there was an outpouring of sorrow from those who had never met Rosie but had followed her story through her blog 'Fighting Genghis'. Her husband Elliot now continues Rosie's legacy by writing her blog and by honouring Rosie's wish to have a charity established in her name. I know that Elliot wishes to ensure that their children know just how much their mum meant to others and I hope that we can be part of that.

Suddenly our group of seven has become five. In a matter of weeks we have lost two people who have been a constant presence day and night for months. One minute they are there. The next they aren't. 

I still find it very difficult to speak about JoJo and Rosie in the past tense. One of the reasons for this is that I don''t feel that it is possible for people with such vital presence and such positive influence on others to ever really leave us. They live on through family, friends and those who had the privilege to know them. 

Our group will always be seven. Rosie and JoJo will always be with us. Every time we share a silly joke, a story about treatment side effects or soothing, sensible words when one of us is having an emotional tremor, they are with us. Every time we meet and drink a little too much wine, they will be with us. Every photo we have taken together they will be with us.

We will always be seven - forever and always xxx