It’s not sentimentality that led me to write this book, although no doubt there will be manifestations of slushiness throughout. What began as me simply being compelled to write down how her death made me feel, then evolved into the concept of a book. My thoughts about losing an old friend, her thoughts on being positive and living life, experiences we shared, then developed into more. I found myself with questions to ask to those who were close to her: questions I didn’t know if I would dare ask: questions I almost asked her when she was alive but somehow never did for fear of spoiling the moment of just being with her. She wouldn’t have minded though, and she would have been totally honest. I knew she would love the idea of having a book written about her (as long as I kept some secrets secret!) but how would others feel? Her husband loved the idea. He gave me her folders, diaries and journals that she had compiled to help her through her life with cancer. Once I read them, all my questions were answered. She always had plenty to say (a slight understatement, as anyone who knew her would testify) and I wanted to somehow put it all together in one place. Others close to her thought it was a good idea too, knowing that people might gain something positive from reading her story.
So many people are living with cancer, either personally or with a loved one, affecting them directly or indirectly. There are plenty of books around on how to beat cancer or cope with a diagnosis; on nutrition, positive thinking, meditation, or even fifty things you should or shouldn’t say to someone with cancer, and more besides. This book might touch on some of those things but essentially it is simply about one woman and what happened to her and how she managed to deal with it in an amazing way. She wasn’t a celebrity like Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett or Jade Goody, who also lost their battles with cancer in 2009, although she did make a few appearances on TV and in her local press. She was just an ordinary person, like the teacher teaching your kids, a friend you’ve known since you were young, a neighbour who always has time for you, a mother and wife, a sister, a cousin; just someone like the many everyday people you see shopping in the supermarket – except she turned out to be extraordinary to those who spent time with her.
This is the story of my friend who died too young and too soon, because of cancer. She didn’t just cope. She didn’t just enable all around her to cope either. She fought. She inspired. She had a positive disposition that guided how she lived her life and how she dealt with the bad things that happened to her and her family. She made all around her feel strong. She had an honesty and frankness that cut through any bullshit. She was strong and tough, loving and kind. She was fun and up for a laugh. She was a downright flirt. Her smile was incredibly powerful and could cure any feelings of negativity. That smile still manages to do its stuff: even now she’s gone. It makes things better, but unfortunately it couldn’t cure the cancer.
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop it trying.