One of the themes of the week has been one of deep reflecting about friendship. Rach was saying to me yesterday that some of her ‘friends’ have simply stopped asking her how she is, now she has metastatic breast cancer. Or they’ll send one line emails that say ‘How are you?’. Do they want the truthful reply that might take more than one line, or do they just want to hear that she’s ‘good’? ‘Just read my blog’, she sometimes curtly replies. Others might just send meaningless, closed messages, like ‘Thinking of you.’ Messages encouraging no reply.
So, we’d like to ask our friends. Are you prepared to go down cancer’s rabbit hole? All the way?
Thinking about cancer, and death, has meant that I now view friends differently. Friendship, post cancer diagnosis, is deeper. Rach has similar feelings on friendships today. She simply doesn’t have the physical or emotional energy to manage friends who, through the passage of time and lives moving on, have really just become acquaintances. Her circle of friends is now much smaller, but she knows they are people she can rely on. And that’s never been more important.
And these reflections on friendship had prompted me to do a hefty Facebook clear-out of my friends, realising that many of them aren’t really my ‘friends’ after all, and I was telling Rach about this. In our usual snarky way me and Rach started joking about it. ‘Did I make the cut?’ Rach sarcastically asked, and then, ‘What’s the criteria Sarah?’
I said, ‘Well you know real friends you go to lunch with don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ said Rach, ‘so is the definition of a friend someone you would go to lunch with?’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘it’s probably more than that.’ And so began much snorting with laughter and sarcasm. And our list of criteria for ‘What is a friend?’ was born.
So I start with: Would you go for lunch with them?
Rach swiftly responds with: Would you knit them gloves?
Me: Would you talk about stool softener and piles?
At this point we collapse into uncontrollable laughter.
Rach, the recipient of many short films from Liverpool, lovingly crafted for her by me, then says: Would you make them a film?
So I respond with: Would you post their favourite chocolate 3,500 miles to them?
We laugh and fall back into chatting. Later that evening I relate the conversation to Ronnie, who’d heard us from the next room laughing and shouting in pleasure. This prompts further discussion, a bit deeper really and we start to add to the list.
Ronnie starts with: Would you visit them for longer than the first six weeks after their breast cancer diagnosis?
I sigh deeply. Yes. That one’s true.
And then he continues: Would you cross the ocean just for the pleasure of being with them?
Ronnie’s obviously hit a vein of truth as he then says: If anything bad happened to them, would you ring them up?
Now there’s a novel thought. Ring them up. Because that’s something that cancer patients get used to. The sound of silence. Yes.
And not much better than silence really is that ‘Thinking of you’ statement. What is it about me that you are thinking about?
So if you’re ‘thinking’ of me or Rach, perhaps you’d like to think about doing one of the above. Take your pick. They’re all good. Especially the stool softener.
I am so grateful to Rach for our Skype conversations which brighten up any day of the week.