And so, dear reader, with a heart bursting at the seams with adoring pride, I give you... my Peter.
Help! Yes, just anybody.
The difficult thing I’ve always found about writing is knowing where to start. My first thought whenever I pick up a book is ‘how the Sam Hill did this person even come to begin this story?’ But I guess innate writers don’t look at things that way; I imagine they must note down ideas, plots, sub plots, formulate characters, devise endings – and if they’re really, really, really clever – intersperse their prose with symbolism and allegory and all that shiz. Then it’s just about putting it all together. Easy, right? Well not for this dude.
Okay. Down to it. I'm writing this post (get me!) because my wife had breast cancer. Or, to give it its apt name: The Bullshit, as we all came to loathe it. Of course when I say ‘we’ I mean my astounding wife Lisa, our family, friends and the ‘online community’ (and the Wankiest Phrase Of All Time award goes to Mr Peter Lynch... well, I did have a bet with Lisa that I could work in at least one Mailism. [Oh how I love saying that.])
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Lisa mentioned that a respondee to her blog (sorry if that sounds impersonal, it’s not meant to offend) had suggested that I write a guest post from my perspective in order to assist their friend who was struggling to cope with his partner’s recent Bullshit diagnosis. Hence, I reluctantly agreed; the only real reason for my reluctance being that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Because, come on, where do you? With that in mind, then, I’m just going to recount some stand-out (if indeed that’s the right word) moments from my experience in terms of the stuff – and, more to the point, people – that helped me ...and if, in turn, that helps anyone else, then fantastic.
The darkest hours have been brilliantly and searingly documented throughout Lisa’s blog and subsequent book but I think we both agree when the darkest moment was. Black Saturday. Literally and metaphorically. The sodding sky didn’t lift all day. I vividly recall standing outside a garage whilst the mechanics put some new tyres on the car so we could make a quick escape up North. Lisa and I just had to be around people. More than that, people we loved and who loved us in return. I recall the mechanics chatting, laughing, making innuendo, and eating bacon cobs (rolls to you Southerners). ‘Bastards,’ I thought. ‘Callous bastards, at that. How fucking dare they do that while my wife’s got cancer?’ But they weren’t to know, were they?
Some four hours later we were in Derby and Lisa’s little brother Jamie (James to his Mum and wife) made me wake up and smell the coffee. We’d just arrived and Jamie came round with his then fiancee, the lovely Leanne. Jamie, almost instantly I recall, said something along the (now immortal) lines of ‘Lis, I’ll come and see you every weekend, except I’m busy next weekend, oh and obviously I can’t come down when Derby are at home but other than that…’ Before he could finish his sentence there was uproarious laughter. It was the most innocent, inappropriate, heartfelt, amusing and honest thing he could possibly have said and it told me instantly that life would go on. A fact not to be underestimated on the worst day of your life. He was brilliant thereafter; publicly denying his own pain and suffering (in his wedding year ferfuckssake) so that Lisa and I (and her parents, Jane and Ian) could adjust to a new life of surgery, chemo, endless appointments, phone calls, work juggling, driving up and down motorways, grocery shopping, keeping people informed (fuck, that was hard), eating cherries, eating watercress (both allegedly have anti-cancerous properties) and watching back-to-back Sopranos. The list was endless.
Jamie knew instinctively and quite possibly subconsciously what his role in the team was (the happy one who’ll be utterly normal and keep everyone laughing) and he galvanized us all because, from that day hence, everyone knew what their job was. Lisa: be amazing and strong and just fucking get better. Jane and Ian: selflessly trek hundreds of miles, do all the jobs round the house, be unstinting in your love and support, and generally be superpeople. Me: simply be with Lisa as much as was humanly possible.
There were, of course, many other protagonists: my Mum and Dad ‘did’ a chemo, bless ’em, and helped in any way possible, our closest friends were incomparable in their brilliance, and other family members chipped in from both sides. Then there were the internet folk, the local mates, the far-away mates, the neighbours, the work colleagues (not to mention CEOs), the friends of friends, the colleagues of friends, and their friends. They all chipped in with idle banter, positive messages of support, cards (factoid: girls will always love cards more than boys), silly drawings, pictures, photos and even offers of financial support. Oh, and flowers. Fucking shitloads of them.
Writing this now is actually very humbling, such was the overwhelming nature of public and private goodwill. How can you not stay positive and have a firm belief that everything will be ok with that weight of goodness behind you? And that’s not a rhetorical question.
See, there is no go-to manual, no literature, no guidance on how to get by or what to do to help your partner in any life threatening situation. If there were, it should read, ‘Look guys, it’s the most terrifyingly subjective thing, dealing with this shit, and whilst we can dole out some practical tips that might help, we’d actually recommend a) seeking the best medical advice you can get b) drawing inspiration from whomever and whatever you can (believe me, you will find some) c) keep calm and d) drink so much tea that you’ll surprise yourself with your piss count at the end of the day.
Lucky for me, I had no shortage of inspirational characters or tea bags. And finally (I might not know how to start, but I sure can finish), if you feel that you’re ever lacking inspiration then know this: there are two people (and a cat) in a little corner of South West London that will be forever rooting for you.