{16/03/2012}   That positive things can come from illness: a tribute to a very special woman

Last night I found out someone I only met once has died. She was probably in her late 30s. She had breast cancer that I was led to believe was under control. Her name was Jo and she was one of the most memorable and cheerful people I ever met. I met her last July. We chatted briefly under a tree in torrential rain, then chatted for about half an hour in a church that was part of the visit type thing we were on. She had had chemo and a mastectomy and I was under the impression she had a good prognosis. She wore a very bright, cheery scarf around her bald head. We talked about all sorts of things, including cancer and someone else I knew with cancer. She was only ever positive, encouraging and genuinely lovely. We have mutual friends of sorts and since July we have both asked after each other. There are very few people I ever meet one-off who I feel a connection with and who I genuinely want to spend more time with. The concept of the film It’s A Wonderful Life springs to mind, the idea that even small things, brief meetings, can change the course of your thinking. She was one of those people. She touched my life with her positive outlook, genuine interest in people and her belief that positive thinking was the only way to survive things. I don’t know how or why she died, her husband has been struggling to find a way to explain what happened.

Recently, more people than I want to think about and count have or have had or have died as a result of, largely, cancer. My mum’s sister has just been given three to four months of what she has been warned will be an extremely painful and difficult life to live.

However, this is not about wallowing in the dreadfulness of cancer and illness and suffering, I want this to be about being positive, about appreciating what you have while you have it.

I am not exaggerating when I imply that quite a lot of people I know have recently had/have/died as a result of cancer. I keep thinking about all the things I want to do with my life and how I am currently pretty fit and healthy and could do those things. What will it take for me to just get on with it and do those things? My aunt’s cancer was too advanced for her to have the opportunity to do things she may have wanted to do before she became too old or unwell to do them. That’s the thing, it comes at you head-on and totally unexpectedly. I feel a bit that I owe the friends, acquaintances, family I know who have been ill to go out and appreciate my life, my health, even my relative youth. You really do never know what will happen. I’d be really pissed off if I found out tomorrow that I had terminal cancer and was going to be really ill and suffering until I died. I am frittering my time at the moment; I’m all talk about what I want to do.

We could all do with a bit, maybe even a lot, of someone like Jo’s positive outlook, humour and influence. Maybe we should all (really I am referring to me but I suspect I’m not alone) get on with doing the things we think about doing but talk ourselves out of doing, the, “oh, one day …” things. I feel I owe it to the many people I’ve met, known and loved who have left this world, through horrible illness or out of the blue accident, to live the life I currently have with no physical or health impediments (beyond being overweight and verging on lazy) and to just DO things I want to do, enjoy my life and to not feel like shit and sorry for myself when I find out people are very ill or even die. All of us have the ability to affect other people in a positive way if only we’d more often than not let ourselves. We also have the ability to affect, change and make our own lives fun, happy and positive. I hope this doesn’t sound maudlin, it’s not supposed to, I just want you, me, everyone, to go out and be just a bit more positive about things. It rubs off on other people.

So thank you, Jo, for talking to me that day, for making me feel a whole lot happier and for being so colourful in so many ways. You were an inspiration then and you will always be an inspiration. Rest in peace and laughter.


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