When I came to New Zealand in 2010 I really didn’t know anything about the country, it wasn’t until I’d seen and experienced it for myself that I fully appreciated the sheer beauty of the place and the kind nature of the people. I fell in love with Wellington and decided to stay for a while, then I met my boyfriend and weeks turned into months, next thing I knew I’d built a life here.
After my diagnoses the people in my life asked “what can we do for you? How can I help?” And my answer was always the same. “Please drop in”. My biggest fear was loneliness. If I was in England my family would have been dropping in and buzzing around and I was painfully aware of the distance between us. Chemo, loneliness and homesickness seemed like such a toxic combination to me.
True to their word friends gathered round and unknowingly formed a united, unconquerable front. I’ve come to learn that love and kindness are gifts expressed in a way that’s unique to each individual. Together this posse of legendary humans have wrapped me in a safe blanket of all-encompassing kindness that makes me feel like I can handle anything.
Be it a phone call, a cuppa tea or an open ear, these small gestures speak volumes. A trip to the zoo to lift my spirits and help re-vamping my style to make me feel beautiful again are just a couple of examples of how my friends have helped me to cope. One friend even started a crowd funding page to make money for a reclining chair so that I’d be comfortable after surgery, an unbelievably thoughtful gesture.
I’ve received offers of moral support in the form of pre-chemo dinners, company at appointments and Friday club lunches. Practical support in the form of gifts, financial help, book recommendations and cooked meals and I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly accommodating my managers and work colleagues have been. The generosity I’ve experienced has been boundless.
Without knowing it I became part of a community. Be it the elderly neighbour I watch Call the Midwife with, the dairy owner who always asks after me, my choir, the friendly people at the animal shelter, my colleagues, my friends, my housemate or my boyfriend’s beautiful family who have adopted me as their own. Each of these people support me in their own special way.
I now realise what a lucky person I am and I only wish I’d been more aware of the awesomeness that surrounds me before I had cancer. This community was there all along I just took it for granted until now. Mum recently visited New Zealand and witnessed what I’m talking about first hand, I hope meeting them all has given her some assurance that I’m not alone in this. That I’m going to be OK.
I’ve always considered myself to be an independent person but as I sit on the plane to London writing this blog I can’t help but feel a little apprehensive. It’s unnerving when you leave your support network behind. Particularly my boyfriend, I just don’t know how to do cancer without him.
I’ve read a lot of articles and blogs about relationships that have been destroyed by cancer but my relationships both near and far have only grown stronger. When the world is ripped from under your feet it takes more than one person to catch you. For me, it took an army.