Cheryl found out she has cancer, leukemia, in the latter part of the 2017. It could have been triggered by the mold that was growing in the school building that she worked in. The smell that she hated so much in the building that she worked in daily made her feel so sick. She started to notice the smell around March 2017. She went to perform an allergy test and she was diagnosed as being heavily allergic to mold … so it made sense that she applied to be transferred to another building. But all blood tests showed up normal at that point in time ..
She went on a holiday to Vietnam around June of that year and felt the heat of the days while she was there for a few weeks. When she returned she felt exhausted all the time. It was unknown if being in a hot country, did the heat of the days trigger anything in to change in her body after being exposed to mold.
So despite having a clean record in March, she decided to re-visit the GP in August. When she said “I am so tired I could just lie on your floor” to the GP, he immediately ordered another set of blood tests for her. Turned out she had blood cancer – the marrow was just producing rouge cells. Chemo therapy was the treatment prescribed and she had two rounds by the time early 2018 came.
Cheryl was a mum I knew from school days and whilst we were not close friends, we had a common friend whom we were both close to and that was our main link. We would have Friday night drinks at our friend’s house and laugh away the “shits” of the week that had passed.
But in terms of Cheryl as a person, I always loved her smile – she reminded me of Moon Face in Faraway Tree; A sun flower beaming and she had the Tinkle Bell laughter special. And she was a popular woman with no airs about her.
After two chemos and one attempted stem cell replacement [that did not work], her body gave up – she said she just did not have the energy to carry on despite all the rallying of her friends and family. She passed away in the second month of 2018. We buried her in her home town and its been a full year since I said goodbye.
Here’s the thing – when she passed away, I knew our common friend would miss her deeply. For me, less .. I knew that I would be reminded occasionally of her as I came across things that related to her. But at THAT point I really thought about “WHO in my life I would REALLY miss if they were no longer physically present”. And it hit me – my parents, my husband and my two daughters. Yes I have girlfriends whom I am close/very close to BUT the people whom I would really feel a hole in my life for if they were gone, I counted on one hand. FIVE.
So I now try to visit my parents as often as possible who knows how long they have left .. I realized that despite the fact that my daughter is still recovering from depression/BPD and finding her way – I still NEED to also be with others who will leave a hole in my life. I need to ensure that I don’t forget that others who need me too.
And I need them for my sanity – so that I may continue to experience the balance of a normal relationships.
Cheryl had about 6 months from the time she found out to the time she passed. Her kids are not dissimilar in age to mine but they will travel a different journey without a mum to watch them complete their adult hood. I am humbled to be given a chance to see my kids grow up. And even though we/she have/has mental issues we have a chance to share the ups and downs .. preferably less downs moving forward .. please ..\
At her funeral, I learnt that Cheryl often wrote “Be Jolly” on the greeting cards that she sent – such an odd old-fashioned expression I thought at that time. It seems so under utilized as an expression nowadays. But as the days have passed, I understand that was how she lived her life – she was sunshine and she was “happy” infectious. It also represents looking at the world from lighter side no matter how hard things get.
So my dear Cheryl –
Each day I am reminded from you, that DESPITE ALL THE DARK DAYS AND CHALLENGES that I face, I am still alive to watch both my girls grow up; that I have the opportunity to make time to spend with my parents before they pass on and to cherish some more years of companionship with my husband. And that I can still choose to be jolly ..