I could have hugged her forever. I wanted to hold her until eternity, hold her safe, never to let anything bad happen, ever again.
But finally I had to let go my grip. They had saved us our usual table – even moved people off it for us. With one of England’s most beautiful views outside the window I gazed at that most beautiful face and bit my lip, failing to hold back the strength of my feelings. She’s here, she’s alive, she’s missing a chunk of her, but with it went the bad stuff, the stuff that kills. This thing won’t kill her, but she faces a horrible time, allowing the poisonous chemicals in, in order to live better afterwards.
Highs and lows. Fear. Terror even. Heartwarming but unsurprising stories about the love and support from her family. He’s like a rock, and that’s no surprise at all. He’s a top bloke. Brilliant work from the NHS and from that great charity Macmillan – information, advice, and a lady in the next village who makes heart-shaped cushions to put under your arm when you sleep. Disparate people all playing their part in making it as good as it can be. Even when it really isn’t very good at all.
And the misunderstandings. An early tentative trip into town, soon after diagnosis, before the op, wanting to avoid questions, heading into the supermarket, determined to remain strong and silent and to say nothing. Met by the long-standing greeter – “Hello, how are you?” “I’m fine thank you.” Success, giving herself a little tick. Then he catches her again by the tills, just after paying. “Where do you get your energy from?” Feeling the prick of tears, against her better judgement she blurts out “Well I don’t feel very energetic actually, I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer.” There it’s out. Another hurdle crossed. “Yes but where do you get your energy from?” came back the question. “There’s an offer on this month if you switch to Eon.” Only then did she notice the stand and the Eon energy posters inviting customers to switch. The tears pricked but so did the giggles.
Later, after the op, her daughter calling up the stairs that “Dinner is ready when you want it!” misheard by an appalled friend who thought she had shouted “Dinner is ready for you, one-tit!”
Having to manage other people’s reactions. Having to tell people how to react. Having to deal with friends’ emotions as well as her own. Dealing with all her stuff, more than we can imagine, and then dealing with our stuff as well. “It’s worse for you all” she says. Followed immediately by “Well no, it isn’t” and another giggle. No it isn’t, and we know it. But helplessness in the face of something you want so much to fix, is horrid.
So lunch and hugs and laughs and extra clotted cream on the cake is all I can offer. She knows, and expects nothing more. I know too, and try to be satisfied. At least we’re in the same country, albeit briefly, and the hug is good, and the warmth of her body is the best feeling in the world.
Then Ryanair takes me away again, takes me home, 1400 miles away. And now it doesn’t feel quite so far. The elastic stretches but it doesn’t break. Landing at Málaga and that wretched triumphant fanfare blasts out. “Another on-time flight from Ryanair” bellows the recorded announcement. And for the first time, it’s not so annoying. I’ll pop back again soon, for a cup of tea and a hug. Good old Ryanair, shrinking the world, flying me back to see friends, and flying me home again. It’s not so far, really.
© Tamara Essex 2014
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
A few World Cup language points? Oh why not ….
Goalkeeper – portero
Coach – entrenador
Players – jugadores
Forward – delantero
Defender – defensa
Goal line – linea de fondo
Out of play – fuera de banda
Corner – esquina (they sometimes also say “corner”!)
Goal kick – saque de puerta
Throw-in – saque de banda
Goalpost – poste
Top bar – larguero
Offside – fuera de juego
Foul – falta
To blow the whistle – pitar
To win – ganar
To lose – perder
To draw – empatar
Injury time – tiempo extra
Extra time – prórroga
Yellow card / red card – tarjeta amarilla / roja
Make a change / substitution – hacer un cambio