On Wednesday 6th March I attended a Book launch event at Waterstones in Tottenham Court Road discussing the book written by the late great Rachael Bland called ‘For Freddie’. She wrote the book for her three year old son Freddie, in the last months of her life telling him all about herself and who she was, so that he can read it when he is older and know more about his Mum, what she thought, what she liked and what was important to her.
Rachael for those of you who don’t know was a journalist and broadcaster who started the You me and the big C podcast on the BBC, which is a must listen show if you or someone you know has Cancer, its ground breaking openness, frank discussion and fun has made it essential listening. There is a link to it in my links page, under the media section, here.
Now Rachael and my Jo shared unfortunately many similarities including the same type of Breast Cancer (Triple Negative), they were diagnosed in the same year(2016), they had many of the same secondary Cancer symptoms, including both suffering from skin metastases and both suffering with Pleural effusions (fluid around the lungs) and also I was to find out later both their Fathers also died from Oesophageal Cancer.
Now it was these similarities that made me seek help from Rachel’s husband Steve as I sought advice on how to ease the itching etc from the skin issues Jo faced in the last couple of months of her life, Google surprisingly hadn’t been much use. Ever since then we have kept in touch through twitter, Steve has dropped me a number of messages since Jo died to see how I was doing, despite the fact he was busy trying to launch Rachael’s book and was up to his eyes in TV and Radio interviews. So when I heard they were doing an event just down the road from where I work I thought I would have to go and meet him and the other presenters of the podcast in person.
I had mentioned I was going to the event on my twitter feed and there a couple of people (Juliet and James) who follow my feed, who also said they were going so I was also looking forward to meeting and chatting with them.
The evening I thought was excellent Steve alongside Lauren and Deborah (the other original presenters of the podcast), spoke passionately for about 45 minutes about the book, the podcast and generally what they had been up to before opening it up to the floor for questions which lasted for another 1.5 hours and the evening flowed brilliantly, it was funny, entertaining and informative, there was lots of laughs and a few tears.
It was my first experience of being in a room with others who have all been impacted in some way by this terrible illness, there were people undergoing treatment, those who had finished, there were widows and widowers like myself, there were people from the medical profession and there were the friends of those affected, so quite a range. I found the whole experience really uplifting, you could see people benefitting from the experience right in front of your eyes and I was one of them. I also found I get something from talking to others, I suppose that’s to be expected considering I get something from writing my blog, but that instant reaction in face to face discussion I found very rewarding.
So the whole experience has made me have a bit of a think about what I could do, I had thought of keeping away from group activities but actually having been in one, I would like to think I have something to give to such things and also I think I will gain from them, so I have started by signing up to a group called Widowed and Young which is a social group for people who have been widowed up to the age of 50 (I sneak in) and they arrange meetings, social events, peer support etc. I am still waiting to complete my registration but I will let you know how I get on.
Also I would like to do something in the Cancer community but what I am yet to see, but I like to talk and though Jo’s story doesn’t have a happy ending I think I can provide help to others going through the process whether that be the patient or the carer.
Finally also Jo’s colleagues have announced plans for a Gala Dinner and Charity auction in memory of Jo. The money raised will go to the funding of a new library in the school that Jo worked and for Cancer Research, I am sure it will be a great event. Now where did I put my black tie!!