This post and video is in support of the Stand Up To Cancer campaign. Please consider donating to this very worthy and important cause, as it will help to fund vital research that will extend and save millions of lives. They haven’t asked me to do this, I just wanted to give it my backing, by talking about a friend of mine who passed away from cancer.
It’s hard to believe, with all the advances in healthcare, science and technology, that cancer still exists. Thankfully we have made great strides in treating it and finding out more about it, which has helped to save and extend many lives. But there are still far too many fatalities – just one is too many – and there is still so much more work to be done.
Of course, there is no single magic bullet that will cure it, especially as there are many different types of cancer that have to be treated in different ways. But the more research we can do, the more effective weapons we can develop and have in our arsenal to keep it at bay. No matter how stubborn and resilient it tries to be, we can tame it and beat it. It may take a great deal of time, money and effort, but it’s well worth it, because it will save and improve millions of lives.
Cancer has an impact on most people at some point in their lives. According to this year’s campaign, 1 in 2 of us will develop some form of cancer in our lifetimes. And that’s a really scary thought in itself. But even if you don’t get it, chances are you’ll know someone who does – especially with those odds.
It’s had an impact on me personally because a friend of mine passed away from the disease 4 years ago – and that time’s gone really quickly, it doesn’t feel like that long. He was a really good friend of mine, and I still miss him very much.
He certainly didn’t deserve to have his life cut short like that – nobody does – but he made the most of the time he had, that’s for sure. Tae Kwon Do was his biggest passion, but he also enjoyed many other things as well. We had similar tastes in music and TV shows, and similar senses of humour too. The last time I visited him, we did a swap of some of our music collections using a USB stick – so I ended up with his Michael Jackson albums in particular – along with our photo collections too. So I have hundreds of photos of him now, which I still have a look at now and again.
As far as his cancer goes, the signs had looked positive to begin with. In short, he developed a tumour in his sinuses, but they were able to get rid of it – twice. The cancer was undeterred by this, however, and spread to other parts of his body the third time around, especially his lungs. There was only so much anyone could do at that point.
We never dwelt on the disease too much when we chatted though. Neither of us felt particularly comfortable talking about it, especially in the latter stages, and he especially just wanted to do the normal things that friends do, in order to take his mind off it and enjoy the time he had.
Because we had met in our boarding school as children, and had since gone back to our own homes after leaving, it meant we didn’t get to meet up very often, as it was a long way to travel. But we made the most of it when we did meet. He even came to Spain with myself and a couple of other friends, which we all enjoyed. He really liked being able to meet up, as it helped him to get back to his old self again.
And even in the final weeks of his life, we did what we could to take his mind off it, and the last things we ever shared were jokes. Not about cancer, just about anything. We would regularly send each other jokes that we’d found online or had emailed to us or heard elsewhere. So I take some comfort that the last thing I did was to make him smile and laugh. I still have quite a few of the emails we exchanged.
There was never a formal goodbye – nobody knew exactly when the worst would happen, and it would have been too awkward for both of us anyway. We were terrible for having drawn out phone conversations as it was, running out of things to talk about yet still hanging on the line for a while, so I dread to think how long that particular farewell would have taken. But then it was never a goodbye for good anyway. He’s still in my thoughts and always will be, so he’s always around in spirit and memories.
When he did pass away – on my mother’s birthday of all days, so that’s quite a mixed day now – it wasn’t a surprise, and it was a relief for his sake, knowing how much of a burden it had become to him. But it was still very sad nonetheless, of course. I woke up that morning to a text from his father asking me to ring him. I knew what that meant, and the conversation was a very short one – nobody mentioned the words ‘death’ or ‘cancer’, because we didn’t need to. It was just a confirmation, with my condolences expressed in return. Nothing more needed to be said.
I’m still in touch with his mum and dad today – they were rocks of support to their son throughout, and they have coped well since, all things considered. It’s impossible to imagine what they’ve gone though, but I always get to hear how they mark the day every year, which I’m glad about. I didn’t go to his funeral, as it was a small private family affair, quite rightly. But they did send me all the details of the service, so I didn’t miss out on anything.
So that’s been my experience, and I know many other people will have had friends affected by the condition. Many of my fellow Youtubers, for instance, will know Charlotte Eades, who bravely and wonderfully shared the story of her journey with cancer to help raise awareness.
And since her passing, her family have continued doing so. They could have just left her channel as it was, and it would have been perfectly understandable if they had. But they’ve had the strength and courage to post videos raising further awareness, explaining Charlotte’s journey in even more detail, which is amazing and wonderful, and they deserve every credit for that. They’re even setting up a charity of their own, called Charlotte’s Bag, to raise funds, and they’ve been involved with Stand Up To Cancer as well, So please do check out their Youtube channel if you haven’t already, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and support their charity efforts.
It’s not an easy subject for anyone to talk about, but it’s not one we can shy away from either. Cancer needs to be beaten, and it will be, especially if we all chip in to help fund the vital research that’s needed. Every little bit makes a real difference, and will make a real contribution to saving and extending people’s lives.
You can find out how to donate on their website at standuptocancer.org.uk, where you can pay by credit card or Paypal. Or you can donate by text message, as long as you’re in the UK. You can donate £10 by simply texting the word FIGHT to 70404. It will cost you 1 standard rate text message as well as your donation. If you’re under 16, please ask the bill payer’s permission. And do bear in mind that the number closes on 31st May 2017, just in case you’re reading in the future. It won’t work after that date!
I’ve done this, and you get two free messages in return. The first thanks you for your donation, while the second asks if you want to Gift Aid your donation. And this is always worth doing. If you’re a UK taxpayer, follow the instructions in the message and the government will pay an extra 25%, adding an extra £2.50 to your donation at no extra cost to you.
So thank you for reading, and thank you if you do donate to Stand Up To Cancer, or indeed any cancer charity you support. They all need the help.
I’ll leave you with a poem that was read at my friend’s funeral, which I rather like. It was written by Mary Elizabeth Frye back in 1932:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die.