STORIES Breast Cancer Awareness The week we lost friend Every now and then you get news that you just can’t make sense of. Your brain can’t logically decipher the information. This week I got news like that. For the last few years I’ve known a girl (I’ll call her Jan- I never thought I’d tell a story where I ‘changed the names to protect the innocent’ and meant it!) She has had cancer the whole time I’ve known her (2.5 years) and last year she was diagnosed as terminal, given a year to live. I always felt awkward if I mentioned my cancer on my Facebook page as I knew what she was going through was so much worse. It was her I alluded to in my post Top Trumps. She looked a lot sicker than me, she was bald, she constantly had needles and tubes in her, she was a ‘proper’ cancer patient. I still pretty much look the same (with smaller boobs and shorter hair). It made me feel like a bit of a fraud as mine was being treated seemingly a lot more pleasantly. As she started to deteriorate, each morning I would check Facebook hoping not to see news she’d passed. In December she had changed her profile picture to a ‘half decent one…just in case’ so with every month that arrived we celebrated that she had made another milestone. Then a few days ago a status appeared. From her ‘adopted’ mum. It began as I expected “I have no idea how to begin to tell you all what I am about to say. Jan, who I have included as part of my family, I call her my adopted daughter, my daughters, Joan and Mary call her their sister, their children, my grandchildren call her Aunty. She has been fighting cancer for years and over a year ago was told she only had a year to live……” It was the tribute I was expecting. Then came the bit I wasn’t expecting…. “Its all a big fat disgusting lie. She has faked it, she has taken us all in with her elaborate web of lies. She inserted tubes and catheters into herself. She cut her own hair off, to fake it falling out. She played the cancer victim so well…” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. How was this possible? I reread it over and over again. I must be mistaken! The rest of the status and the comments confirmed that it was true, she had been lying to us all. It was heartbreaking Some people have voiced their anger at her deception. Others have voiced compassion for the fact she must have a lot of problems and clearly needs help. I’m just still in disbelief. I don’t know what to think. It’s a no win situation. You kind of wish it’s not true. That she hasn’t spent the last 8 years lying to those closest to her, accepting gifts, getting married as a ‘dying wish’. She had accepted donations on a crowd funding page to fund drugs that weren’t available on the NHS. We had all sent cards and gifts in November so she could celebrate Christmas early in case she didn’t make December. You don’t want that to be a lie. But if that wish comes true and she wasn’t faking, she would actually have terminal cancer. Which you wouldn’t wish on anyone. So the situation is just awful. Something I find particularly tragic is the number of tributes she received. I have always thought it was weird that we say so many lovely things about people when they’ve passed away. We talk about what amazing people they were, what we loved about them. But what a much nicer place the world would be if we told people those things while they were still alive. The thing with a terminal illness (or even an illness where theres a possibility you will die) is it brings out that element of people. Her friends were commenting lots on her status’ and Facebook wall about how much they loved her, unsure if it would be the last chance they would get. People put their emotions on public display, allowed themselves to be vulnerable and that was thrown back in their face. Looking back there were so many red flags, but being a novice at cancer I never questioned it. Who would?? This was the sort of thing that happens in take a break magazine and I go “yeah right, as if that ever happens!” Now here I am and I can confirm sadly it really does. Naturally it did occur to me “what if people think I’m faking??” But then I realised how easy it is to prove you have cancer. I regularly whisk my top up as people sit down for a coffee to show them my new boobs! I’ve had people with me at appointments. I have letters sent from my surgeon to my GP. Its so easy to show someone you have cancer. But thats if anyone asks. Who in their right mind would question someone has cancer?? I’m sure the news will sink in at some stage, and I’m sure this won’t be the end of it. The repercussions will be felt for a very very long time. Why did she do it? We may never know. While there was no death, me and many others have still lost a friend this week. The Jan we thought we knew isn’t here any more. And in some ways never was.