The kindness of strangers

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. It’s all about the amazing people who I don’t know and yet whose support is helping me get through.

I’m a big Facebook user. Don’t have time for any of the other social media sites, but FB has been my “thing” for a long time. It’s bloody annoying and frivolous and silly but it has its uses. And since Genghis appeared it’s been amazing.

Through FB I have reconnected with people from school. We all appear to have done quite a lot of growing up in the 19 years since school finished. The goodwill messages have been phenomenal.

There are a million and one mummy groups on FB but there’s one in particular I’ve turns to regularly and particularly since Genghis. FrankMums is a collection of ladies with things to say. The rules are that you can say what you want without being judged. Some ladies rant about family members. Some rant about work. Some let off steam about the pressures of being a parent. Lots take the mickey out of other, less “Frank”, mummy groups. I’ve been using it to share some of my Genghis experiences. And oh my goodness, the support I have had! These women, ascerbic at times, rude at others, have been wonderful. Beautiful messages. Offers of food, childcare, alternative therapies. Donations to charity in honour of me. And the best of all – a new real friend, emerging from the pack, going through the same thing at the same time, helping me and letting me help her get through the madness of it all. We have the same surgeon, the same oncologist and the same outlook on life. She’s brilliant.

And then there are all the breast cancer FB groups. Dozens. And the young cancer groups. Some of them do my head in a bit. And I have to keep reminding myself that the people who get through this nonsense usually move on and don’t hang around in these groups any more, so of course the slant is more likely to be negative than positive. But, that said, there’s one in particular that’s been very helpful. The Young Breast Cancer Network is run by some amazing women and hosts the views of some other amazing women. So much to admire. The lady who is a makeup artist, posting online tutorials advising how to use make up for those who are suffering side effects. Those going on TV and radio and doing interviews to raise awareness and money for charities. Those who bother to reply to the nervous “what?”, “how?” and “why?” posts. Wishing each other luck with the next chemo (remembering when someone is due another dose, or when someone is about to finish). Sharing post operative pictures to help others. Discussing fertility issues. And it works because we are all younger women, the ones who aren’t meant to be doing this right now, but focusing on jobs, marriage, kids, life.

I know that some people are very private about their illness. But I’ve honestly found that openness brings its own rewards in the form of phenomenal support from even the most unexpected of places. And that includes complete strangers. In truth, there are many that have been far more present than certain friends, whose radio silence has been surprising and saddening. But these kindly strangers, these faceless friends, have stepped into the breach. Thank you, all of you.

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