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"O" is for Others


“It takes a village”….


There’s a reason humans need their villages – we just cannot do everything alone.  As much as sometimes that would be nice!  This was particularly true for me during pregnancy into early motherhood and it is very true when living with cancer.


I have written this piece several times over because my words don’t really convey everything I want to say.  Tears well up constantly as today I am writing this coming off the back of what has to be one of the best weekends of my life and it involved our village.


A few weeks ago our friend, Hamish, sent a text to Ryan with an extremely detailed idea of holding a surf relay…we were getting close to running out of funds but everything felt overwhelming; another fundraising mission was a daunting task. 


The level of detail which Hamish went into in that text made Ryan and I feel so good – someone cared, someone understood and someone knew we couldn’t face this alone.  Someone had put ideas down and thought them through, they had come up with a plan!


Following on from that text the idea floated about but suddenly about 2 weeks ago the idea took life – Hamish, his wife Jess, and Coastguard Sumner crew took hold and ran with it. 


Today I am reflecting on a 36 hour surf relay that saw 50 surfers, some of whom I had never met, take to our village beach day and night to surf.  Families and friends manning the shore to watch, support and keep them safe.  Over $100,000.00 has been raised – far exceeding the 1 month I hoped to gain!  Jess as it turns out is a PR, fundraising wizardess who could mobilise a whole army single handed within an hour.  She also kept me strong, cried with me, held my hand and managed to get NZ’s press onto the story with one press release.  I’m not sure she or Hamish will fully grasp what they did for one little family not just financially but mentally.


I could write a whole story about this weekend but in keeping with the theme, “others” I want to acknowledge what was truly mind blowing – all the people involved.  Surfers, friends, strangers, Coastguard, local café (shout out Scarborough Fare), media, public…. I saw men (and women) cry as we talked about my cancer, the battle to fund drugs, the hysteria when we hit enough for 1 years’ drugs (I sounded like I had been winded) - others joined in the tears of joy and disbelief.  I truly saw how much people care, they really care. 


My favourite part of the whole weekend was hanging out with some very awesome people and just chatting on the beach or in the bar to people who wanted to join us and help us.

 

In a world that feels crazy and full of nastiness to a point where I really worry what Ruby is growing up into, I have seen such genuine kindness and generosity.  Generosity not just financially (which has been phenomenal) but giving of time, skills, emotions and hugs. 

To keep us going was their sole objective – no thanks, fame or attention wanted.  Just to help to do their bit to keep me alive, to keep Ryan with his wife and Ruby - her mum.


I am truly humbled to see so much empathy for our situation, understanding that this situation is not of our choosing; we don’t want to be doing this and we are living with this every minute of every day.  My goodness have this group of people made it fun wherever they can – surfing all day and night, it’s like Ryan’s dream come true.


Cancer is never positive and living with it sucks but I am so grateful for the positive sides I can find– the people I have met, the kindness of humans that I have seen and the experiences I have gained.  None would have happened if it wasn’t for this illness so whilst I hate what we are going through and the why we are doing all this I am so appreciative of the things I have gained.


This weekend was not the only time we have experienced such amazing kindness but it represents what we have experienced in the last few years from so many in our community and wider area.


So, to my other, Ryan – frequently he describes his home life as being like whirling around in the wake of the hurricane that is me and the cyclone that is Ruby (me of the Northern Hemisphere and she of the South).  I think this is slightly harsh but accept that the last few years have been a roller coaster; we have been married 4.5 years and for 3.5 years we have been dealing with cancer.  Since we met in 2016 we have had a baby, got married, been in the covid lockdown generation, faced cancer, dealt with unfunded medication and we are only up to 2024….


 I am beyond grateful for Ryan – not only is he a beautiful and kind human but he made me a mum, holds my hand when I am scared, gave me a home, a place to put our roots and grow as a person but he gives me wings – he lets me be me.  I can fly as high as I can but he holds the safety rope to keep me grounded.  To be in a relationship where the boundaries are invisible yet mutually respected is very freeing. 


I knew Ryan was the one when he went away for work before we lived together and he left me asleep.  He needed to take his toothpaste but when I woke he had squeezed some on my toothbrush.  How considerate is that? – something so small and insignificant yet his thoughts for what someone else needed went right down to that.  I aim daily to be that person to think of someone else’s needs daily.  I’m sure I fail constantly but I try.  It is truly the small things that matter as they show someone’s true nature and your value to them. 

Ryan though is in an impossible situation – he has to be strong for me, the one that is unwell but he is accused of being selfish if he want to talk about his feelings.  There is also a fear of not wanting to complain or talk about his own issues when there is the perception that us (cancer people) have it so much worse.


I also know that Ryan will want to protect me from his fears, his tears and inner most thoughts for fear they will upset me.  But I know his fears, I feel them too and small worries can bubble to the top very quickly; a conversation about whether we should go to out of hours if something is wrong can become a scene of tears very quickly (Ryan’s not mine!).  It’s just that never ending fear and worry that something simple will result in a stressful stay over in hospital, more tests, more results, more news…..


Who can he talk to though?  I too find that often it is easier to say “I’m good thanks, how are you?” rather than to start to explain the truth. 


What has astounded me though is how the response of others is so important.  The lift it gives me and Ryan when someone says “I’ve got your back, let’s fight this”. Just as Jess and Hamish did, it made us feel we could fight again.


Between the cancer and the drug funding we have asked a lot of our “village” but boy, have they helped in so many ways.


I hope if you ever face a difficult situation, I hope you have people around you like we do BUT I say this with so much emphasis, you do not get good people unless you treat them well yourself.  I don’t in anyway mean that you should give to expect a return – giving for the pure joy of it is the best feeling in the world.  However, showing appreciation and kindness to others is the first step to having the help of others.


I have learned to be the 1st to put my had up to help, whether that’s a dinner for someone who is sick, a babysitter during the holidays to balance work needs, a text to check in or a shoulder to cry on.  No problem is not worth listening to – it may be different to my problems but it’s no less important.


I have to temper such a positive heart felt post with some reality – not all people are kind.  We have had our share of opinions, judgement and cruel behaviour but those few individuals are drowned out by the overwhelming kindness of those whole truly mean so much.  I don’t want to dwell on the negative behaviour and I won’t allow their misery to infect our positivity but it is important to acknowledge that reality isn’t always hearts, hugs and happiness; some people are just not nice even when we are dealing with all of this.   I have learned to accept that these are their issues and as long as we conduct ourselves in a way that we know to be kind, honest, and positive we will continue to live life the best we can.


Ruby, my other and reason for being – I will fight my hardest for you and to do all I can to give you the village to support you.  Please remember that those who are genuine will shine- be one of those people always.  Give for the sake of giving and not to receive…expect nothing and overall just be you. 


Please look after Dad, you two will carry our legacy forwards for others but he will need your strength my darling. 

In the meantime, we three will always be us and behind us there will be a village but sometimes that village will need you.  I hope one day, you are their Jess 😊

 



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