By Kerry Brown
I have always valued my friendships and am incredibly fortunate to have friendships which have lasted time, distance and circumstance. Since Felix’s diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in January 2016 I have sadly but pleasingly made a new set of friends; these are my friends rooted in one commonality. Our child has been diagnosed with cancer.
I have never met these friends but they are my first port of call if I have a worry, concern or celebration to share, even more so if it is to do with childhood cancer. Recently, I contacted a number of mums because Felix had low platelets I wanted to see if anyone else had a similar experience. Sure enough, a friend shared that her son also had low platelets and over the coming weeks we regularly contacted each to see how we were doing and the impact of this blip on our everyday life. We absolutely understood what each other was going through. There were no explanations needed, just a listening ear and reassurance.
Then there is my virtual buddy whose daughter had a very different cancer diagnosis. Our friendship is not so much focussed on cancer but instead how the diagnosis has impacted on us, our identity and our mental health.
Our virtual conversations are embellished with a great deal of exasperation, frustration and fruity language. We are honest, truthful and always frank with each other. We don’t have to hold back but can truly share our rawest feelings and emotions without fear of being judged. This wonderful and inspirational woman has been my rock yet I’m not sure I’ll ever meet her or her family that I have grown to love.
The virtual friends I have made are scattered all over the world. From London suburbs to Birmingham, from my hometown of Weston Super Mare to Australia, from down the road in Bournemouth to Switzerland. These virtual friends have helped me cope with some of the darkest of moments. They are there at the end of a message or email no matter what day or time. These people inspire me and fill me with absolute hope and courage every day. I am so very grateful for their time, compassion and understanding.
When you are thrown into the world of childhood cancer, the rulebook goes out of the window. I sought understanding and solace in a virtual world where I could have control over the level and frequency of communication. This is the wonderful thing about virtual friends, there is no obligation or duty. We are there for each other because of our child’s diagnosis. We wish we weren’t but we are.
This is why CLIC Sargent is so important when you are thrown into this terrifying world. When you need someone or something to guide you towards people who understand, they are there with you, every step of the way. Our experience would’ve been a whole lot harder to deal with without the unfaltering support from CLIC Sargent. And for this, we thank you.
Kerry's book, My Grit Journal, is available on her website: https://mrsbrown.me and Amazon.