It’s been hard for me to watch my best friend battle cancer.
I’ve always been the emotional drama-queen of the group and she’s always been the massive joker who doesn’t let anything get her down – not even cancer. In many ways, things have remained the same: I am still the emotional wreck most of the time and Megan’s still the strong one. She is the one that has carried us through the battle – her strength gives us strength.
With that said, I have often felt hopeless, completely hopeless. I worried, and still worry about saying the right thing at the right time or the wrong thing at the wrong time. I wanted her to know that I was there for her but I didn’t want to smoother her, because I knew she’d hate that. It was often hard to balance being there for her and being too inquisitive – was she okay, did she need anything, how did she feel?
I remember vividly the day she drove up to my house and told me the doctor had found a lump in her chest. On the rare occasion Megan cries (typically, it happens when she’s consumed too much pink wine!), she was crying an ugly, all encompassing cry but I had no idea what could be wrong. I knew she wasn’t herself and had lost weight but you never think, in that moment, that it could be that serious. You think no, that would never happen to me or my friend, wrapping yourself in this invisible cotton wool that disintegrates immediately when the shit actually hits the fan because it does – and to so many people.
I asked her if she was pregnant. Of course, she must have been pregnant!
She couldn’t even laugh at my stupidity but uttered only the words ‘lump…they’ve found a lump…cancer.’
After that, everything happened at an intense speed: our holiday while she had consultations and egg-freezing. After that, the Royal Show for the last bender and then reality hit: chemotherapy.
Summer was just one big venture into the unknown. Nobody knew what to expect.
I thought deeply about all the possibilities and about Megan’s future. It felt like my world was tearing into small pieces and I was trying my best to be strong, which was difficult despite it being Megan actually battling cancer and not me. I knew cancer killed people and Megan had cancer. Could I imagine a life without her? Could I live in a world where only memories of Megan existed and not her actually in it?
I was determined to be as good as a friend that I could be. I wanted her to feel that she was not in alone in this battle and that she could count on me. Since the beginning of 2015 I’d set my sights on taking a gap year and that crystallized when Megan was diagnosed. I no longer cared about going to Thailand or France: I wanted to support my best friend. Be it taking her to have chemo or just messing around, going on adventures to cafe after cafe – I was determined to stand by her side.
Chemo days were long and it was difficult to watch Megan having to go through it. The three of us, Megan, Nel and I would set off at 8am, arrive at 9am, calling ourselves the ‘Three Musketeers.’ It was draining, especially for Megan, but it was draining in a different way for us because we’d just sit there, helpless, watching our friend being injected with needle after needle, being fed by a poisonous drip for 40 minutes. Watching the chemo actually take its effect on her body was possibly the worst thing I had to face. Physically, I can’t imagine how she felt and I’d never expected her deterioration to be as visible as it was. By the time 3pm came, she was a different person –not the person we’d arrived with. She was paler, obviously much weaker and lacking in energy but she still forced herself to make the fortnightly trip to Topshop – which she was still doing to prove that nothing could get her down, not even chemo. This was frustrating at times because I just wanted to say ‘you don’t have to do this, it’s okay we can just go home’ but that would be accepting defeat. It would not be the Megan D way of battling cancer.
To pass the horrible months that were in front of Megan, we decided to fundraise for her cancer unit. We arranged a huge gig and our Young Farmers Club organised a 22 mile sponsored walk. We were blown away with how a small community came together in support of a great cause, but mostly to show their support towards Megan. A group of us decided to cut our hair to donate to the ‘Little Princess Trust’ – the charity that gave Megan her beautiful wig. Even though all our hair wasn’t off, I hoped it made Megan more comfortable at the thought of cutting hers.
In January, after all the chemo was over, our families went skiing, and it was one of the best holidays I’ve had, with the last night being the absolute highlight. Megan and I were filled up with Vodka & Fanta’s and everyone was jolly. Megan’s father requested ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams from the DJ and as I looked to her direction, she filled up with tears. She then whispered in my ear ‘dare me to take my wig off,’ so I did: I dared her to take her wig off and that’s exactly what she did.
She ripped off that wig that had been such a comfort blanket for the last six months, with such pride in the middle of the pub. Everyone was looking and there was not a single dry eye in the house. This was probably one of the best moments of my life. I was so proud.
Now, Megan’s on the road to recovery, I look forward to seeing what she will tackle next, because there really is no stopping her.
Some people didn’t understand why I didn’t go travelling or do something ‘useful’ with my year, but, for me, when I’m 50, 60 or even 70 years old, I’ll be able to look back and think that no ski season, no trip to Thailand would ever replace being by my best friend’s side as she battled cancer with such dignity and humour. I am immensely proud of her. This was the most useful thing I could ever have done with my year and was absolutely the best decision I have ever made: I have no regrets at all. She is the strongest person I know and I feel so proud being able to call her my friend.