How a friendship helped beat cancer
NATASHA APPLEBAUM WAS just 27 when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. She thought she would die before she reached her thirties.
That she managed to survive the disease, and the severe depression she suffered, is due in large part to the support she received from her friend, Charlotte Posner.
Ms Applebaum was juggling a busy career in marketing when she discovered a tumour on her breast two years ago. The growth was so large, it put pressure on her heart and a doctor told her she was “just days away from dying”. She was immediately admitted to hospital and put on a treatment regime which included chemotherapy.
Today, the 29-year-old is in remission and has shared her story, as part of a campaign with cancer charity Macmillan, to show the positive impact of friendships can have on sufferers of the disease.
Ms Applebaum said: “Having friends like Charlotte who just allowed me to be myself really helped”
Ms Applebaum, from Chigwell, Essex, said it was thanks to Ms Posner that she has got through the dreadful experience.
She said: “I was a young normal healthy girl but I was very close to dying. My life completely changed. I had to leave my flat and move back in with my parents to be looked after.”
Twelve months into her treatment she said she noticed “drastic changes” in her personality. “At first I thought these were down to side-effects of the chemotherapy and the drugs I had to take every day, but eventually my doctor diagnosed me with depression”.
She added: “I can honestly say the depression was harder to deal with than cancer. I thought the drugs I was taking were doing something to my brain. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I went to see The Jungle Book at the cinema and I didn’t understand it, I had no concentration at all. I didn’t even want to leave the house. I lost all colour from my life. I could not find happiness in anything.
“I was so hard on myself for being so low and I did not know how to explain it. But having friends like Charlotte, and my family who just allowed me to be myself really helped, we carried on doing the normal things we did before, like walks in the park on my birthday, even if I was miserable.”
Ms Posner, who features in a video for Macmillan alongside her friend, said she feared that Ms Applebaum was going to kill herself.
“It was horrible seeing Natasha suffering as she was,” she said, ”although she felt that she was a burden on me, she never was, because she was still my best friend, whether she felt different or not. I knew that she would conquer it. “Supporting her through the cancer was easier than dealing with the depression.” A new survey by Macmillan reports that 43 per cent of cancer sufferers say they could not have coped through their experience without the support of their friends. There search also shows that an estimated 230,000 people in the UK have no close friends they could talk to about the illness. Ms Applebaum and Ms Posner are one of five sets of friends to share their story as part of the campaign for World Cancer Day. Ms Posner explained: “People don’t realise it is hard for friends of someone with cancer too. I was being supported by my very good friends. Though it was hard to see Natasha suffering from depression, I had to stay strong for her.” “Sometimes you don’t know what to say or how to help. I continued as normal around her, because I knew that friends just need to be there for one another. “You have to not change how you are. It is important to let your friend be how they want to be and for you to let them know that you are always going to be there for them and will never stop being their friend.”
Charlotte Posner helped Natasha Applebaum ( right and inset) cope with cancer