How a friend­ship helped beat can­cer

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

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

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