Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

“He­len and I went to high school to­gether. I still re­mem­ber the first time I saw her – I thought she was the most beau­ti­ful girl I’d ever seen. We be­came close at uni and have been that way since. Our fam­i­lies have grown up to­gether, too. We were preg­nant with our girls at the same time – they were born 10 days apart – and He­len is my daugh­ter’s god­mother.

He­len is such a pos­i­tive per­son – you’d have to be to get through what she has. But there are dark times. I know she doesn’t want peo­ple to see them, but I’m glad she can share some with me.

There’s a sense of help­less­ness you have as a friend. Some­times I don’t know what to say, but I’ve learnt that be­ing there and lis­ten­ing is what mat­ters. I re­mem­ber she once said, “I’m so glad you’re in my chil­dren’s lives”; I replied, “Well, I’m glad you’re in my kids’ lives”. I knew what she re­ally meant, but I dis­missed it, and that was so un­fair. I’ve learnt to ac­cept what she says, and that it’s OK to sit and lis­ten, and cry with her.

Be­fore He­len was di­ag­nosed, I didn’t know much about ovar­ian can­cer. I had this as­sump­tion that a pap smear picks it up, so I didn’t re­alise there wasn’t an early warn­ing test. He­len knew some­thing was wrong and kept go­ing back to her doc­tor. It was like they were go­ing through their check­list, and ovar­ian can­cer was last. Maybe it should be higher up the list.

Th­ese days, He­len is less wor­ried about what oth­ers think, and she’s pri­ori­tised what’s im­por­tant – her fam­ily was al­ways num­ber one, but it’s even more im­por­tant now.

When I see her speak­ing at events, I’m so proud of her. To get up in front of peo­ple and talk is scary enough, but to know what she’s been through to get there, I have ab­so­lute re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion, and I think, that’s my friend.”

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