The Fountain

Today is Pink Ribbon Day in Australia which raises awareness (and money) for breast cancer. Whenever this day comes round I think of my friend, Andie, who died three years ago from breast cancer at age 42.

Even when people are gone and have been gone for years you still think of them. Part of you never gets over the fact that they’re gone. There is an ache that lessens with time but is always there.

Andie was a bright spark. Vivacious, funny, warm-hearted. She called her close friends and family ‘Chick.’

‘Hey Chick. Wotcha doin’?’ she would say as she walked up the garden path. It was very endearing. Just hearing her clomp along in the cowboy boots she always wore immediately lightened my mood.

I used to tease her about her boots. They were about twenty years old (she’d bought them while travelling through Texas looking for genuine cowboys) and very tatty. She wore them everywhere.

‘When are you going to take those freaking boots off?’ I’d say.

‘I’m going to die with my boots on,’ she’d say.

And she did.

On the day she died I remember looking at her still, pale face and at her boots which were peering out beneath the blue hospital blanket – those earthy brown tattered boots emblazoned with stars and a kind of filigree pattern – and through my grief I knew that it was right that she died with her boots on. Just like the cowboys of old she’d been looking for in Texas.

Andie knew she had a lump in her breast a year before she got it checked. I don’t know why she didn’t get it checked because she confessed to me it didn’t feel right the first day she found it and she worried about it all the time.

It is one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t know about that lump sooner because I would have dragged her by her boot straps to the doctor’s to get it checked. And maybe then we would have got it in time.

On the day she was diagnosed her Mum rang me in a state saying Andie had cancer in her breast and her lymph nodes and that one of her breasts had to be removed. She said Andie had admitted to her the lump had been there for a year and she was ringing me to see if I had known about it. She started shouting at me before I could even answer her. I know now she was just reacting, full of disbelief and despair, but at the time it really upset me that she could think I would not have done something if I had known for an entire year her daughter had a lump in her breast.

I asked Andie why she didn’t do something about the lump sooner and she said she was afraid. She knew it was bad. It felt bad. It was bad.

Andie told me one of the hardest things about dealing with cancer was that it took a sense of comfort away from you. She couldn’t snuggle on the couch and watch TV anymore (one of her greatest forms of comfort) because of the pain and the fact that her mind would wander as she was watching a show so that she ended up just focussing on the cancer.

So we found something that offered her comfort.

The fountain.

Her Mum and I took her there after chemo treatments. The park is near the hospital. She would look at the fountain – the way the water bubbled up, how sometimes if the wind was blowing the right way and you were sitting close enough you got some cool drops on your skin, how the ducks swam around and around it like it was their Big Daddy Duck  – and relax.

We would sit there for hours, seeing the ducks cut through the waterlilies like little poems come to life. ‘If I was a poet I would write poems about ducks,’ Andie would say. ‘Not enough poets write about ducks. They are so Zen. Living right in the moment. Gliding through the water, totally at peace. They’re just saying I’m here, right now and that is enough.

Sometimes when the days are hard to cope with I sit in the park and look at the fountain and hone in on the wisdom of the ducks. The fountain and the ducks always afford me a sense of comfort.

I’m here, right now, and that is enough.

Please, if you or one of your friends or your mother or your sister or your grandmother or your cousin or co-worker or any woman you know ever finds a lump or a suspicious mass in their breasts, get it checked. Don’t leave it too late. Checking it straight away could save your life.

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24 thoughts on “The Fountain

  1. Hi Selma,
    Cancer is indeed a terrible disease, I have also lost a couple of friends to this. When I was out this morning, I noticed all the pink ribbons were out, and I bought a couple of the ribbons. It was actually good to see them just about everywhere, in the bank, the supermarkets, and of course there was a couple of cancer support stalls just in the walkways of the shopping center itself.

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    1. I am so sorry you have lost some friends too, Mags. It is such a sad and hard thing to deal with. It is good to see so much support out there in the community. I hope that it leads to the development of a cure.

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  2. Through my tears, I’m so touched that you thought of the fountain for your dear friend. I’m glad you honored her during Breast Cancer Awareness Month by giving us a glimpse into her life. Wearing her boots for her journey onward! I can feel your ache in losing her and that other “what if” about her lump. It’s always hard. Hugs.

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    1. It is so hard, Gel. Thank you for your empathy and warm thoughts. You go through so many emotions when someone dies ranging from ‘Why them?’ to ‘Life sucks’ but you eventually come to the conclusion the best way to deal with their loss is to honour their life. And remember them, always.

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  3. I know they say that if it is diagnosed early enough you have a very good chance of beating it. I have lost three friends to breast cancer. One was my very best friend from childhood. All were diagnosed early! I don’t personally know anyone who has survived. It still upsets me to think of them and what they went through, for nothing! I’m still not sure what I would do if I found a lump…

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    1. Oh, Adeeyoyo, I know. My neighbour’s sister died two months ago and she was diagnosed early. It’s just so difficult to know what is right. There seem to be so many inconsistencies in diagnosis and treatment. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and I know what you mean – all that chemo and surgery and suffering for nothing. It seems so pointless. I don’t know what I’d do, either…

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  4. So sorry about your friend – but wonderful that you have used what happened to her as a reminder for everyone to be aware. A good friend of mine died at 28 from cervical cancer and it still hits me every now and then – such a tragic waste of life.

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  5. It must be a world wide thing right now., I think here, October is breast cancer awareness. The type of bread we eat has the pink ribbons on the packaging called the “Harvest of Hope” in support of breast cancer.

    I’m sorry you lost your friend to it. It must be scary as hell to realise you have a lump, I know I’d freak out. Nice that you are honouring her and finding comfort from the same fountain, finding the same peace.
    Hopefully in our life time we will see a cure no matter when it’s found! Hugs Selma xo

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    1. I think I would panic if I found a lump. A few years back I had surgery to remove these enormous cysts on my ovaries and I had an agonising wait after the operation to see if they had discovered any cancer. I was so anxious about it I convinced myself I was dying. Thank God they found nothing. My heart goes out to anyone waiting for a diagnosis because it is absolute hell. I hope we see a cure in our lifetime too xx

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  6. So awful to read this story of Andie.. so young, and just so sad. Thank you for the message, it brings it home again, how important earely diagnosis is…

    I am so happy that I found your blog, via Lauri and I’ve been catching up on all your marvellous older posts. Great to ‘meet’ you!

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    1. It is always there. Time does ease it, of course, but how can you completely forget about someone you loved? It does help to think about her. She was one of life’s characters!

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  7. Oh Selma, I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your friend, Andie. I loved reading about her and those boots. She sounds like she was one hellova woman. But reading about how you and her mum took her to the fountain after chemo treatments brought tears to my eyes. xoxox

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    1. She loved those boots. They were dirty and scuffed but she wore them everywhere. She caused a huge kerfuffle at a wedding by wearing them under her long bridesmaid’s dress. I thought it was hilarious but the rest of the wedding party were not amused. Hahaha.

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  8. So sorry about the loss of your friend, Selma. She sounds like she was really someone special. It’s so odd here in Botswana, we’re all keeping our eyes pealed for the bugaboo AIDS and meanwhile cancer is shooting us down behind the scenes. It’s true, though and we need to be reminded of it often- live today because that’s all we really have.

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    1. There are a lot of things to look out for, Lauri. I read something the other day that said one of the biggest killers of women in Australia is heart disease. I had no idea. And then I spoke to a couple of people and they said everyone they know is either on heart medication or high blood pressure medication. We really do need to live today. It’s important.

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  9. I am sorry you lost your friend, Selma 😦
    Your post is a poignant an apt reminder of the danger of ignoring these things. I remember Belinda Emmett saying that she ignored the lump in her breast for two years and by then it was too late.

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  10. I had a very dear friend who died of lung cancer several years ago. She went very fast: November to July. When it got to her brain and she couldn’t do much but lie in bed on morphine, her favorite thing was smelling herbs from my garden and associate them to things like holiday turkey. She also found it comforting to the very end to go through photo albums of her childhood with her mother. I am very sad that an incredible fellow blogger at “Toddler Planet” has metastatic breast cancer with two young children. But she keeps blogging and telling the truth and is incredibly inspirational.

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    1. It is sad to witness the end of someone’s life. Very, very hard. Some people are gone just like that and it is a shock. The smelling of the herbs has really affected me. OMG. I am so moved by that….

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