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Part 13. Essay for Emma

I knew it was serious right from the start. Its cancer, of course it’s serious and then I read about triple negative – that didn’t sound good. So here I am with cancer in my family because that’s what it is. We all work together – we all live together – we share the stuff that is going on in our lives – we care about each other (and sshhh don’t tell anyone but there is love in the room too) so yes, it’s in my family and now I’m living with someone who has cancer. Except I’m not family and I’m not a friend of Emma’s outside of work. How can I show how much I care? How can Emma know that those words of encouragement, sympathy and support are true and from the heart?

Emma the light of our team who radiates warmth and humour, goodwill and energy. How can this amazingly witty, vibrant and sassy individual now find herself with a horrible aggressive cancer?

I know that she is going to have to leave us – not permanently but for a while. Emma talks about her “jooouurrrney” and that is indeed how I describe what is happening to her. I see her on a train travelling along the train tracks. Alongside her are her work colleagues also on a train on a different set of tracks. Sometimes we all stop at the same station and meet up and its great. Sometimes Emma gets on the train with the rest of us and we are all together and there’s time to catch up and do some work and laugh and make proper coffee and eat naughty snacks and then Emma has to get off again. Sometimes other friends and family can travel with Emma but sometimes, and this is the crappy thing, she has to do stuff on her own. That’s the bit that we all hate because none of us quite knows how it feels do we. Much as we might want to get on Emma’s train and be with her there are times when its just not possible and she must feel how she feels and her body must cope with the drugs that are being pumped into her and she is indeed on her own.

Even as she endures this toughest of life’s challenges the remarkable Emma is still able to give something of herself. I still get my fix of humour and her zest for life – we all do. When she comes in to work looking fabulous its hard to believe she is in the midst of chemo. I mean really – she does look great – we tell her that and are sincere in our praise. Not only do her looks not reflect how harsh her drug regime is but her attitude is amazing. Ask anyone that works with her – they will all tell you what an inspiration she is.

I miss Emma’s presence in our office but am determined not to be sad and glum when she is not around and to enjoy and appreciate her when she is. I need to remember to be a bit less serious for in the past year I have loved to laugh, really laugh, out of control and with tears. It has been Emma who has been the major factor in such hysteria in me.

Our work group is quite the most extraordinary team – really special. I don’t believe wherever I go or whatever I do in the future I will ever be lucky enough to work in such a supportive environment. I am able to say, from my own experience of grief and loss, that my colleagues have helped me through what would otherwise have been the saddest and toughest time imaginable. For whatever reason, God, The Universe, our boss, we have all been brought together and here we are, more than a little bit bonkers, eccentric and just the best. I know that this team, slightly diminished without our Emma but still formidable will do what it did for me and will keep her going even through the dark days. We’ll do our best not to make a mess of her work (she is so flipping good at her job). We’ll do extra. We’ll cover as required and with a willing good grace. We want everything to be OK when she comes back.

If Emma is worried about the future and whether or not it holds unicorns and rainbows we have never talked about it. As far as I am concerned, she is having the treatment she needs to kill the disease currently blighting her body. I wouldn’t do, say or behave any differently even if I could see into the future. The cancer diagnosis encourages free expression – Emma already knows that I love her!

On the day that Emma’s cancer was confirmed I vowed that I would never put any of my anxieties or concerns onto her. If I am ever scared, worried or sad about her illness I will endeavour never to let her see it. I hope (and suspect I may not be alone in this) that I am not the nitwit who trots out the platitudes, the crass or insensitive comments by mistake (although no one actually does that on purpose do they). Yet we must try to be normal – life must continue and as we all go about our business each of us may occasionally find ourselves on our own tricky journey.

From the pit of Emma’s painful, frightening and disruptive experience of cancer some amazing things have risen up. Emma the writer – expressive and descriptive. Knights’ Army – a group of friends galvanised into a supportive band all set to travel on Emma’s train so that she is on her own the shortest possible time. How amazing are they?

Emma’s illness has, I suspect, made all of us think about what is important. I try not to take anything for granted, make every day count and appreciate what I have, love and enjoy. We think we are travelling along nicely to our destination of choice and then sorry – we have to disembark and get on another train and it turns out that we can’t choose not to do this. Yes, we make choices in our lives but sometimes the strangest coincidences happen, or the most curious spot of luck comes our way. Sometimes I think that these twists and turns are all mapped out for us and have nothing to do with anything that we have chosen.

I couldn’t have picked a better place on earth (and I really do mean that) when I most needed support, friendship, understanding and a really good laugh than to come to work with my lovely lovely colleagues. With a certainty that I cannot explain I believe that Emma is supposed to be here in this job now and at this specific time. She has said that we are part of her cure and I think that we are too.

So I thank my lucky stars, God, The Universe, and our boss for bringing us all together and for introducing me to Emma. I thank Emma for making me laugh and bringing added joy into the work place. Thanks too for adding me to her list of friends and for not taking me off her list of friends even though I never drink gin! Finally, I thank her for giving me the opportunity to write this essay.

Lovely Emma, you are an inspiration – thank you!

Antonia. April 2018

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