The bright side: kindness

It’s not all bad, having cancer. It’s mostly bad, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, but I have been absolutely flabbergasted by some of the things that have happened since my diagnosis. And it’s about time I took a break from the sad stuff and talked about it.

I already knew that my family were amazing, but that hasn’t stopped them from proving it over and over with limitless help and understanding. Despite having my sister to worry about, my parents have supported me practically and emotionally at every step. Paul has been working really long hours, but he’s still taken on pretty much every other job in our home and always has time and copious amounts of love for Joseph and Elodie.

This week, while work has rather inconveniently taken Paul to Moscow, my mother-in-law has come to stay with the children and me, and every single night she’s offered to take Elodie so that I can sleep. She’s cooked, gardened and changed a huge number of nappies. This isn’t how retirement is supposed to be.

Friends of mine and Rachel’s have been wonderful, too. Depending on their situations, they have sent things and they have come (or offered to, from as far away as Melbourne). One friend put together a crafting kit for Joseph, with hand-written instructions for every mini project. Another sent a cancer-fighting kit full of lovely beauty products. Yet another anonymously set up a year-long magazine subscription.

Friends have brought me home-cooked food. They’ve come with vegetables from their allotments and eggs from their chickens. The day after my sister’s stroke, a truly wonderful friend who lives many miles away called to say that she was ten minutes from my house and had some things for me. She was on her way to her in-laws’ with her family. While her husband drove around the block a few times to stop the kids from waking up, she gave me and Elodie cuddles and left us with gifts, lasagnes, cake and chocolates. It was like a kindness tornado.

And it doesn’t end there. Acquaintances and even strangers have got in on the act, too. When I was admitted to hospital a few weeks ago, I left with the phone number of a nurse who lives nearby and offered to help out. Neighbours and nursery staff have made the same offer. A woman I’ve never met read my blog, asked for my address and sent a beautiful sleepsuit for Elodie. Friends from school I haven’t really been in touch with for twenty years have sent messages full of love.

Last week, I was opening post while trying to persuade Joseph not to drive vehicles up and down my legs. Distracted, I skim-read a card from a woman I used to work with, several years ago. We ran into one another with our babies a couple of years back, and we’ve been in touch on Facebook. I thought it was kind of her to take the time to send a card. And then a cheque fell out. And then I saw that the cheque was for £500. In the card, she explained that it was a no-strings-attached gift; that she’d sent it because she wanted to do something to help.

I’ve learned a lesson from this. Often, I’ve thought about sending people things and either never got around to it or decided against it. Because I don’t know them well enough, or I haven’t seen them for a while, and they might think it’s a bit odd. But I don’t care about any of that now. Every card, parcel, visit and message has cheered me up while my life has been in turmoil, and I’m prepared to take the chance of seeming a bit over-familiar if I can cheer up someone else.

The bottom line is: people are kind. You wouldn’t always think it when you watch the news, stand in a queue at the post office or read the comments on online articles. But when something awful happens, your faith in humanity gets a real boost. I hope everyone who has helped me gets to see this post. I want them to know that I am humbled, and I am grateful.

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