the scene. You're not feeling too good, in fact you feel pretty
and you've been feeling this way for quite a few weeks now. But
you're one of those kind of people who just tends to 'tough it
out' and work on through whatever it is.
This time however, you can't seem to shake it off. In fact you're
getting worse. The coughing and the tiredness is getting you down.
You know something isn't right and so you make an appointment to
The Doctor does what Doctors do. He pokes and prods you, asks
you loads of questions then makes appointments for a whole series
of tests that are surely going to amount to very little. But you'll
go for the tests, after all, you just want to be better because
thing just isn't your scene.
A few weeks later you have another appointment to see your Doctor
and get the test results. You go to the appointment alone.
It's the usual thing, you wait in the waiting room scanning through
the slightly tatty magazines on the coffee table.
it's your turn to see the Doctor and now for some reason you've
become nervous. Tests are essential to learn what the problem
is right? These results will enable the Doctor to make you better,
to get you back in the game. You'll be fine, it'll all be fine...
You're Doctor asks you the usual stuff. How have you been feeling,
etc etc. You answer, it's all routine stuff. But what about those
test results, what's the score Doctor?
"I'm afraid there is no easy way to say this."
The opening line sends a shiver down your spine. Whatever comes
next isn't going to be good. In fact if a Doctor is saying that
there is no easy way to say this, then the chances are this is
actually going to be very bad.
"You have cancer."
Right at that moment the world stops. The air in the room seems
to turn to ice in an instant and your insides feel like
they are about to bust. The Doctor keeps talking but his words
blur to you now.
You watch his lips but you can't hear him because your head is
becoming overrun with more thoughts than you can make sense of.
You went to the Doctor wondering how much time this would take,
and now you leave wondering how much time you have left.
It must be an unimaginably difficult experience, and surely the
first of many.
Eighteen months ago my friend Bettie was pretty much in that very
situation. She hadn't been feeling at all well for quite some time,
but being a fighter meant that she would solider on until it was
absolutely necessary to go see the Doctor.
She had beaten off cancer a few years earlier. It had been in
remission for long enough for life to return to normal and to feel
safe once more. She was back working at the one of the two
hair dressing salons she owned, enjoying being the boss and being
Although it was terrible news to discover that the cancer was
back, she later told me she knew it had returned even before she
for the tests. This time it was lung cancer and the Doctor actually
told her to enjoy the coming Christmas because it would be her
last. How on earth do you cope with something like that?
Bettie coped just as anyone who knew her would have expected
her to, she just got on with life. And despite the fact that she
started chemotherapy straight away, she still
still very much in
charge of the show, only now she was making preparations to slow
down. She even joked with me saying that she was just taking early
Christmas came and went. She spent it, as planned, with her family.
it was by all accounts a great Christmas, one of the best.
Through the next few months Bettie began to return to her normal
self. The treatment seemed to be doing the trick. This tough
lady was once again going to beat this thing, and in a way I wasn't
at all surprised. Bettie is successful businesswoman and tough
by anyone's standards.
Because of the chemotherapy she lost her hair,
but that didn't stop her from coming out with us all one night.
She wore a wig but complained that it made her too hot, so
it was often be comically discarded. She didn't seem ill, at least
not to me.
More tests revealed that the chemotherapy hadn't worked. Treatment wasn't helping, the cancer had spread and there was now very little
the Doctors could
Suddenly the focus was once again on the question on time. I asked
her what she was going to do, and in the brutally direct
style she had made her own, she just looked at me and simply said
That was last summer though. Since then Bettie has seen a Christmas
she was never supposed to. Sold one of her salons to Rachel,
a member of staff, and a girl she once told me she considered
to be her "second daughter", and a few weeks ago she told me that
all she wanted to see was her daughter, Wenda, settle into the
house she had just bought with her boyfriend.
I've tried to see her a few times since then, but she's
been having more bad days than good days recently, and her husband
George said she needed a lot of rest. I can understand that of
Last week after a party we dropped Wenda and her boyfriend off
at their house. She said it was still a bit of a mess, the way
houses can be when you're doing a lot of remodeling and the such.
But this was going to be the first night they stayed there, and
that week they finally moved in.
This morning Lucy, one of the hairdressers from the salon I live
above, shouted up to me asking me to come downstairs. On my way
down I looked out of my lounge window. I couldn't see Wenda's car.
was stood just inside my kitchen door with Sarah, one of the
I knew straight away what they were going to tell me. They needn't
have said the words.
Bettie died early this morning.