The weekend just gone was an amazing one for me. It started on Friday morning at Brisbane airport, when I sent somebody I’d never met a photo of what I was wearing so she could recognise me in the crowd. It ended with the two of us hugging goodbye at the same airport late Sunday afternoon. It was a hard, tight hug, the sort of hug you give someone who means the world to you, but that you may not see again. It was a cancer kind of hug.
In the middle of those two airport scenes were three days of love and laughter and tears and pain and life. I went to Melbourne to meet with some of the members of my online cancer support group, called The Cancer Clique. The Clique formed early in 2014, an informal amorphous microcosm of life-threatening illness and tits and arse jokes disguised as a private Facebook group. Day after day, night after long, unforgiving night we posted about treatments, side effects, funny stories, myriad fears and terrible, awful, unclenching pain. And then someone suggested we meet, in the flesh. I immediately said yeah! But then started having second thoughts because, well, weirdos on the Internet. But I talked myself around, assured that no-one on the Internet could be that much weirder than me, and booked my flights.
So what happened on this weekend? Lots of things, too many and many too private to mention here. But I do want to share my top five highlights:
1. Friends in Need …
This is my beautiful friend Deb, who was stuck in hospital and unable to come to high tea at the Windsor. So we bought high tea at the Windsor to Deb, in the form of pilfered scones wrapped in a napkin. And because nothing says friendship like letting someone touch your prosthetic boob, Deb copped a feel.
2. The Official Awkward Silence Count
Zero. Eight people who’d never met before in person, very limited alcohol (it’s a liver cancer thing), hours and hours of unbroken time together, and not a single awkward silence.
3. Show Me Where It Hurts
Not everyone with cancer is bald, or pale, or thin, or sickly. In fact, many of them are bloody gorgeous. Because it can be difficult to judge someone’s state of health from just looking at them, it is sometimes necessary to ask them to show you where it hurts.
4. No Lies
Honesty is the manure of human relationships. It can be stinky and unpleasant to work with, but it makes the garden grow and grow. We talked about death, and dying and life and living, all with complete honesty and a fucking giant dose of black humour.
5. Bitchy Cake Face
I invented a new thing. It’s called Bitchy Cake Face, or BCF for short. It’s similar to bitchy resting face (when your ‘normal’, unsmiling face makes you look like a bit of a bitch), but it’s directed at cakes. I love cake like a fat kid loves cake, but my face most definitely does not show it.
When I got in the car to drive home from the airport on Sunday, this song came on the middle-aged lady radio station I listen to. The aptness took my breath away for a second or two, and then I sang along, loudly, and thought about all my weirdo internet friends. Deb, Megan, Jo, Emily (who took the amazing photos I’ve used on this page, apart from the first one), Jules, Antoinette, Sherie and Natalie, this one’s for you.