There are many women (and men) wearing pink ribbons this month to raise awareness about breast cancer and to commemorate brave women who have battled with and still battle with breast cancer around the world.
Some of us know what the pink ribbon represents and some don’t. Among those who do know what it represents, how many actually do something to support women battling with breast cancer? By support, I do not mean sharing a pink ribbon post on your Facebook page; nor do I mean wearing a pink ribbon in passive solidarity mode.
I lost a very dear friend to breast cancer last year. It hit home because it took away one of my best friends!
Marie-Ange was an angel, true to her name. We worked together and were friends for over 25 years. Marie-Ange symbolized courage, positivity and faith. She was an absolutely beautiful woman, inside and out. And she was one of the most considerate people I knew. She was gentle and kind and sweet.
One year on, as I walk in the streets of Geneva, I am reminded by how much I miss her when I pass a cafe or a restaurant where we met, laughed and cried together. Good girlfriends are hard to find!
Marie-Ange was diagnosed with breast cancer over 15 years ago. She underwent treatment, went into remission, relapsed, and underwent treatment again. She did this with courage and confronted her fears in silence. She did not even impose her illness on her closest friends. She underwent chemotherapy alone, lost her hair, and put a wig on. She was still amazingly beautiful. She grew even more beautiful as the indelible marks of courage and faith left their imprint on her.
For over 15 years, she battled with breast cancer. She looked the illness in the eye and said “bring it on!”. Finally, the years of treatment and chemotherapy took their toll on her. She became frail and began to have complications. She still confronted them with courage. Even then, she did not impose her condition on her friends, nor complain about her predicament.
I admired her beyond words.
In her final six months, she lost considerable weight and was too weak to walk. She never lost her smile and her beauty, even then. She was admitted into hospital because she was too weak to care for herself. I would visit her and hold her hard and stare into her beautiful blue eyes.
“My darling friend. I am sorry. I wish I was there for you more often. I wish I called you more often. I wish I took the time to see you more often.” I said silently to myself.
She was moved to a Hospice, an “End of Life Clinic”, they called it. How awkward it was when I went to visit her there…walking into the hospital and knowing that all the persons I saw there were just counting days..and hours, not even months.
I went in to see Marie Ange…and there was this beautiful woman asking me why I had troubled myself by coming. Can you imagine? even then, she did not want to bother anyone. She was now skin and bone..But her piercing beautiful eyes still smiled at me.
There was a pungent smell there. Was it the smell of treatments that are administered to patients? Or was it the smell of death? I was so sick from the smell that I felt I could throw up. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned all night. The smell of that place…the hallowed faces of the patients. I couldn’t go back there. It was too much to bear.
But then I imagined my best friend sitting there, alone in her bed, knowing that death is looming. She is alone and afraid. How could I be so selfish as to be turned off by the acrid smell and the hallowed faces.
I went back to the hospice, a tissue with cologne under my nose to drown the small. I sat next to her, held her hand, and played her favorite music. Every day, I would go to see her and watch her drift into unconsciousness from the drugs and pain killers they were giving her. She would wake up from her sleep and smile at me.
I held her hand until the very end.
Rest in Peace my dearest friend. The world is a colder place without you.
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