Jumping For Joy
The story of a special friendship between two brave women…
by LJ Jacobs
I met Joy at a local support group for people living with a terminal illness.
She had not long been given her prognosis and was very scared and shy. I introduced myself and asked very candidly what her illness was. I then tried to make her laugh and feel at ease by telling her that, in a poker analogy I often used, I’ll see you ‘your breast cancer’ and raise you an ‘arse tumour’. She chuckled at that and totally lost it when I added that there were more bumps up my back passage than inside a braille bible.
“So,” I said, after the ice breaker was over, “how long have they given you?” I was as casual as if I were asking her what her favourite food was - that’s because I’d become so acclimatised to the whole end-of-life scenario.
I felt I had overstepped the mark, though, for she suddenly stopped smiling and the colour drained from her face. She gulped and held back tears. It was the pop to her bubble that brought her hurtling back to the here and now. She said quietly, “Three months, they say, give or take.”
“Well, that’s three months more than me,” I said after a short pause, and winked at her, trying my jokey demeanour again. “I’m on borrowed time. My doctor’s losing money in backroom bets! But it’ll happen soon enough, so we’d better get on with our friendship, hadn’t we? Just remember, you’re not on your own.”
She couldn’t hold back the full flow of tears any longer and let go.
“Come here, love,” I said, and hugged her, and she, though hesitant at first, hugged me back like a little girl might hug their mother after waking in the night from a bad dream.
It was a nightmare alright, but we both couldn’t wake up from this one. It was here and all we could do was accept it. But at least we had each other.
We would talk for hours every day about this and that as our friendship grew. Sometimes conversations turned to our scary situations. The things we were really worried about. Because it’s not the dying or the torture to the body that’s the scary part - it’s the fear you have for the ones you’ll leave behind.
I had my mother and father and three siblings.
Joy had three children all under four and a useless AWOL husband. She had no other family. She didn’t want her babies to end up in the system - a system that would surely chew them up then spit them out.
I suggested she spend what little time she had left vetting a new family to give a loving home to her children. That way, she would leave knowing her babies would be taken care of by the right people.
She said she wished she could find someone like me.
I told her that I was strictly a cat loving spinster. There was also the small problem that I was heading to the same place as her… the bone yard, and probably sooner.
She laughed. It was lovely to see her laugh.
Unfortunately, the tears and sadness were starting to take over everything else.