Today I had some absolutely terrible news. My friend Jayne died yesterday in the Douglas Macmillan hospice, of breast cancer which had spread to her lungs and bones. After seeing her only a few days earlier, it is desperately hard to believe that she has gone, leaving behind her wonderful husband, Mark.
I met Jayne over twenty years ago when six of us sailed around Greece in a majestic yacht under the guidance of our skipper, Andrew, swimming in the azure ocean, soaking up the rays and enjoying lively evenings on-shore.
After the occasional meet-up at social events, Jayne and I were re-acquainted in December 2013 at a Christmas party. I had been diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer in November, and had had a lumpectomy (or a wide local incision as it is formally known), two weeks before Christmas. I was having a short break to recover from my operation before commencing with chemotherapy in January 2014. Jayne breezed in to the party radiating health and (working the 'yachty-totty' look she had perfected on our island-hopping holiday) in a stylish sailor's cap. What she lacked in hair, she compensated for with her usual infectious warmth and smile. She had just finished her treatment for breast cancer and was celebrating with a trip to Australia. I was SO inspired, and truthfully, very envious that her cancer journey was over.
Cancer is vicious and pervasive. However, it also inspires a tremendous sense of one-ness amongst those at all stages of the cancer journey. As a result of our shared experience, Jayne became a very special part of my life and we shared the bumpy road of highs and crushing lows. Jayne was indefatigable in her pursuit of healing and was as knowledgeable on health and well-being as even the most educated of alternative therapists. She read voraciously and followed guidance on how to prevent her cancer returning to the letter, meticulously following a diet that was packed with all of nature's gifts from bee pollen to spirulina. She had success too. Treatment from a holistic therapy centre in Germany yielded a clear lung scan and the energy to continue on their wonderful and life-enriching trip across Europe in a camper van.
In an inspired move, Jayne and Mark spent eighteen months doing exactly what she loved...swimming in turquoise seas, immersing herself in nature, absorbing the beauty of the world around her and waking up with hope and joy every day. Ever the free spirit, this life focused on the simplest of pleasures and, though punctuated with appointments and scans, was powerfully uplifting to her soul.
However, the cancer returned and this awe-inspiring woman was taken from those she loved. Whilst confined to her bed, she had a little prayer box that she used to note down her wishes from God. My wish for her is that he has welcomed her home and that she can now be free.