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Who are we without our minds?

I mentioned late last year that our good friend S had been diagnosed with brain cancer. An aggressive form. He had immediate surgery and has continued to work while undergoing chemo and radiation therapy.

We have spent  a lot of time with S and his wife and kids. Special times, conversations over wine and food. He has remained as witty as ever with his wicked, dry sense of humour. He has been open and honest about his diagnosis and treatment. About his thoughts on dying.

In January, we had dinner with them on the eve of their week long summer holiday at Rottnest. On their return, we were heading off for our own week of fun on the same Island. They were unpacking and repacking to have a family holiday in Japan. Creating memories for their children. Snow, culture, Disney World.

They returned home on Australia Day. I wondered how their holiday had gone. School started and I made time to talk with D and arrange a date  for  a walk and coffee and of course a chat.

They attended an appointment with their Specialist on the day before they left for Japan. Despite the chemo, the radiation therapy, the $20 000 per month experimental drug, the prayers, three new tumours had developed. They were told this would be their last holiday as a family of five.

S and D kept this latest news  from their children and decided to make it a holiday to remember for all the right reasons. Their children are aged 9, 7 and 5.

S has just completed three weeks of a new type of chemo. Designed to extend life from weeks to months. Previously the chemo has not affected him. He had continued to spend a few hours (during school hours) working as a Partner in a Law Firm. He had continued to run and walk the family dog. Sure, he could no longer drive but on the outside, he looked fit and healthy. This new chemo has made him feel like crap. He doesn’t want to spend his final days feeling like this. He doesn’t want to go another round.

In three weeks Simon has started to leave. He has no spatial awareness, he can no longer enjoy a run or even a walk with the dog. Is the oncoming car 100m away, or is it about to hit me? He has lost his sense of direction. He called D this week when he lost his way home, walking in his own street. He has lost the ability to process information. So an avid reader is unable to follow the plot of a simple text. He can’t follow the plot of movies or even Aussie TV dramas. He is still intelligent, and frustrated. He knows that words escape him during conversation. He knows he once knew which hand to hold his cutlery in. He knows he has lost the ability to tell time and recognise which note to hand over when paying for his coffee.

S and D went to Uni with my homme. I met homme, and later his Uni friends, just after they had graduated from law. A group of 12 people who have since made their lives in Perth, Belgium, France and now Jakarta, England and Singapore. Many marriages, babies and even two divorces and remarries. Every Christmas we make the effort to have a dinner together, when the overseas friends return to visit family for the Festive Season. I am so grateful for the ongoing connection.

Homme and I had morning tea with T yesterday. He is back from England for a week, with the sole purpose of spending time with S, to say goodbye. While it was so lovely to see T, it breaks my heart to acknowledge the reason for his visit. This weekend, R is coming back from Belgium for only a three day visit, again to farewell his friend. We are all gathering at G’s home, kids and all, to catch up for drinks while R is here. S and D have asked us all to come. I usually look forward with anticipation to these rare group gatherings. This time I will treasure every minute of our time together, but my heart is so heavy. I am sure it will be a beautiful memory to treasure in the not too distant future. I will take photos. We have rarely taken photos in the past.

My heart is breaking for D and for her children. But oh, my heart is aching for S and this path he is on. Before Christmas he told me in my kitchen that although he was positive about his future, if things went downhill, he wanted it to go fast. He didn’t want to lose his mind. My darling friend S, my prayers for you are simple. Go knowing you are loved and that you have touched the lives of so many. Be confident that we will be here for D and for your beautiful children.

My prayer is that when S says his goodbye, he recognises his teenage sweetheart, his wife, and his three precious children.


5 Responses

  1. Oh Vanessa. I’m crying for you, for him, for his wife and his kids.

    But oh, what a noble way of dealing with things – a wonderful family holiday and a desire to have it take him quickly. And to have friends who want to farewell him – it is heartbreakingly sad but it is very clear (to this stranger at least) that he is very much loved and will always be remembered.

    I’m not the praying kind but I’m sending all sorts of good wishes towards you. S sounds brilliant and I wish only the best of things for his family in the times ahead.

  2. Oh- so aptly written. You have such a wonderful way of expressing things. Such a sad time for him, them and you- but such dignity to do it as they have. Life is a gift and has to be treasured. I guess at least they get the chance to say goodbye- the only light in this dark tunnel they are travelling in right now. Enjoy this bittersweet time with your friends.


  3. Oh this is so sad. Not knowing how to do the most basic of things is such devastation. I’m praying for your friend and his family. xx

  4. I weep. Empathy has me feeling so very sad for this family and their families and friends. Life is so very precious and my heart goes out to you and your Homme. Enjoy the gathering of old friends. xxxxx

  5. Thank you everyone for your kind words, prayers and positive thoughts. xx

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