The Fault In Our Stars – oh the cliché

This isn’t going to be the generic TFIOS post where I tell you all the heartbreaking cancer story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, because by now I think everyone knows their tale of torment.

Instead, this is a post about my (borrowed) cancer story. This is about Adam.

I met him about three years ago on Rottingdean beach near to Brighton, and in the least cheesy way he saved my life. I won’t give the whole long story because I don’t think anyone really wants to hear it, but mostly because it’s the first thing I have about him and I want to keep that to myself, if that’s okay.

Anyway, he saved me from drowning and after that we spent the next three days hanging out, being stupid on the beach and just talking. When it was time to go home, we left unexpectedly so I didn’t manage to say a proper goodbye to him. Over time, obviously, Adam became just a fond memory but one that I didn’t spend too much time dwelling upon.

Nearly a year passed and I was walking through my town’s town centre. It was raining so my hood was up, and my hands were seized into place by the hefty shopping bags I was carrying. I don’t know about you, but when someone calls my name while I’m out in my town I generally get a bit twitchy, I mean my home-town isn’t really known for its lovely townsfolk.

So, when I heard someone shouting my name, the twitchiness began. I peaked round the edge of my hood but couldn’t see anyone I recognised, so I kept walking.

Again, someone called my name and finally I recognised its source. I walked over to him, his hood covering his head but his smile still just visible. Adam.

It was weird, obviously, because there was no real reason for him to be here, particularly not on a rainy January morning.

But there he was, standing exactly a head taller than me with dark eyes and a bright grin splitting his face. We talked, asking the normal questions and giving the predictable answers, until I asked him how everything had been since last we’d met.

His expression faultered and he slowly reached up to tug back his hood. ‘I have leukemia,’ he said, ‘I’m so sorry.’

I remember staring at him, shocked, because it was so unexpected and just so, so awful. We weren’t even particularly close friends, I mean we’d hung out for a few days the previous summer but really that was all – there was no reason for either of us to properly remember each other, and yet we did.

He pulled me in and hugged me, and I remember the rain. It’s a strange thing to remember so clearly, but it’s possibly the clearest of my memories from that day.

He gave me his email address before he left. I didn’t even wait a day before sending him something, and for the next nine months we talked everyday. We met up a few times, but we both agreed that forming a physically, and therefore stronger emotional, friendship would hurt more when it inevitably came to its end.

It turned out that when we met, he was in remission and had been for a few years. The cancer was gone, and it wouldn’t come back, and yet there it was, back.

He spent that year travelling, visiting everywhere he could in such a small space of time. It was only after six months that he told me why: he’d been given a time limit.

Towards the end he spent more and more time in hospital, and I began to converse more with his cousin than with him because he couldn’t. Finally, after far too few months, the last three days of which had been utter radio silence, his cousin emailed me explaining that the absolute worst had happened. To say that I was heartbroken would be such an understatement.

Suddenly I didn’t have the constant correspondence or the comfort of one of my closest friends, and that’s really all we were – the closest of friends, nothing more or less than that.

Why is this post headed with the name of a book? Because I watched the film of it last night with two friends and ended up bawling as I always do as it finished. Perhaps one friend understood why, but the other definitely didn’t. I might show him this at some point to explain, partly because I never (openly) cry and partly because he’s one of my best friends and I think I want him to know this, but I’m not sure…

I miss Adam, but in a less painful way than I once did because I shoved that grief down until I felt I’d bottled it enough to keep going.

I guess Gus was right, though – that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.



Just Something I Found

While looking through the notes on my phone I found a piece I wrote nearly this time last year. I wasn’t going through the best of times, but by the time I wrote this I think I could effectively ‘see the light in the darkness’, so here:

I have scars on my wrists,

And bruises on my knuckles,

With broken veins and a broken heart.

I have a void where I should have life,

A hole where I should find love,

Yet still I am alive.

I have scratches and marks aplenty,

And cold that runs so deep,

But somehow I am thawing.

I have scars, yes,

But they’re not all so bad,

They show that I have lived,

And survived a lot of things.

Perhaps to the others my hardships

Are nothing but minor setbacks,

But to me they cut too deep

To ever really hide.

I have family and friends,

And I love them all so much,

And it’s thanks to them that I’m still here.

I have love,

Not that I can always see it,

But I know that it’s always there.

So thank you, every one of you,

Who has held me when I’ve cried

And helped me to my feet.

Thank you every one of you,

For the solidarity I needed.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m particularly good at poetry, but it’s always been a way for me to express myself; I’ve never been much of a talker and so at a young age I realised that I could far more easily convey myself through the use of written rather than verbal communication.

This poem, sort of named The Scars On My Wrists, was my way of trying to look at my depression. I’m not sure what else I can say about it because I think the poem says enough, at least in the best way I can express.


New Year, New Me, Old Resolutions

Forgive me for being sceptical and doubting the whole ‘new year, new me’ thing, but I have a slight problem with it; posted all over Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter and every other social media site in existence are the words ‘Happy New Year’ followed closely by ‘New Year, New Me’. Why?

For a whole year people grumble over the woeful happenings in their everyday lives and for a whole year we vow that next year will be the year that we turn things around, make a difference and be the person we want to be. A whole year. It takes us a year to decide what we’ll do the next year, and the next, and the next and so on and so forth. A whole year gone by thinking of the next one and not focusing on the days that are flying by in this year.

Now, while I actually harbour a love for the concept of starting afresh and making improvements, I find it strange to think that it’s just that: a concept. Because who really starts up jogging on January 1st? Who does put a note in a jar everyday reminding themselves of something happy? I know I don’t, and I know that the people I know don’t.

It’s not a bad thing, really, just a thing. It just happens; we promise ourselves and each other that, with the new year, we’ll do all of these amazing things and that by the end of the year we’ll have little to no reservations, but along the way we forget and life goes on and suddenly we’re back to December 31st saying the same things we said 365 days before. The end and beginning of years are always the same, and yet they’re still a beautiful stage in our lives because, for one night, the whole world has the same spark of hope. It really is wonderful, because the whole of Earth is united, once a year, in a universal mentality to change things for the better.

I really do love it.

But then January comes around, along with the hangovers and then stress of school and work and life and that little spark dims and dims until, by halfway through February, we’re all back to how we were. It’s sad.

So this year, instead of making empty promises that you’ll jog a mile everyday and stop eating that leftover chocolate from that thing a few days ago, how about we vow to just make it different from last year? Different in a good way, of course, and sure, cut out the really bad stuff, but just make it different. Make memories and moments you’ll remember for the rest of your life so that, in a decade when we’ve done this cycle a full ten times more, we can look back and go, ‘You know what? I’ve come so far.’

Because, really, we can’t slow down time. We can’t stop it. But we can remember it. We can look backwards and forwards and be happy that each year was different, for both good and bad reasons. And hopefully, when we do remember them all, we will remember them for being amazing because of their differences.

So Happy New Year! May 2016 be as different as possible from 2015.