My brilliant, lovely friend Vix died of cancer at the end of last year. She was just 35 and has a 5 year old daughter. Before she died she asked me if I’d read a letter written by her at her memorial. It’s so lovely and wise and eloquent I wanted to share it. With the permission of her family, it appears below.
“I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot that’s pretty rubbish about having cancer (A LOT). As much as I hate it and what it’s done to me and my loved ones, I also appreciate that it has taught me some valuable lessons. It has given me perspective and a sense of what is important. It has given me an appreciation of everyday life. It has made me realise what an exceptional bunch of people I am lucky enough to call my friends and family.
There are a few things I’d like you to do for me…
I want you all to try and say yes to things more often. Take chances, surprise yourself. Life is too bloody short to live with regrets.
Learn to let things go. I spent so much time worrying about really pointless things over the course of my life so I really feel strongly about this. I spent so much time beating myself up over decisions I made, whether or not I offended that person or this person and worrying what other people were thinking of me. When you start to over-analyse things and worry, just ask yourself, does this really matter?
Appreciate your bodies and recognise them for the incredible gifts they are. Mine malfunctioned, sure, but it also tried so hard to heal itself. It coped so well with the cancer treatment and kept me going with a relatively normal life as long as it could. I have learned to see every extra bit of flesh not as fat, but as energy and substance. I was a strong, capable women, I made another human being with my body! Don’t worry about how others view the way you look…be grateful for your body and your health. Look after your body but first and foremost cut yourself some slack and look after your mind. You’re not a bad person because you have a piece of cake or a glass of wine.
As with fat, same goes for wrinkles and grey hair. These are to be envied. Wrinkles and grey hair signify time and experience and memories. I wish I had the opportunity to have more of both. So don’t let me hear you moaning about turning 45…I will come and haunt you!
Try to embrace every second of every day. I’m not talking about those special days, the ones you know are memories in the making, where you appreciate the view, the weather, the company. I’m talking about every single day, the mundane days, the crappy day at work days. Embrace it all and revel in it. Cancer allowed me to cherish my life in a way that I think very few people get to, and I am actually thankful for that.
One of the things that makes me most sad about dying is the effect it’s going to have on the people that love me. I hate the idea of you all being sad. This probably sounds really stupid but please try to be happy. I have had a wonderful, happy, life. Looking back over my life there is actually very little I regret and while I was far from perfect I like to think I did a pretty good job of being a human being.
A few days before I got my secondary diagnosis, Mum and I went to see a production of Peter Pan at the RSC…in this version of the play Wendy’s brother dies and the whole family falls apart. Peter Pan tells Wendy that the best way to deal with death and move on is to not forget the person, but to forget to be sad. This is what I want you all to do…forget to be sad.
Take me with you when you see a good film or an awesome band, when you hear a good song on the radio or eat a really nice meal. When you have a fab night out in the pub or enjoy a lovely glass of wine or gin & tonic. When a celebrity does something stupid or when nice new clothes come into the shops. When there’s a new series of something good on TV that I would have liked. Remember me then and all the amazing times we had together but don’t be sad.
Honestly, I’m not sad. I’m pretty angry that I’m going to miss out on stuff, you all know I absolutely hate missing out on things! But I’m not sad because you all made my life wonderful – thank you for that.
Make sure my daughter knows how much I loved her and will always love her. Don’t tell her she’s like me, because I want her to be her own amazing person and not feel like she’s living in the shadow of a dead lady. Please don’t tell her I’ve gone to a better place or confuse her with ideas of heaven. Let her decide what she believes and let her know that if I had a choice, I wouldn’t have left her.
I want you all to remember that it’s OK to move on and to enjoy life and be happy. You mustn’t feel guilty for getting on with your lives. You can honour my memory by laughing and enjoying life as much as is humanly possible. Same goes for my darling husband…I want you to move on and be happy again. I want our house to be as full of love and laughter as it was when I was alive.
Be kind to each other and yourselves…enjoy the world and be proud of your place in it. I love you all very much and I’m so grateful for each and everyone of you for making my life what it was.
Remember “as is a tale, such is life. Not how long it is, but how good it is is what matters”.
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not a church goer. Music has always been my religion and my passion. I believe it was Pink who once wisely said “If God is a DJ, Life is a dancefloor, Love is the rhythm, You are the music”. In a similar (and somewhat cooler) vein, Faithless said that the dance floor was “a church where we can heal our hurts”. I want to play you some songs that say what I want to say to you all far more eloquently than I ever could. When my songs are done feel free to put on some more….songs I love, songs you love, songs we loved together.
So get a drink and some food – it’s an open bar. Kick off your shoes and have a dance. I’m right there on the dance floor with you and I always will be.”
If you would like to make a donation in Vicky’s memory, you can make a donation to Breast Cancer Care using the hashtag #4VICKY. For more information about the symptoms of breast cancer you can visit CoppaFeel or if you need support following a diagnosis, visit the Breast Cancer Care website. Our love to Vicky’s family and friends – we are in awe of her.
Image credit: Sophie Law