Spaces of pleasure: cyber friends



Posted September 27th, 2008 by Jane

On Thursday I was among eight 40/50 something women lunching in central London together. We got there early and stayed late but otherwise you’d not have guessed we weren’t just another group of city office workers swapping anecdotes and jokes. We’d all met before in cyberspace, on a secondary breast cancer site; this the third realworld meeting, my first.

Oh how the conversation flowed easily (or as it got noisier..in my case with hastily written notebook scribbles cause no one could hear me), what a relief there is no avoidance, no awkward moments, no false reasurrances. We have cancer in various and many bits of our bodies…lungs and liver and bones and neck and head and nodes here and nodes there. Some work, some don’t, some on tretament, some having a break, all of us look ‘well’. We know the drugs, we listen to each other as we talk that riveting stuff which inevitably bores and frightens the cancerfree..the niceties of xeloda, and taxol and arimidex, and should you stay on drugs for maintenance and how long, and what about avastin, and no wigs today, and are your nails falling off, and what about Hickman lines and portocaths. And the talk of pensions and wills, and work and death in service benefits, and telling and talking to children and parents, the kind of talk that 40/50 somethings do has a particular meaning and resonance for each of us.

We have cyber names and real names…and today we get confirmation and maybe a surprise or two about what we each are actually like..and it will mean that our posts in cyber world will be that much closer and real now.

None of us (I’m sorry about the collective ‘we’ but I can’t think of any other way to put it) is brave or inspirational, or thinks cancer had made us better people, and we’re not ‘thinking positive’…though how k. and I laughed each time we thought of a bonus…. We would rather never to have met, we are each scared and sad, more scared and sad..and angry and all kinds of horrible other things than we talk about deeply today…for today is about those spaces of pleasure and warmth and solidarity..as well as the pain… that sometimes it is possible to glimpse because that is what people living with terminal illness do. We talked about those who had died recently..one woman from this group..just so sudden it had felt. You can never tell with advanced breast cancer..one moment a bit of good news, seized on by family and freinds, pushed along the bush telegraph of optimism, and the next day something awful turns up and it all turns around. So good to have that conversation with women who know. And I look round the table and I guess I’m not the only one who wonders who next.

We kiss and hug our goodbyes. I walk with three others to the tube, across a busy street and j. says: ‘watch for the buses’..it’s a joke of solidarity.

Thank you my cyber friends.