This is a tribute to three lovely rays of sunshine. Strong women who totally brightened up my life, and many others, over the years in various ways. They have all succumbed to the bastardly C – but not without a fight.
Somehow the topic of food connects these three lives that were not really connected at all – except through me.
Joansie and Kirstie were probably diagnosed around about the same time – a good few years ago now. You know how Facebook is – there are always things circulating about what to eat or not to eat; what’s good for you; the most miraculous veggie that cures everything; interesting herbs and all that shite. I’d see stuff and point it out to Joan, then email the same info off to Kirstie, who was not a FB fan. Joan would post funny chemo videos and I’d pass along those links to Kirstie for a laugh. I’d only known Kirstie for a couple of years and sometimes I think she thought I was a tad bonkers but she appreciated the fact that she could talk about her illness around me, and not pretend that she was fine.
One is always a bit reticent when a friend is sick – like really sick – do you pussy foot around the topic or do you just come out with IT.
Once Joan had been diagnosed she immediately made a FB group and regularly updated a select group of her friends. This made talking about IT easier. She was always so cheerful and upbeat. She recounted horrendous episodes in a funny way that had a person sort of laughing and crying at the same time. I so admired her take on life.
She’d often post pics of her hospital food – saying how delicious it was. Carefully describing the globs of stuff on the plate. But if I close my eyes the first image I get of Joansie is when we were at Helderberg College way waaaay back in 1979. We were in the dorm together – she was a year or so younger than me so whilst we were not really friends – the dorm was sort of family. Sheesh! She was always Miss Goodie-Two-Shoes. Neat and tidy, with a shiny face and her trademark sparkly cheerful personality. We hooked up again 30 years later in 2009 on FB. Her upbeat personality had not changed one iota. We all held her hand – virtually – commented on wig choices and then celebrated when Joansie beat the bastardly C the first time.
Kirstie embraced a really healthy way of eating after she was first diagnosed – she cut out red meat and alcohol and dived into the fresh fruit and veggie regime. It worked for her.
For a while…
Then the tumours came back with a vengeance. We went out for lunch in 2014 – no rabbit food shite that time – Kirstie was telling me that they had discovered the Spur had a special – two burgers for the price of one. She and her family had tootled off and taken advantage of the deal. I agreed that it was great value for money – only paying for two people. Hell no! She replied with a giggle – we ate two burgers each. We fell around the table laughing.
Another time we went for lunch in 2015 was also funny – although it wasn’t really funny. By that stage Kirstie was very weak and we got her a wheelchair to conserve energy. I wheeled her into the restaurant and everybody leapt to attention and started making space for us to sit down. No thanks – chirped Kirstie – I want to sit upstairs. She proceeded to climb out of the chair and made her way slowly up the stairs. The look on the faces of the other patrons was hysterical.
When I dropped her off at home later I wondered if I would ever see her again. I didn’t.
During the course of our lunch, we somehow got onto the topic of birds. Kirstie told me how she loved little birds and one day she wanted an aviary. A few weeks after she died, I was sitting at my desk, feeling really miserable when a little sparrow type birdie landed on the window sill, pecked at the window until I looked at it. It chirped away with its little head on one side and stayed there for a good few minutes, chatting to me. Suddenly I felt better – like Kirstie had come back to say I’m okay – don’t be sad.
We now call all the little birds in the garden “Kirsties” and make sure there is food for them.
My third friend, Anisabel, was the first to die. She had been to visit us on her way back from England and was looking really skinny. Great, but skinny. So skinny that I passed on a pair of my jeans and they fitted her with room to spare. Unheard of because she had always been considerably larger than me. We just assumed she’d been living a bit frugally overseas, had been walking a lot and had lost weight. Upon reflection, she was tired too – but again – I put that down to jet lag. She was so looking forward to starting her new life in the boondocks on the Garden Route – finally having a bit of money to start her own business. We were talking about making a recipe book “Surviving on a shoestring!”
Anisabel was a great cook. She made really delicious food and iced cakes like an angel. We’d been friends for ever. My children looked upon her as a family member, even though we were not actually related. She made wedding, fiftieth, eightieth and many fancy kids cakes for us. She loved reading as much as I do and we came upon a cheapskate method of gifting – we’d buy second hand books – often read them first and then pass them over. Worked a treat because you could then afford to buy three or four books instead of only one.
While she was visiting that last time, she bought a tub of Liquorice Allsorts at Woolies. She then proceeded to demolish most of them. I was vastly amused – I love the stuff too – but so many! Eish! When she left there were a few rattling around in the bottom of the tub. Here, she said. You finish these.
That same tub is now filled with breadcrumbs in the freezer and every time I use them – I think of Anisabel. She also tossed a peg at me whilst she was packing to leave. It must have been stuck on one of her garments and traveled from England with her. Here, she said. Have a peg. It was nice solid peg, so I clipped it onto the washing powder bag – never realising that I would in fact be having frequent chats to that same peg every time I do the laundry!
She was diagnosed with the bastardly C in December and given three months. No prolonged battle for her. She quickly made her peace with the world and cheerfully lived out those last few months – making jokes about how they would be able to use her for a lawn sprinkler because she’d been stuck with a needle so many times. She did not even reach the target of three months.
Anisabel passed in February 2015 and Kirstie in September of that same terrible year.
I remember Chris had a visiting professor from Jordaan and we’d been taking her around on Heritage Day – showing her all the cool stuff we have in Gauteng. We’d just left Maropeng and I was sneakily checking FB on my cell phone in the car. Went cold as I read a post from Joansie saying that the bastardly C was back. It was like a kick in the gut and to my shame (because this haunts me horribly) being still raw from Kirstie, I messaged her back something along the lines that I had had it with cancer – claiming two friends of mine in one year and she better bloody well be okay. She replied that she hoped she did not make it three! It was not in the same year, but sadly, oh so sadly – she was the third.
Farewell my sunshine-flavoured ladies. You are gone… but not really.