“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends”

As I write this, I know it may come across as selfish, delusional and getting the wrong end of the stick. Forgive me. I’ve been crying for the last 3 days, and this blog is my therapy.

I’ve been upset because my right breast is so red. It’s scary. Yesterday Dr W extracted over 100ml and then filled my right expander by about 120ml. The idea is that the expander will fill the void that keeps filling up with fluid. I’m to wear my sports bras to keep it all together, to prevent any possibility of more fluid build up. We can’t figure out what’s going on, culture results came back with no growth, so I don’t have an infection. But I’m still terrified. 

Having the expander increased by quite a large volume in one setting has been uncomfortable. I feel it in my back, my pecs, I feel lopsided. Plus the effects from my taxol make me feel achey, tired, and I have the blues. My hair is truly scary. I can see the oval shape of my head, I look like a “sick cancerous person”. So all this means, I’m blue. And apart from The Rock, I feel I have no one to talk to. 

I’m an “expat” living in Singapore. But I have many groups of friends from different schools in Malaysia, school in the U.K., and University friends. A lot of the friends I met in Singapore, as young single women, have now all moved abroad. Facebook is our means of staying in touch, which means, we get to see the glossed over version of each other’s lives through carefully curated and filtered photos. 

Now in Singapore, my social circle consists of a mixed bunch. Most of them are parents from the school my girls go to, and a few of them from work. But, truth be told, since becoming a Mother, and seeing most of your friends move abroad, your circle gets smaller and smaller, and so small that sometimes you just don’t even go out. You’d rather stay at home with a good movie. 

Which of course means, that most adult women that I know here in Singapore, are surface-friends. We just see what’s on the surface, and never dig deeper for fear of actually either sharing too much, or finding out too much. While that suited me in the past, now this leaves me in such despair. Look, there have been many people who’ve been very helpful since my diagnosis. As always, I keep everything anonymous, I just assume nobody wants their name plastered on the Internet. They’ve been super and helpful. But, most of the help is channeled through the children. Helping with pick ups, play dates – generally keeping the girls busy. 

Man how do I write this blog without all these wonderful women saying “what a bitch! We helped her with the kids and this is what she does?!”.  No, I’m not angry or ungrateful. But please bear with me here, I have a point of view. 

Who are our close friends? And by that, I mean, who can we sit down with, and bawl our eyes out, and they will either bawl with us, or just be there for us, without feeling uncomfortable? The last time I bawled with a friend  was most likely at university when my heart was broken or something. As an adult, you just don’t do it much do you? We want to be seen as having it all in place, that our lives are in order. So that’s why, there isn’t anyone here who I feel I’ve shared my emotions with, prior to being diagnosed. And I’d be embarrassed to. I’m not British, but a bit of that stiff upper lip has definitely rubbed off on me. 

I know that a few of them are most likely waiting to hear from me with a text saying “hi, would you like to come over for some tea?” And they’d be there in a jiffy. But then they wouldn’t be expecting me to then have a full blown snot fuelled cry-a-thon. And I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable doing that with them anyway. Today I counted 5 friends who’ve asked me directly about me, not the kids – me. Okay that’s a lie, I just thought of a few more. But what I’m trying to say is, I need to talk. I’m a woman. I need to cry. I need someone to cry with me. To say “yes this thing is a shitty thing, and it sucks” and to give me a hug. Then make me a fresh cup of tea. 

What about family you ask? They all live in Malaysia. I’ve called my sister a couple of times to just have a good old cry. But, I don’t want to burden her with all my tears. I feel I can’t talk about it with Dad, because, while I know he loves me to bits, I don’t think he knows how to deal with his baby girl getting cancer. He sometimes puts his doctor hat on and talks to me like a physician, not a dad. 

Childhood friends or friends from Malaysia? Now here is where it gets a bit poignant. Out of all the many friends I made over the two decades living in Malaysia, I have 2 friends now, who have also moved abroad, but we rarely keep in touch. We don’t pick up the phone to chat. We see what’s happening in our Facebook lives. But these two friends, have reached out and whilst they are not here physically, have “been there”. Karina lives in Sri Lanka, and goes back to Malaysia once a month. On one of those trips I happened to be in hospital having my mastectomy. She took a day flight out to see me from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore . I was so touched. We didn’t really “talk” because, hell, when your Friend is in hospital having had her boobs removed, I believe you need to keep it “light hearted”. She had actually booked a flight to come down to Singapore tomorrow to spend the day with me, something we were both looking forward to. But I asked her if we could put it off until after the chemo, because I realised that it being a Sunday (day 6) I wouldn’t be feeling all that social. I know she’ll come again if I ask her to. Luanne is my other friend who I know I can talk to and she’s the one who will get all angry on my behalf. I just wish she was closer. Em in Manchester is another Friend who I know would cry along with me whilst making pots and pots of tea. I miss her so much. 

You know what I really want to do? I want to cry my eyes out. I want to use up multiple boxes of tissue paper. But I don’t want to do this with The Rock or my girls. I want to do this with a Girlfriend who won’t feel uncomfortable seeing me get emotional. Maybe they won’t, but I’m too shy to say “hey can we schedule a Cry-off next Wednesday 11am? I’ll provide the muffins”. 

I just read this and think damn am I coming across as not thankful for the support I’ve had so far? I need to make sure that to all you lovely people who’ve texted me, or called, or popped over, or helped with the kids – nothing has gone by unappreciated. I just…  How can I say this…. 

I want someone to be there for me, propped up and ready to get uncomfortable with my emotions. It’s a big ask I know. And maybe, given how we live our lives these days, that person is out there, I just have to pay him or her to do so. Maybe, I just need a psychiatrist. 


4 thoughts on “Do we actually have Friends as adults?

  1. Ali, I just want to give you a big hug. I do have snot-rag-cry-friends, and yes, you need them! I think there are many waiting to be that person for you. I can be that person for you. We can figure out or timezones, and what worked for both of us, stock up your tissues, and give me a call. I am going to pm you with my phone number on facebook just in case.

  2. I think the older we get the harder it is to make new friends. Add some cancer in and, damn, it amplifies everything that we consider to be lacking in our lives. I’ve found great comfort in the online “sisters” I have found. You are not alone. We are here.

  3. It has taken me nearly 2 days to post this comment as my eyes fill with tears as soon as I start to type! Wish I could post Em to you to make pots of tea and cry with you, she misses you so much too. Sending you lots of love Hannah (Em’s little sis) xxx

    • Thanks Hannah. The rouse family has always been so dear to me. How lucky was I that Em was lumped with “the weird foreign student” back in Oundle?! My life has been richer because of it x

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