Life is a funny thing sometimes. I mean, you would never think, as a teenager, sitting around a campfire at a country party, drinking UDLs, singing 90s pop songs at the top of your lungs with your best friend, without a single care in the world, that 20 years later you will be in a hospital oncology department sitting next to that same friend as she has her chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.
I guess ‘funny’ probably isn’t the right word.
But true friendships often find themselves in situations like these, in places you never thought you’d be and most definitely never wanted to be found in. And like most things in life, these situations teach you something, or in this case so many things.
Briony Benjamin survived cancer. This is what she wants you to know about getting the worst news of your life. Post continues below.
I offered to go to one of *Laura’s chemo treatments not long after she was diagnosed. I knew from another close friend who is also battling the same form of breast cancer that having support people – and different support people – with her at the treatments was important. It was important for her but also for them, having a rotating roster of support people was helpful, as having chemo is difficult but so is being a support person for someone who has cancer.
For me, knowing this and also having the chance to offer something tangible, something I could actually physically do for her was important to me and to be honest this was really one of the only things I could think of to really help her.
Laura took me up on my offer and we locked in a date.
On treatment day I drove Laura to the hospital, we met with her oncologist first to go through some test results and the plan after her chemo was complete. Once this was done we proceeded to the chemotherapy treatment area not too far away.
Laura’s treatment is long, due to an allergy to one of the chemo drugs, it takes around four hours if all goes to plan. While many other people come and go, Laura sits in a recliner, underneath blankets and heat packs to keep her warm and her veins open, having the drug administered in the only way her body can tolerate it – slowly.
On her head nurses place an icecap, a device that is used to prevent hair loss and like routine, she unconsciously distracts herself from the initial “intense ice-cream headache” pain by playing Angry Birds on her hospital chair console as I watch on in complete and utter admiration of my friend’s strength and grit.
As the nurses tried to find a vein (because she is approaching the end they are proving harder and harder to find) I asked her what I could do to help. She said to me in a matter of fact tone: “You can be my kitchen bitch.” And I was totally fine with that, Kitchen Bitch I would be.
I went to the ward’s kitchen with a list of must haves to help her tolerate the often-nauseating drug. I gathered a can of ginger ale, handfuls of dried biscuits and Mentos, nausea preventatives and bad taste remover, common effects from the treatment.