I just didn’t understand… Not why, not how, not me…
No matter how much I slept I was always tired. Proper, bone tired. It wasn’t until Tegan asked me to go to the doctor that I realised. My four-year-old actually voiced what I couldn’t – wouldn’t – face, the simple fact that I wasn’t myself any more. She’d gotten tired of me being too exhausted to play with her. Of me having nosebleeds. Of me being breathless after even the smallest amount of exertion. ‘Mummy, if you go to the doctor she can make you better,’ she said one day out of the blue. Just said it, and I did it.
I sat in the doctor’s, told her what was wrong and she did a blood test. Then called me in for more tests. More tests with names and words I’d heard on the medical shows on telly, then words that never had a happy ending on TV were being bandied around. But they couldn’t truly have anything to do with me. Not really. They were eliminating possibilities.
Then, I got the call. The call saying I had to go see my doctor straight away. Even then… And even when she told me… When she said she was sorry and then started talking about treatments and prognosis, I didn’t believe it. No, that’s not right. I did believe it. I just didn’t understand. Not why. Not how. Not me…
About a week later, on my way to work I got to the train station early, mega early, as usual. You see, I’d built lots of compensators – things that made normal activities easier – into my life to accommodate the disease invading my body: I left for the station early so I wouldn’t ever have to run for the train; I brought food to work so I wouldn’t have to walk to the sandwich shop at lunchtime; I cut the childminder’s hours so I wouldn’t be tempted to go for a drink after work.
Anyway, on this particular day I sat at the station and a woman came and stood beside me. She got her mobile out of her bag and made a call. When the person on the other end picked up she said, ‘Hello, it’s Felicity Halliday’s mother here. I’m calling because she’s not very well and she won’t be coming to school today.’ I fell apart. Just broke down in tears. It hit me then, right then, that I might never get the chance to make a call like that. I would not get to do a simple mum thing like call my daughter’s school. There were a million things I would never get to do again and that was one of them.
Everyone was terribly British about it all and ignored me as I cried and sobbed and wailed. Yes, wailed. I made a hideous noise as I broke into a million, trillion pieces.
Then this man, this angel, came to me, sat down, put his arm around me and held me while I cried. The train came, the train left. As did the next one and the next one. But this man stayed with me. Stayed with me as I cried and cried. I totally soaked and snotted up the shoulder of his nice suit jacket but he didn’t seem to mind, he waited and held me until I stopped wailing. Then he gently asked me what was wrong.
Through my sobs, all I could say was, ‘I’ve got to tell my little girl I’m going to die.’
Extract from the book My Best Friend’s Girl
By Dorothy Koomson
All Rights Reserved
London: Time Warner Books, 2006
Call Number: English KOO
Available at NLB
By Patricia Wood
Call Number: English WOO
Title: His ‘n’ Hers
By Mike Gayle
Call Number: English GAY
Title: My Sister’s Keeper
By Jodi Picoult
Call Number: English PIC
If you saw a stranger all alone in a public place, would you ignore him/her or would you go up and ask what’s wrong?