I’ve spent hours quietly wondering how to begin this written journey. I’ve played my opening paragraph over and over in my head, always feeling as though it’s not good enough, scribbling it out from my imagination and starting again. Should I dramatically dive into the tale like the beginning of some tragic World War I romance novel my mother would enjoy? Maybe I should go for humour; something light-hearted and easy to digest. Well, despite everything, the past month never felt that dramatic, but I can’t say it’s been all that merry either. So for blog post number one, I’m taking you all the way back to April of this year, to the best adventure of my life, with the best human in my life; my beautiful, benevolent and enchanting sister, Julie. I spent my 25th birthday packing my backpack, ready to head to Eastern Europe for a well-deserved break from work. Life had become monotonous, I’d graduated almost two years ago and I still wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted to be – actually, let me rephrase, I still had no idea about what, where or who I wanted to be. I was having an existential crisis, but then, who isn’t? I have a love-hate relationship with my travel backpack, I have bittersweet memories of arriving in Paris back in late July of 2013, backpack full to the brim, chock full with knickers, sun beaming down at 30-something degrees, practically crying over how much fun I wasn’t having. Julie was highly amused by the situation, laughing at the pure look of disgust on my face; “I need to sit down, I’m not coping”. I took about three photos of the Eiffel Tower and declared myself done. “We’ve been here before, it’s only Paris” (yes, I am wholly aware of how ungrateful 20 year old Jasmine sounds). Fond, fond memories. This year’s trip was different, I had five years’ worth of experience exploring beautiful parts of the world under my belt since our last trip, and I was ready for an adventure with my best friend.
We took a nap practically as soon as we arrived at our apartment in Tivat on the 2nd April, we felt as though we’d earned it, what with our early morning Stansted run (although both of us still managed to make room for an EasyJet Veggie Mezze Box on the plane at 7am – I highly recommend by the way, budget flying food at its best). I woke up from our nap, happy to be somewhere other than Blighty. I took a deep breath in and then coughed. A cough that would last the duration of our Eastern European visit (sorry, Jules), and one that would remain for the following two months, accompanied by a sore throat and an earache that made me both miserable and snappy. Eastern Europe was magnificent, even if I was coughing up a lung, as well as struggling to hold a closed-mouth smile – I had braces at the time and I was very conscious of absolutely not revealing them in any photo, ever. There wasn’t a day where the pair of us didn’t giggle raucously, make additions to our already substantial index of inside jokes, or appreciate the time we were able to share together in this beautiful part of the world. As young women we had developed so much in the five years between our two European treks. We had a whale of a time all those years ago in Western Europe, lapping up the scenery, getting much too excited over the extensive variety of vegetarian sweets available to us in Austria and Germany, eating packed lunches with ingredients bought from the cheapest supermarkets, and using internet cafes(!) to book our hostels as we went – it seems Wi-Fi efficiency has also benefited from a five year development! But this time round, on the other side of Europe, we had even more of an amazing time. We saw equally as many beautiful sites, swapped out packed lunches for restaurant dining, felt slightly more scheduled in our approach to travel, and consumed considerably more alcohol (though, this one doesn’t apply so much to me). The unconditional love we hold for one another has shifted; we’re more open now, we seldom argue, we understand each other on an entirely new level, we’re women of principle, and if anyone upsets the other we automatically despise that person with the same vigour – nobody messes with this 25 year-long friendship.
The pair of us have had our fair share of disappointments and setbacks, but we’ve always picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and marched forth – even if we are our own worst enemies. And despite putting enormous pressure on herself every step of the way, Jules has built a career whereby I find it incredibly hard to imagine anyone surpassing her levels of ambition, compassion, empathy and courageousness. I personally find her quite the remarkable human, someone I can’t even begin to imagine living without. However, on the 7th of September this year, one month ago today, Julie faced a future based on exactly that – the possibility of a future without me.
So this is it, the very beginning of my cancer journey. It may not make a huge amount of sense as to why I’ve spent precious words on describing my past travel ventures, but it’s important, and relevant. I must also bring to your attention that my sister is in fact an English teacher, so I expect a full SPAG report and a few ‘is this really necessary?’ comments neatly produced on a Word Document headed my way later.
I hope you’ve managed to enjoy this over a cuppa… or two!
I promise tomorrow’s post will involve a heck of a lot more juicy cancer content, but you’ll just have to wait!