In January, Claire died. She had just turned 30. Her cancer spread to her spinal fluid and brain before she had even finished primary breast cancer treatment. I wrote a little about Claire here. I'd only known her a short time, but she was so brilliant - feisty, stubborn, sweet, compassionate - she left her mark on me.
Last month, Jojo died. She had just turned 32. Her cancer spread to her liver before she had even finished primary breast cancer treatment. I wrote about Jojo here. I clicked with her instantly - inappropriate jokes, silliness, irreverence, curiosity, fascination with the weird - she was the perfect antidote to chemo. We became very close friends, and I'm missing her every day.
And then earlier this week, Rosie died. She was 38. Her cancer also spread to her liver before she had even finished primary breast cancer treatment. Rosie, like Jojo, had become a very close friend - to be honest, I'd started to think of her as a big sister.
I wrote about Claire and Jojo on this blog because I wanted to tell the whole world how brilliant I thought they were. They were important, they made a difference - everyone should know it. So I did, of course, want to do the same for Rosie. She was a phenomenal woman - clever, analytical, thoughtful, thought provoking, warm, caring, strong, determined. She was an all-round over achiever, she excelled, she set the bar - a double First from Oxford, partner in a law firm - a lot to be proud about, a lot that other people would be arrogant about. But Rosie never showed a single shred of arrogance. She didn't care about people's qualifications, or career achievements, or backgrounds. She judged people by who they were, what was in their heart. She listened, she empathised, she was fair. She was an incredibly supportive member of the Younger Breast Cancer Network. She was a brilliant friend.
She was also a mother.
Rosie has two children, Tali and Joey, aged 7 and 4. These are the two people that mattered the most to Rosie in the whole, wide world. The thought of not being there for them as they grew up broke her heart. When we saw Elliot, Rosie's husband, on Wednesday, and he told us she had left him clear, written instructions for all aspects of life through to when both children were grown up and married, it didn't surprise me in the least! So I've thought about it and I'm not going to write a post here telling the world how brilliant and clever and kind Rosie was - there are plenty of people writing tributes like this already. What I want to do is write for Tali and Joey. I want to share a few little stories about Rosie, some of them things that they would probably never know about otherwise. I know Elliot will share these with them when the time is right. (Some maybe sooner than others!)
A few Rosie stories for Tali and Joey
Rosie was in a gang!
Rosie was in a gang called The Seven Bitches. We met online through the Younger Breast Cancer Network. The gang consisted of myself, Rosie, Jojo, Andrea, Cinzia, Aimee and Rebecca. We became friends because we were all going through treatment for breast cancer at the same time, and we spent a lot of that time on the YBCN forum, asking questions, sharing experiences, supporting each other on difficult days. Over time, we became friends. We met up, we talked on the phone. We had our own little thread on Facebook messenger which was active every single day. We didn't just talk about cancer any more. We talked about everything!
Cinzia found this picture of 7 superwomen. We decided it was us. Rosie was Wonder Woman! We decided to be a gang with a name and the best we could come up with was The Seven Bitches - the name just stuck! I'm pretty sure Rosie never expected to be in a gang called The Seven Bitches but she seemed genuinely delighted. When we met up in February in London she brought us all little gang bracelets to wear! She told us it was the first time she'd ever been in a gang! My bracelet is pale blue, and I love it. It reminds me of her.
Fuschia though. Not nimby pimby pink
Rosie had picked a bracelet with pink on it for Jojo just to tease her - Jojo hated the colour pink! But it was Rosie's favourite, and she was determined to get Jojo to wear a little bit of pink - and she was successful! Jojo wore it all day, and in fact days later I remember her telling us she was still wearing it.
The Seven Bitches Bangle
When it was my birthday in March, the other 6 clubbed together and bought me a silver bangle with a little tag on it. On one side it said Seven Bitches Forever, on the other side it said YOLO. (That stands for, You Only Live Once.)
It was perfect! When it was Jojo's birthday in April, the rest of us clubbed together and got her some silver earrings - they too were engraved with 7 bitches and YOLO. Rosie was the one who picked them out and ordered them. Jojo loved them. Sadly she died not long after - like Rosie, she was very ill because her cancer had spread to her liver. But she had worn those earrings the whole time she was in the hospice - right up until she died.
I wanted us all to have a special piece of jewellery, so I bought Rosie, Andrea, Cinzia, Rebecca and Aimee a bangle to match mine. We gave Rosie hers when she was in hospital, 1 week before she died. I had opened the box to show it to her and was going to put it on the side, but she ordered me to hand it over so she could wear it! So there she was in hospital with her Seven Bitches silver bangle alongside her hospital wristband! Elliot is keeping the bangle safe for now, and Tali, we would love for you to have it when you're a little older.
The big YBCN meet up in London
Myself, Andrea, Cinzia and Rosie met for the first time back in November 2014. Rosie had organised a big meet up of lots and lots of members of YBCN in London. We went for lunch at a place called Tibits, then we went for afternoon tea and cake, and then people went to the pub. It was a brilliant day and all organised by Rosie! She had even created name badges for everyone! In the afternoon, myself, Rosie, Andrea and Cinzia sat together. It was hot in the room, so the three of them whipped off their wigs and headscarves together. The tea room staff looked shocked! Other members of YBCN cheered, and then did the same. Rosie had organised a day where a big group of women who had never met before felt comfortable and at ease. It was very special. And I was so happy to be sat with Rosie, Andrea and Cinzia. Thanks to the effort Rosie made, a big group of women had a wonderful day, people got to meet in real life others they had been talking to online, and many new friendships were formed.
Rosie, Cinzia, Andrea, Sarah (me)
Rosie with Cinzia
Everyone from YBCN who went to Tibits
Towards the end of last year, Rosie realised that I might be going to spend Christmas alone. I don't have much family. My mom had died a couple of years ago from breast cancer too. Me and Rosie had only been friends for a few months, we'd only met at that point in person once, but realising I might be on my own at Christmas, Rosie invited me to go and stay at your house with your family over the Christmas break. I can't tell you how much this kind and wonderful offer meant to me. It made me cry! This is just one example, but one that will stay with me forever, of how kind and compassionate Rosie was. She was so caring towards other people.
Another example is the bag of gifts Rosie bought me just before I had my operation in January. I had gone to visit Rosie in London - I went for lunch and the afternoon at your house, and did meet Tali briefly although I'm not sure if you'll remember it! I wanted to see Rosie to give her a big hug because she was having to go through horrible chemo again. But when I turned up, despite everything she was dealing with, she had made the time to put together a bag of presents for me for my stay in hospital! There was a book to read, some crossword puzzles and a (pink!) pen, some chocolates and sweets, hand cream... all the things you need when stuck in a hospital bed! It was so thoughtful. I loved that the hand cream was called "Roses et raines" (L'Occitane).
My friend Rosie, the Competition Lawyer
I have been involved in some campaigning against the potential sell off of NHS cancer care to private companies. I've been banging on about it to everyone for some time. Rosie has been so supportive of me, but questioned some of what I said. I sent her the briefing that had informed me. She took the time, with her Competition Lawyer hat on, to go through the information and send me comments. (Many along the lines of "Rubbish! There is no basis for this assertion." and "This is just plain wrong. This would be a breach of competition law." !!) There are two reasons why I love Rosie for this. First of all, that as my friend, she took the time when she was so poorly to go through the briefing and send me notes, because it is an issue that is important to me. Secondly - I love her insistence on seeking the truth and dealing with facts. She was objective, and honest, and thorough.
The white feather
There's a bit of background to this.
It was my mom that first told me about white feathers, a few days before my granddad died. He was in a hospice, and in the days before his death, as his body was shutting down and he was out of it on morphine, he was talking to his own parents. My mom found a white feather on the floor, next to his bed. She said white feathers are messages from loved ones who have died. She was certain it was a message from his loved ones, that they were waiting for him, and that all would be ok. It gave her a lot of comfort, and I humoured her.
After he died, she found another white feather in the house. She thought it was a message from him. Again, I knew what it meant to her, and I humoured her.
Then when my mom died herself, I found a white feather in her hospital room by her bed, and one in my old bedroom at her house. I'm personally not religious and I'm not spiritual - I put it down to coincidence. I thought, white feathers are probably littering all our houses and hospitals all the time and we just don't notice them.
Then when our friend Jojo died, myself, Aimee and Rebecca stayed in Brighton so we could go to her funeral. The night before, we were all trying on big geisha wigs - we were going to wear them to the funeral in honour of Jojo - she loved them. As we were trying them on, Aimee stopped and saw a white feather on the bedroom floor. She was stunned. So was I. And when we explained the significance to Rebecca, so was she. We cried!
Again, though, me being cynical me, I went away and told myself it was ultimately probably a coincidence. It must have been caught on one of our clothes and fallen off on to the floor or something. I didn't know. I loved the thought of it being a little message from Jojo but... I don't believe in that stuff!
Anyway.... the day after Rosie died, we went to your house to visit Elliot. There was myself, Aimee, Rebecca, Cinzia, Andrea, and two of Rosie's other YBCN friends, Anat and Simone. After we saw Elliot we went to a pub together, to eat, and to make a toast to Rosie. We'd been sat outside the front at first but then moved to the back beer garden. I was a little bit behind the others and as I came outside they were in the process of switching tables. They'd all gone to sit towards the back then decided to move to another table closer to the building. As everyone was sitting down I saw it. A lone white feather, on the hedge next to the table they'd decided to move to. I froze. "Oh my life guys. You won't believe this." I pointed to it. I remember Aimee, Anat and Rebecca's eyes opening wide. Andrea was laughing and picked the feather up. "We're outdoors! There's feathers everywhere!" She put it on the table and a minute later it had found it's way on to Aimee's glass. Aimee has kept it.
There's two ways you could interpret this. If you're a cynic you can put it down to another coincidence. White feathers are all over the place. We were outdoors. We just happened to choose that table and just happened to see a white feather, and because of the significance of the day, it stood out to us. On another day we might not have even noticed it, let alone thought anything of it.
Or, if you aren't a cynic you could see this as a little message from Rosie to us, to show us she was there with us, in spirit.
Personally I'm a cynic, but on this occasion I'm going to put that aside. It certainly felt like Rosie was with us that afternoon, and the little white feather was a perfect symbol of that.
These are just a few little anecdotes from the time that we have been friends with Rosie. I'll end by sharing a few photos of when we got together in London one time earlier this year. It was the same day that Rosie walked down a red carpet to go to the House of Cards premiere!
Rosie, Andrea, Rebecca, Sarah, Cinzia, Jojo
Rosie, Andrea, Sarah, a Pearly Queen!, Cinzia, Rebecca, Jojo
Rosie and Andrea
Rosie and Sarah
Jojo, Sarah, Rebecca, Andrea, Cinzia, Rosie
Lots of love to you Tali and Joey. I am so, so sorry that you have lost your wonderful mother at such a young age. But I hope that through family and her friends, and through her writing, you can know her, and know how much she loved you. You were her everything.