As a family, we are absolutely blessed with a huge team of supportive people from all walks of our lives and this network grows and grows; friends, family, work colleagues, running club, school, kinder, long term friends and new acquaintances.  I am particularly grateful for this “team” of ours, especially at this time of year as Christmas approaches when it’s easy to reflect on and appreciate the great relationships we have.

Cancer points out in both a brutal and beautiful fashion who you can count as on your team. People help in any way they can, in different capacities with both practical and emotional support to offer. Sometimes those that you would expect to be of support aren’t able to for many reasons, and that is okay. But I am unlikely to ever forget the love and support we received last year, and still receive. I am richer for this lesson.

Through the horror that was 2013, Radical Man (self anointed) and another mutual friend of ours called Sharpie and their families, really astounded me with their support. I had only met Radical Man and his family about four years ago.  And yet, together, Radical Man, Sharpie and myself carry on like siblings.  We have joked that Radical Man is the oldest brother, Sharpie is the middle sister, and I am the baby.

There is loads of facetiousness in our interactions and that is perhaps why I feel so close to them. My own family and siblings thrived on facetiousness and sarcasm through our growing up years.  So Radical Man and Sharpie have plonked themselves into the part of my brain and heart where the deep connections with people are kept.

They could turn up at my house anytime and make themselves at home on my sofa and it wouldn’t be strange, or they could eat the last of our hidden chocolate stash, or borrow our things and break them in an annoying sibling type fashion and that would be fine by me.

Throughout my ten months of active treatment when I was wallowing in the depths of Struggle City, my phone would ‘ding’ with a new text message. It would very frequently be Radical Man or Sharpie with something to say, sometimes stupid; sometimes meaningful; but always appreciated.

When I came home from hospital after having my first mastectomy and axilla clearance with surgical drains, Sharpie texted “be prepared for a front door deposit of an edible kind” and Radical Man would text “food at your door”. And without having to type any more words than necessary, the gourmet food would magically appear; fresh baked enchiladas; the best Italian meatballs with napoli sauce that was garnished with fresh basil; the most exquisite Massaman curry complete with toasted almonds and coriander; the heartiest family lasagne;  a Sharpie favourite Chow mein, warm cookies freshly out of the oven; or an extra batch of cookie dough for the freezer so they could be baked for our kids again down the track.

My children would say… “Mum, that was the best spaghetti I’ve ever had. Even better than yours and Grandad’s”.

When I was halfway through chemo, ‘ding’ went my phone… “I don’t want thanks”, Radical Man texted… “But please tell me if you can’t be bothered cooking, as I’m not a good guesser”.

Thumbs up!
Thumbs up!

Along with all of the incredible meals we gratefully devoured, came more and more of the supportive texts, and those ridiculous Facebook message stickers, little out of the blue silly symbols; big thumbs and predominately smiling faces that are rather annoyingly easy to send to someone by mistake. Those would later become a bit of an in-joke between us.

Then Radical Man would message “We are on your Team!”

At the time I would laugh and shake my head. That  Radical Man and his family are hilarious. Yet the “We are on your team!” messages continued to come. “We are on your team! Sounds like you need some lasagne” texted Radical Man.

Radical Man’s co-workers shoes.

There was also the time Radical Man sent me a picture he took of the shoes of a colleague on a course he was attending. Ever so thoughtful to feed my penchant for photographing the shoes of my doctors,  I was delighted!

In my haste to start overcoming the impacts of my cancer treatment, I signed up for a half Ironman Triathlon. It had been a long term goal I had been working towards through running and doing some sprint distance triathlons.  It was while having the best fitness and body weight I had achieved in years, that I found my lump and it was all down hill from there.

In February this year, Radical Man and I, along with another mate of his, sat glued to our computer screens, adrenaline filled and poised with trigger fingers to gain entry into an event we thought might sell out in minutes.  With a blend of absolute terror and excitement we gained entry into a Half Ironman Triathlon which involves a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride, and a 21.1km (half marathon) run. We immediately messaged “Can’t quite believe we just did that!” And “I’m still in shock!”

There were well meaning people who suggested I was being really unrealistic. That I was pushing myself too hard. But Radical Man never did. We believed that each other could achieve it and there was nine months of training to pull it together for us.

Then rolled round June and it became pretty clear to me that in light of my very slow, post treatment, fitness progress and my continued pelvic health issues thanks to Tamoxifen, I would not be able to pull it off this year. So I had to withdraw from the event, as did Radical Man’s other mate, and this left just RM to go it alone.

Late in November, my family and I took a 1700 km road trip to see Radical Man complete his first half ironman. It was a no brainer… ’cause “We are on his team”.

Road trip family fun.
Road trip family fun.
The Road Trip
The secret road trip along the big freeway.
Wearing orange and sneaking up on Radical Man. The look on his face on seeing us was priceless!
Radical Man swims out to the start line.
High fives all round!
High fives all round!

Congrats to Radical Man on his achievement and thanks for continuing to inspire me to persist at the times when I feel like giving up. Those stickers and messages of support meant more than he will ever know, and watching him run into the finish chute and stop to give Mrs Radical Man a big smooch brought a tear to my eyes. Like me, Mrs Radical Man also picked a good one! To be there cheering Rad Man on with twenty or so of his friends and family all dressed in orange made this an incredible weekend.

As Radical Man himself would say… “How lucky are we?”