Remembering Jenny


Most of you won’t know of my friend Jenny, but you will know of someone like her, and so I dedicate this post to all the Jennys we have known and loved and lost to cancer.

Jenny was my friend. A beautiful special friend I made on my cancer journey. I can still remember the day I first met Jenny. I sat in the cancer support centre which I had just joined, dazed and confused at the start of my journey with cancer. Everyone seemed so much older than me. I felt I didn’t belong. Jenny entered the room, a tall girl with beautiful shoulder length black hair and a smile. She was a few years older than me, but she was the first person I met who I could relate to.  We were there that morning for a meditation class, the class that became my weekly anchor over the next year. We often sat on our meditation chairs beside each other during the class and when at the end of each class, we were asked each week to welcome the person next to us back into the room, Jenny always squeezed my hand firmly and warmly, and that gave me a renewed sense of strength and hope.

We got to know each other during the coming months and shared tips on coping with chemo, wearing wigs and scarves, alongside all those other ordinary everyday things new friends share with each other. We shared the same milestones of hair loss, and celebrated together as our hair grew back first into a fuzzy covering over our bare scalps, then the chemo curl, then gradually as it grew back to its former beauty for Jenny. We discussed our returns to work and “normal” life and as we made that return, we saw less of each other, but texted and called and met up from time to time.  I recommended that Jenny should contact my reiki master, Patricia Loughlin, for some treatments, and after she trained, as I had too in reiki, we met up with each other on a more regular basis at Patricia’s reiki circles. We both got great support and healing from reiki with Patricia and it was another bond we shared.

Then two years ago, we were at an event together, and sharing a coffee afterwards, Jenny broke the news to me – her cancer had returned. What words can I use to describe how I felt at that moment? So many emotions overwhelmed me – anger, sorrow, guilt, fear…. It was so unfair – Jenny had done everything right! She had all the treatment required of her – she embraced both conventional and complementary healing, she juiced, she took care of her diet, she remained positive and upbeat always, was supportive to others on the journey – so why did her cancer have to come back. Why her, and not me? I could hardly look her in the eye. I just didn’t know what to say. Typical Jenny though, she didn’t feel sorry for herself or dwell on the unfairness of it. At least not in public. I don’t know what Jenny felt in private – she was a very private person, but in public she always put others at ease and was a loving and warm person.

It was distressing to see Jenny having to deal with cancer treatment again, to hear her cough as the cancer entered her lungs, but always, always Jenny’s beautiful spirit shone through. I moved from Dublin, where Jenny still lived, and our contact became more sporadic – texts and phone calls. Jenny was always upbeat when we spoke or texted.  She loved weekends away with her friends in Ireland and longer holidays abroad in the sun. She embraced and enjoyed life to the full.

Jenny passed away in July,  but her spirit lives on in the memories of those of us who were privileged to know her. I don’t know the reason why some of us live longer after a cancer diagnosis than others, but I do know that Jenny taught me that life is a precious gift and I have been given the opportunity to make something of that life. She taught me not to let life pass me by.  I listened to a song by Sarah McLachlan  last night and thought of Jenny when I heard the chorus:

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

 Jenny, I cannot help weeping sometimes for the memories, but I also smile for them too. I smile especially for the memory of that special day we shared together when Amma came to Ireland and she held us both in her loving embrace together. We were surrounded by love that day Jenny and that is how I will always remember you – with love. Jenny, may you rest in peace now and know that your spirit lives on in the world for all those whose lives you touched with your gentleness, kindness, grace and beauty.