Dear Women Under 35

Dear Women Under 35,

My brother had a girlfriend. A time before he met his beautiful fiancée and asked her to marry him there was another girl. But that’s life isn’t it? We all have a past; there is rarely just one girl.
But this girlfriend wasn’t just a girlfriend. They grew up together. They met at 6th form, they had the same friends, and they went through university together, moved to the big smoke, and started careers together. They went from being teenagers to adults. Like I said, they grew up together.

For us, she became part of the family. They were together over 7 years. That’s a lot of Christmases, holidays and family dinners. She was always there. I had my first baby in that time. She was his auntie. I always thought she would be my sister in law.

But things didn’t work out.

But it was a good thing. They both went on to meet wonderful partners and I truly believe they met who they are destined to marry and spend the rest of their lives with.

Some relationships aren’t meant to last, they’re just meant to take you somewhere. And I believe that to be a little cheesy, but true.

Ironically their looming wedding dates fall a month apart from each other. They don’t marry each other and that’s fine. More than fine; it’s a good thing.

But it’s not quite THAT happy ending you’re picturing.

You see, at just 27 his ex-girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

We didn’t know about this. Although they still have mutual friends. My brother was in Oz, She was building on her fabulous career in London and we were still up North.

By the time we found out she had been given the all clear and had started her life gain. Picking up from where she left off. Yes she had a mastectomy and a halting bout of chemo, but she was ready to live again.

A week later we received the devastating news that the cancer had spread to her lungs, liver and bones. The prognosis was not good. She had been given months.

She started a blog , which you should read, from the bottom up, and then maybe understand why I am writing this. Her spirit, dignity and outlook cannot be done justice by my words. Does that sound a bit clichéd? Read it, you’ll see what I mean.
So for us, the ex-boyfriend’s family, we prepared to say goodbye to her once more.
She had left our lives a long time ago, and that had been a blow, but for her to leave the world, well that was something I couldn’t comprehend.
But we weren’t part of her life anymore. It wasn’t our place to grieve. Even though we did anyway; we couldn’t help it. The love you have once felt for someone never completely vanishes. No matter what the circumstances, there’s always a trace left behind.
So I followed her blog, we tweeted each other and I felt I could support her that way. Because I thought about her often, her family, her friends and her fiancé. I suppose empathising with them was easy, we had been in her close circle of family and friends at one point. I could put myself there again and maybe feel a smidgen of the heart ache they felt.

Ellie gets married next month. And what happens after that is out of anyone’s hands. I just hope her and her family have time. As much time as this cruel and wonderful world will allow.

Cancer has put its ugly grip on many lives; it has sat shamelessly amid love for years. For me, Ellie was the first person I have cared about to come so close to cancer. I have read and grieved from afar.

And today, I heard the news that she had returned home to be looked after, whatever that means; the words are too heavy with assumption for me to absorb at the moment. But after hearing this I felt, for the first time, compelled to write about her.

Because, like many of you, that’s what I do. Otherwise I carry it round in my head, wishing there was something I could do.

But I can do this. I can write and I can pass on something that is really important to Ellie. It’s not much but it’s better than just thinking about it.

Once upon a time, Ellie thought she was too young to get breast cancer. Unfortunately, she wasn’t. So if you do one thing today, women under 35, check your boobs, and if you’re not sure how, check out the Coppafeel blog below. Coppafeel was originally set up to raise awareness for women in their twenties, but I for one realise numbers don’t mean all that much.

Ellie’s Blog (as recommended by Stephen Fry)

Boobs are great! As a woman I feel they unite us, they are amazingly versatile; they can be sources of pleasure and manage to provide food for our babes… But sometimes they can let us down. They can’t do everything. So give them a once over, just to check they are doing ok.

Yours, The Ex-boyfriend’s Sister

P.S This is a guest post from someone who wishes to remain anonymous.


14 responses to “Dear Women Under 35

  1. My heart goes out to you all. Such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing

  2. Made me weep.

    I lost my beautiful sister-in-law (also under 35) to cancer between Christmas and New Year last year. In November I sat by her side in hospital and helped her plan a summer wedding for the following year. Four weeks later I was at the actual wedding in the hospital chapel. Four weeks after that I was at her funeral.

    Yes our fabulous bodies let us down sometimes.


  3. Such a sad but beautifully written letter.

  4. Absolutely tragic. Cancer is so cruel. I’m sure everyone who reads this will be checking their boobs later, as I will be (again.)

  5. Very sad 😦 Beautifully written.

    I could have lost my mum to breast cancer when she was 32 years old and I was 10. Thankfully she was diligent. I am now older than my mum was when she was diagnosed. I check regularly, always have xx

    • So sorry you lost your mum so young. I just lost my dad and don’t feel I was old enough at 30, at 10 must have been really tough. Very glad you check regularly. So do I now. Or I mean I will.

  6. Cancer is a total bitch and I’m really sorry that so many people are being affected by this stupid disease. I’ve lost dozens of friends and family to it and I’m really young. This post is very sad. I’m reading Alright Tit and the writer there has a similar story.

    Self-examination is a practical thing that everyone can do and so I do understand why that’s why we are told to focus on that. But. I’m super angry that it is the only bone we are thrown.

    Cancer research is mostly about treatments/cures for primary cancer and not about how to treat secondary cancer and not about the causes. Sure, we know about alcohol, smoking and diet; but those factors alone do not explain why cancer is affecting so many people. Indeed most of the people I have known with cancer had very clean lives.

    If you miss any primary cancer symptoms, you’re basically effed because treatments are very experimental for secondary cancer.

    What is causing all this cancer? Why are very young people coming down with it? It used to be an old-people’s disease but it’s not so much anymore.

    I have a horrible feeling that environmental pollution has much to blame and we as a society if we only knew which chemicals were causing illness on this massive scale could ban them and prevent cancer.

    Personally, I have been overtreated for cancer on three separate parts of my body and this is because I do self-exams/have smears. I have never had cancer and yet I have had three operations. This is the obvious outcome of asking people to check themselves, some will find primary cancer and get treated (yay!) and some will find misleading symptoms and get overtreated (not yay! really.)

    Meanwhile, internal cancers are completely overlooked because no one can feel their pancreas or ovary on a regular basis, so there’s no locus of control.

    I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories but I find it really creepy that things that might be causing cancer are totally legal because no one has done the necessary experiments. Did I say I’m angry, already?

    So, in conclusion. I wish that cancer research would look into cancer prevention and that we had more protection from cancer than feeling the parts of our body which are palpable for tumours. And I wish that research on secondary cancers was much better so that more people survived this horrible disease.

  7. 😦
    Cancer sucks.

    • I was so tempted to add. Yeah it totally “sucks balls” but balls are usually nice (except when they are not) as you know , so I think cancer sucks bellybutton juice from maggot infested rotting wild boars. Or something.

  8. Just read the message on Ellie’s blog written by her fiancé. What an amazing person. Unbelievably sad.
    I’ve been called back for a second smear test and been stupidly putting it off, for no reason whatsoever. Will stop being such a total idiot.
    That woman’s blog should be read by as many young (and older) women as possible,

  9. Tragically the woman about whom this post was written, died hours after it was published. She never did get married. See her blog for updates from her fiancée.

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