They say things go in threes don't they?
So when I read the email with the sad news that an internet friend had died of cancer, I wondered who the third one would be this year.
The young and lovely Sharon died on her birthday in April aged 37. Originally she had breast cancer, but it spread elsewhere and her death earlier this year marked the end of a very courageous and selfless fight against an unrelenting illness. I wrote about meeting Sharon and Fiona some twelve months ago here.
My partner pointed out that I had forgotten someone. Probably because I hadn't known him, but Partner had worked with a young man (let's call him T) in the construction industry who was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year. Six months or so later, he too was dead in his late 30s, again from rapidly spreading secondary cancers.
So that made Claudette the third one this year after all. For those of you who read Clouds and don't know her, here is some background info.
Claudette and I came to be friends, like so many of us, because we all had blogs about our dogs. Or rather dogs with blogs, ie we write from the perspective of our dogs.
I never met her. We started our dog blogs some four years ago, she starting Lacy Lulu's blog about six months after I had started one for Pippa, and she quickly found Pippa's.
She was one of his regular commenters back then in the days when comments ran to 20 or 30!!, and often, one of the first to comment on a new post.
Unlike Sharon, but like T, Claudette had lung cancer. I don't remember reading her very early post that said she had it, but oddly, I do remember reading about her having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sent some well wishes to her for that.
A couple of years ago (where does time go in blogland??) she wrote about having a biopsy to assess how far the lung cancer had spread and the news wasn't good.
The trouble with having worked in cancer services is that you tend to look on the gloomy side. And there aren't too many bright sides to look on when it comes to lung cancer. I was saddened to read her news back then, and hoped against hope that she would still be with us for some time. And - she was.
Friends all around the world rallied round to keep her spirits up and let her know she was in our thoughts. Anne, Snowball's Jie jie in Singapore, gathered a few of us together to help make 1000 cranes. This is an eastern belief, apparently Japanese, that says making 1000 paper origami cranes grants a wish for someone, perhaps long life or recovery from illness or injury.
Not too difficult I thought, being an origami fan in my youth, until I couldn't find any origami paper to buy here in Gibraltar. But then I read that any paper would do, and with a little practice, I was happily ripping up magazines with colourful adverts to make lots of multicoloured cranes.
At the same time, Brooke from Australia, who with her partner, set up the dogs with blogs internet community, organised a rota for us all to send a small gift to Claudette, so that she received something each week. Not sure how well that worked in terms of timing given the postage from Europe to America but anyway, I packaged my gifts for Claudette in bubble wrap, a card, and sent my share of the cranes at the duly appointed week.
When I read the email telling me of her death, I thought sadly that the cranes hadn't worked after all. And then I thought, perhaps they had helped to give her some extra time. Who knows?
We mailed occasionally and we shared facebook pms too. It seems every tribute I have read to her talks about messages to so many people, so I don't know where she found the time. Perhaps that says something about her generosity and willingness to make time for everyone.
Claudette was a brave woman who shared the unpleasant details of her treatment, and the side effects, with us all. Like many other courageous people with cancer, she posted pictures of herself after chemo treatment, laughing and discussing the best choice of wig.
And, realising, there were many other people out there on our dog-related network who either had cancer, or had friends/relatives with cancer, or just needed some support, she set up a new group on facebook for people to share their experiences and knowledge.
What I will remember most about Claudette is probably her honesty and openness. Her friendliness to everyone. Her lack of judgment against others.
Most of all though, what I will miss, is her droll sense of humour. In spite of everything, and suffering lousy cancer treatment, she could still come out with some witty jokes and turns of phrase that cracked me up.
Claudette brought smiles to many peoples' faces and I guess that will be how she will be remembered. Someone who shared happiness and merriment and enjoyment of life even when she knew time was running out. Sweet dreams Claudette, and to Floyd, we send you our condolences.