This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.
These epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.
Throughout our lives we meet true soul mates and Andrea is one of my most precious.
We met in the most extraordinary of circumstances in the winter of 1987, while we were both recovering from cancer surgery. Racked in pain with bone cancer, and at just 20 years-old she knew her chances of survival were slim. “But I’m going to fight it,” she urged, willing me to do the same. “I haven’t yet got my degree, I haven’t learned to drive… and I’m still a virgin. “I want to live a bit before I die.”
My memories of Andrea always remain, and have often been my driving force to live.
Her laughter as she beat me in a physiotherapy game of football in the hospital gym. At the end of the game we collapsed side by side on the floor guffawing at how silly all this was.
Then there was the Wednesday night visit to the local rugby club for a game of bingo and a half pint of beer. We walked slowly back to the hospital at 10pm. She rested her head on my shoulder as we walked and suddenly whispered: “I love you Nic… we are going to win, aren’t we?” And then there was the rainy December day when she returned from a Christmas shopping trip in Cardiff city centre laden down with presents and a £300 hole in her Visa card. Her pleasure was manifest and her guilty laugh echoes now as I remember her.
A year before her death in 1990, I visited Andrea again in a hospital in Birmingham, where she had undergone a hip replacement operation in a last attempt by surgeons to remove the seat of her cancer.
I sat and clenched her right hand and looked into her sparkling eyes.
I giggled: “Hey, you’ve got freckles and hair!”
“Yes,” she answered, “I have been off chemotherapy for three months to build up my strength for the op.”
I had only known Andrea as a tall, underweight, pale-faced girl stooped under a horrendous NHS wig, which at times made her look like an extra in the Addams Family.
But now, holding her hand, this was how I was going to remember her… and I still do.