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 living epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.
Ann is the type of friend who comes into your life just once.
We first met 30 years ago while I was in hospital undergoing radiotherapy, following surgery for a malignant cancer to my right shoulder.
It was in so many ways “true love”… for while my first wife visited me just twice in my 10 weeks (my cancer ensured our marriage, which was already on the rocks, was over) in Velindre Hospital, Cardiff; Ann was with me every day. She was my saving grace, and a real-life Angel.
As a nurse she tended my mundane daily needs and dressed the slowly healing flap and skin grafts, which the surgeons had used to repair my shoulder and back. She also treated the suppurating skin on my neck and shoulder, caused by the radiation burns, ensured I took painkillers and sleeping tablets, and listened quietly to my fears and growing angst about my uncertain future.
We maintained close contact after I left Velindre, and she visited me regularly, when I was readmitted to another Cardiff hospital in April 1988, after the cancer spread to my right lung.
At this time the oncologists gave me a 1 in 10 chance of surviving five years. Yet Ann stayed close by, checking on my welfare by letter and phone almost every week. Her love was immense.
When my marriage finally ended, Ann and I enjoyed an all-too-short romantic relationship. She regularly told me that my horrendously scarred body was “beautiful” and urged me to “keep living”.
But, when I moved to Scotland in the winter of 1990, the geographical distance between us (this was before the days of email and mobile phones) meant we lost touch.
Then suddenly, 26 years later, and thanks to the blue and white monster called Facebook; we found each other again.
We now maintain touch and banter by email, as if time had stood still.
Life and relationships for both of us have moved on.
But, Ann is, and remains, one of my most important and lovely friends and I genuinely do, owe my life to her!