No words are enough, but Claire's death is heartbreaking, devastating, and just plain unfair. My thoughts are with all of Claire's family and friends, especially her mum, brother, and boyfriend Alex who she loved with all her heart.
Claire had only just turned 30 and was bright and beautiful, energetic and determined, kind and supportive, and lots and lots of fun.
I've only known Claire a short time and because of our various cancer treatments getting in the way only met with her in person once, but we were in touch online a lot, and she made a big difference in my life. These are three of the things I will always remember about Claire.
Claire wasn't afraid to speak up
Claire spoke up for what was right and this included her own healthcare and treatment. A lot of us, myself included, need to be more like Claire in this way, especially when it comes to our health. Claire learned about her breast cancer, learned about her treatment, and when needed (and there were times it was needed) kicked up a fuss to get a second opinion or take a different course of action. We should all do the same.
Claire loved life and lived itI think the first time I had a conversation with Claire online in the YBCN forum was shortly after I had been diagnosed with cancer (she'd been diagnosed a few months before me). I was preparing for chemo and 18 weeks of being confined to my sofa and bed. Up pops Claire, part way through chemo, telling me how she was nursing a raging hangover having been out til 4am. She'd come home with a matted and wet wig and a bruised bum at the end of the night from falling over (her words: "Clearly chemo has not made me more sensible!"). Throughout chemo, whenever she was well, Claire had fun and lived life to the full. I was so impressed when she did an Iron Run last October having only just finished chemo.
Claire was also one of the very, very first YBCN members to do #christmaschemobrow - which quickly went viral on the internet in December, raising awareness of YBCN!
The YBCN is a very active online community, there are over 1000 members in the main group - all young women under the age of 45 with a breast cancer diagnosis. Claire was an especially kind and supportive member of the group. Having a conversation with a group of my YBCN friends I realised Claire had taken the time to be in touch with all of us in recent weeks and months, about the things that were going on in our lives and with our treatment. Just a few weeks ago I was in hospital for surgery while Claire was in hospital suffering with what we now know were the symptoms of cancer spreading to her spinal fluid and brain. Despite this Claire was messaging me, wishing me well in my recovery, giving me advice about radiotherapy following my genetic test, congratulating me on my post-surgery pathology results (and competing with me through selfies of who looked the most ridiculous in our various hospital gear!)
It's no surprise that last night when YBCN members found out that Claire had passed away, that the forum was absolutely filled with messages of love from women across the country, who were raising glasses and lighting candles in memory.
Final words from Claire
Claire's final blog post was last Sunday. Whether you knew Claire or not, I would encourage you to read it. Claire's perspective is incredible moving and inspiring and I particularly wanted to share these words:
"If you can take one thing from me, I would like you to try to love those around you, to be good to other people, because it will come back to you."
Rest peacefully Claire, beautiful girl. xxx
PS: Claire's Adrenaline Rush
A couple of weeks ago, with her vision failing, meaning she couldn't run outdoors, Claire bought a treadmill so that she could continue to train for the Adrenaline Rush run in May. She wanted to do this to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Her £2000 target has already been smashed (it's at £3,835 at the moment). If you'd like to donate, you can do so here: