Two incredible women have died this year, both young, both of cancer. I never meet either of them, but through their blogs, Twitter and the sheer force of their personalities and achievements I felt like I knew a little of them.
There was Alice Pyne, the teenager whose worldwide smash bucket list I wrote about for The Times. She could just have spent her time enjoying all the generous offers to tick off that list, but she set up a charity, raised more than £100,000, met the Prime Minister, raised awareness of the bone marrow register and was awarded the BEM for her charity work and campaigning.
Then there was Lisa Lynch. Bloody hell, she’s an impressive woman. I read her book The C Word the year after my aunt and my friend Ben had died of cancer. At first I felt annoyed by how cheery and bullish she was about the whole thing. Jesus, it was cancer, not a day at the races. But that was the point, wasn’t it? I mean, how can you not be drawn in by a woman who calls cancer “The Bullshit”, who writes so brilliantly and is such a palpably loved and loveable person?
I saw on Facebook last night that she had died, and cried all the way home, just as I had when I found out that her reappeared cancer was terminal. And both times I asked if this was ok, to feel so incredibly sad about someone who you have never met.
I am sad that I never met her. Plans for an epic SingStar lunch were put on hold when her cancer reappeared. Instead, I sent her cheery rubbish through the post, and asked her for advice when I wrote up my experiences of volunteering on a palliative cancer ward at Guy’s.
People can care deeply for people they’ve never met. When my friend Blonde was hit by a cyclist last week, she had a flood of messages from Twitter people concerned for her. So in the real sense of the word, I am a stranger. I don’t know Lisa or her family in the way some of my friends who actually know her. But I will miss her, and quietly pay my respects because she is someone who deserves bells, whistles and fireworks.