I often wonder, if this were ten years ago or so, just how different life living overseas and with breast cancer would be. It is very hard to imagine.
A refrain of mine is the one around the depth of meaning in the friendships we develop online (or mainly online), particularly prompted by the breast cancer experience. My connection with Kirsty Sword Gusmao is a clear example of how such a connection can develop, especially given that we share so much more than our breast cancer experience, as I described earlier. We have both settled in countries very different to the ones where we were born, married to men from very different cultures to the ones of our own origins and we are passionate about equity and rights especially in the fields of women, children and the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people.
Kirsty and I met fleetingly three years ago long before her cancer diagnosis which was to be the catalyst which put us in contact. We have been eager to connect properly, in “real life” as we know we have such a great deal to talk about. That opportunity presented itself this when it was confirmed that Kirsty’s husband, Xanana Gusmao, would be leading a delegation visiting South East Asian nations – including a short and packed visit to Myanmar!
As soon as Kirsty arrived, we started sending messages and were able to speak on the phone. It is so funny to hear a real voice where there has only really been a voice in your head prior to that. We don’t realise how much we create a voice in our minds, that part which is largely missing in internet communication. It is so reminiscent of meeting someone for the first time when you have no idea how they look, particularly in those pre “Facebook and Google image search” days.
Despite a very busy schedule around the country and little time here in Yangon, Kirsty generously found a space for us to meet up. And as anticipated, we managed to pack an array of conversations around an incredibly diversity of topics.
I can’t thank Kirsty and her husband enough for sharing precious free time with me in such a full schedule. It was somewhat surreal to be in the company of people whose stories are so well known in the world. Moreso, though it was humbling, inspiring and an enormous privilege.
What an incredible world we live in, that a combination of factors, including our doctor, the internet, breast cancer and a passion for equity enable such a meeting for like minds and hearts. We are now scheming how, when and where we can continue these conversations we have started.