It's now more than three years since my first peer support relationship began, and since then I have supported quite a few women confronted by a diagnosis of breast cancer. Whilst some calls are 'one off' to answer specific queries, other support relationships can last several months until people are, in the phrase I tend to use, 'ready to fly away'.
Today my most recent 'fledgling' flew the nest. Like all my 'ladies' I am proud of her, how she has faced challenges and fears, developed strategies, rebuilt her life and prepared herself to live life fully, albeit differently from what she had imagined.
Fledging, the development of feather from fluffy down, is not risk free, and I am always aware of the vulnerability of those I am trusted to support. Sometimes it's a little bit like the mother hen, sheltering them under the organisational wing, sometimes it's a bit like the mother eagle, pushing them gently to try their wings, then swooping down to catch them if needed.
And then it happens, the day when they are ready to fly away... they stretch their wings, have a few warm-up flaps and off they go, to places I cannot follow. And that moment is bittersweet, beautiful and blessed.
It's a genuine privilege to journey with women during such a traumatic times, and a real sense of completion when the day comes to let them go.
I am sure I learn as much, if not more, from these women, as they do from me, and it really is a source of great blessing.