black list

pollygosh_back-to-story

Back to the Story – In which I create the Black List

I would have expected, put money on it even, that when given the worst kind of news, I’d become a ‘Life is too Short” Earth Mother type.

I honesty woke up the morning after, expecting that the Meaning of Life had been whispered in my ear overnight and hoping for enlightenment. This did not happen. Not even close.

Apart from from my views on cake making more sense than no cake, red toe nails at all times and a stubborn refusal to waste calories on bad food – I’m as in the dark as ever.

In actual fact, what happened was, I created a black list and shoved a Breast Cancer Nurse to the top position. I am a rubbish human being.

Apparently enlightenment may come after I am ‘through the experience”. This Cancer thing, always dangling the carrot a bit further off (point).

Once you realised the bargaining hasn’t worked, once you’ve tried to take in the facts, had some tests, been booked for a few more tests, received your first samplings worth of pamphlets – you are deposited, some what unceremoniously, by the filing cabinets opposite the fake boob display (the bra insert ones).

The gel triangles are housed, rather whimsically, in sateen drawstring pouches. These pouches, in red, pink, white or black look like highly flammable, Ann Summers cast offs. I’m not sure if this is meant to make them more sexy but I’m putting it out there – it doesn’t work.

But I digress, Dad and I are waiting for another meeting; I don’t know what Dad was thinking but after staring at the little pouches for a while, I was just wanting to get the Hell out of Dodge.

Once we are finally ushered into the office and placed on the ‘comfy’ seats – you know you are meant to spill your guts if you’re sat on the ‘good’ seats in Hospital. The NHS seem to think that only Bad News deserve comfort, which is fair enough really. The seats remind me of Old People Homes, they are probably wipe clean, this offends my ‘delicate’ design sensibilities.

I am already on edge, I know this, the seats haven’t helped. I am in Shock. I just want to leave – to be out in the sunshine, breathing in fresh air. I do not want to be here. I want to be anywhere but here.

This is not the best way to meet a new person.

I thought nurses were all strong, capable, warm and practical – they smelt of lavender and TCP (I think I’ve been watching too many Foyle’s Wars). What I was faced with was a nervous, twitchy, bird of a human. I did wonder why MBS had been keen to stress why this was not his usual BCN.

We are waiting, it is the weirdest Mexican Stand Off I’ve ever been involved in and nobody is taking charge, this exasperates my Stage Management instincts.

As I’m being stared at beadily, head to one side, sad eyes and concerned frown, it dawns on my that this is a ‘pastoral care meeting’. That we are waiting for me to fall apart, to start howling. I feel like laughing. I seem to be asked over and over if I am OK, if I want to ask ANYTHING at all.

I want to say “Look lady, I’m cracking jokes here, I’m asking practical questions, I even stepped up and asked the ‘delicate’ questions about fertility – the ones you were stuttering over. I am aware I look stricken but I am holding it together. Stop looking at me with sad eyes, stop saying ‘this must be a shock’. I think we can all agree it probably is. Just give me another saplings worth of paperwork, laugh at my jokes and let me get the hell out.”

I felt unreasonable. During one of the horrendous silences, I gave myself a pep talk; “you are probably angry in a wider sense, this person is just doing her job, calm down and don’t take this out on her”.

I hated this women, I hated her slight frame- she didn’t look up for the job, her faltering speech patterns, the stupid faux sympathetic voice. She wasn’t picking up on any of the signs I was giving her. I didn’t want sympathy, I wanted kindly delivered, cold hard facts – dispatched promptly and succinctly, not this hesitating hell.

We all got through it, with a lot of tongue biting and jaw tensing on my part. Finally out in the fresh air and still seething, I had to ask Dad if I was over-reacting. I couldn’t get my head round, still can’t, who might find this kind of ‘kid glove handling’ useful and not just entirely unhelpful. I suppose someone must. I just found it highly irritating.

Thus the Black List was formed. It is a list I have created for anyone who tries to ‘handle’ me.

I tell people about the Black List just in case they try and be too sympathetic. If people stop seeing me and just see “a sad situation”. If people make me feel too sick. In short if you look like you might cry and don’t laugh at my funny, funny cancer jokes – I’m gonna Black List you.

There are very, very few people on the Black List. My nearest and dearest are all amazing and roll with the emotional waves that come their way. I’m at heart a people pleaser, I doubt anyone will ever know if they are on the list. It’s just a list in my head that helps me to handle all the weirdness that people throw at me, when they try to handle me. To handle this.

pollygosh_hate-pink

I hate Pink.

We may have hit a new low, I am railing against colours now…

I hate Pink. Hate may be overstating it. I am just not a huge fan – unless it’s neon, anything works when neon. Fact.

This sometimes surprises people, I don’t know if there is something innately ‘pink’ about my personality, if that is the case, I am not sure what I feel about it. Pink always feels so fluffy.

I am aware I am shooting myself in the foot here, disparaging a hue for being ‘weak’, I might be seen to be stoking the flames of sexism via the medium of colour. To which I can really only say “I didn’t start it” in a rather petulant tone.

Pink as the chosen colour for Breast Cancer though, well its just so blooming predictable isn’t it?

It’s like they didn’t even try. Is it just me or does anybody else think the meeting to decide on this was probably incredibly short?

Can you imagine the one person who bowled in there and said “call me crazy but I think a tasteful Dove Grey is what this charity needs, a Sunny Yellow or how about a really Poppy Orange. Who’s with me? Wait, what’s all this Pink around for…..Oh”.

If you look it up on Wikipedia (I’m recuperating, I have the time), you can discover which colour goes with which charity. It turns out you’re nobody unless you have a colour. Which somehow makes this whole Pink business even worse.

Of course all the other colours have been taken, Charities are now having to share colours. Oh yes, for every hue you can think of, there are a remarkable number of charities living under it. I’m not begrudging all these wonderful causes, I applaud their good sense.

My favourite discovery is that Brain Cancer and Boarder-line Multiple Personality Disorder use Grey, which is really cool if you think about it. I salute the marketing behind these pairings.

Do you know how many other charities have chosen Pink? Just Breast Cancer and possibly “Acute Acquired Cephalgia Minor Awareness” which is basically migraines. That Pink sure gives me a headache too.

The only other use of Pink on the whole chart is a Baby Blue / Baby Pink twist that has a number of charities attached including Pro-Life (which I shall swiftly pass over, given my mood) and Male Breast Cancer. Which are an odd set of bed fellows.

I love how Male Breast Cancer is trying to butch it up a bit, not sure if Baby Blue is really working for you but hey…. But why does Male Breast Cancer need to have a different ribbon – what’s wrong with Pink for all? And here we are, off to the sexist colour-coding races again….

It seems that charities are making up colours rather than using Pink. Black has more charities using it.

Which then got me thinking, perhaps the Breast Cancer awareness Brigade have some sort of mafioso-like hold on Pink. Maybe many charities wanted it, but broken legs and bricks through windows ensued, until everyone else fell in line…. Makes me wonder what the “Acute Acquired Cephalgia Minor” gang have had to do. The mind boggles at the back room antics that have probably gone on. I fear for those Migraine sufferers, I really do.

Or what is more likely is, everyone looked at Pink, looked at Breast Cancer Awareness and thought “how obvious, we can’t top that”

To which I want to cry out “WHY, WHY is it obvious? Why is it not a kick-ass Orange or a ballsy Purple.”

Thus, we have be burdened with Pink. I could probably take it on the chin, if it wasn’t such an insipid, kitten-licking, flooffy, powder Pink. This Pink has no gumption. I don’t look at it and think “Yes, under the banner of this colour, I shall march with my head held high. This Colour inspires me to fight a great battle.”

No one I know would wear this shade on days they need to feel brave. I doubt if it even inspires anyone to self-examine, except in an odd Pavlovian response, after years of Pink abuse….

It is not the Pink of a self-respecting, grown woman. It is the colour of Barbie, and now through no fault of my own I am linked to it*.

So I’m trying to come up with a plan, a plan I have no heart for really, for who really wants to try and save such a preposterous sub-colour?

Yet, even after a lot of brain-storming and late night meetings, I’ve only been able to come up with a two word plan : Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy is possibly the only one who can save this Pink, Save Breast Cancer Awareness – Hell, save the world!

Unfortunately, I can’t even get her agent to return my call, so I fear our cause is lost.

 

 

 

* point, most definitely, to cancer.

 

pollygosh_am-angry

I am Angry – this one carries a strong health warning

Once again I apologise in advance I am pretty much guaranteed to cause offence.
 Someone once gave me a magnet with the catchy phrase “Remember you will never be given more than you can bear” or words to that affect. I used to throw it across the room at quite regular intervals. I’d have cut it up and fed it merrily to the sharks this week – had I not thrown it away years ago.

 

I don’t know what has happened.

 

I don’t know if writing shook loose some emotions I wasn’t expecting.

 

Or if the meeting with My Oncologist (MO) reminded me that my lumpectomy was but the first step on a rather arduous climb.

 

Or if it’s just that the healing process has reached a particularly sore and itchy point in proceedings.

 

Or undergoing treatment for cancer is just not all it’s cracked up to be.

 

I think it may be all of the above, it is a hundred different things or nothing at all.

 

Maybe everyone just has to go through this phase and try not to lose all their dignity and humour (I’ve failed spectacularly at the grace I have hoped to maintain).

 

I was Angry this week, I am angry.

 

Angry isn’t descriptive enough, angry doesn’t even come close. It is more like a cocktail of grieving, sulking, impatience, and confusion with a healthy pinch of moroseness stuck in for good measure.

 

I have not been good-hearted, I have been no fun at all, I would have nothing to do with the me this week, to those of you who’ve tried, the tiny sliver of human that is still in me, thanks you, for you are kind and wonderful people.

 

This Molotov of emotions has simmered away at a fevered pitch and even now threatens to boil up at a moments notice;

 

When people seem too concerned, when they don’t seem concerned enough. The people who you thought might be in touch and haven’t been.

 

The worst seems to be when I know someone knows but they are simply ignoring the entire situation.

 

These people always seem to be the same ones who now, intently stare at my chest while they are talking to me. I know this is an age old problem for women but I have always been gloriously flat chested (more so now I can wear nothing but sports tops) and have never had to deal with this before.

 

I want to say “Even if you had X-ray vision, which you don’t – you can’t see the lump because it is gone. If you’d like to see the scars, the swelling, the stitches, the bruises and the hole left behind, Ask. It’s really not all that thrilling either but anything would be better than you not meeting my eyes.”

 

When people ask me how I feel and then put their own words in my mouth, or try to explain to me how I feel. When people try to use magnet quotes in a bid to comfort me, when I am not asking for comfort.

 

I want to say “I shall be whatever emotion bubbles up in me today. I will handle this however I choose. This may be different from minute to minute because at the moment I am just that contrary. Don’t ask me to choose between positivity and negativity. Unless you’ve been here and done this, at my age, I’d shut up if I were you. Just let me feel.”

 

When people have said they are praying for me -

 

I want to say “That’s great for you but please, please take a look at my last five years, when you are done with that, take a look at the world – then bake me a cake instead or learn to cure cancer. I don’t know what I believe, I honestly don’t. I know I don’t believe in the integrity of organised religion. I want to point out that, if I were to believe in God or a higher power, I sure as hell wouldn’t be speaking to them at the moment.”

 

When people have told me to be strong or hang tough, I have wanted to say “Shit, let me write that down, I thought weak wasn’t working out for me so well.”

 

When people write on Facebook that life is hard because they’ve mislaid something or they have to work and the sun is out, or complained how unfair the world is for some pitiful and trivial reason. Oh, the things I have felt like writing.

 

When older men, and it does seem to be older men at the moment, have the right to prescribe what happens next to my younger and female body.

 

I want to say “you have no idea what your decisions feel like to me, the choices you are giving me are not choices at all. How dare you sit and decided this for my body and then move on to lunch.”

 

I have silently railed against individuals. I have silently railed against groups. All ages, races, friends and foes have felt my inaudible wrath this week.

 

I think the kindest thing I can say about myself, is at least I have been an equal opportunity Anger Ball and at least I have bitten my tongue.

 

I was on the brink of writing a post called “ All my previous Posts have been Bullshit – it isn’t fair and I am not grateful for anything”

 

These are cruel, snide and hurtful things to think.

 

They have been Black and White things to think.

 

In short I’ve been an ungrateful cow, which then makes me more angry.

 

Still, these emotions have felt very true but they have not felt just. Emotions against my will.

 

The anger comes because I am lucky and loved and privileged and yet still I am angry.

 

Around and around it goes.

 

I don’t have anything tangible to be angry at. There isn’t a useful syphon for these emotions. I am a wounded animal. A baby. A mute. I cannot find the words for what I need, they do not yet exist.

 

It is made all the worse because of the sea of people trying to help, being so wonderfully kind but I am still lonely because really I am alone in all this and that makes me scared.

 

And so I am still angry.

 

pollygosh_rage

Rage aka the one where everyone stops reading

I’m not going to lie to you, I really thought this next post would be about diagnosis and everything that came next. It’s coming, I promise you, but it’s not there yet. I’m finding it a tough write. So please accept this terrifically un-PC ramble on Anger instead. With my apologies on every level.

 

I can’t seem to get angry at a cluster of rogue cells who don’t know any better, I can’t get angry at how unfair life may seem – turn the radio on, life isn’t fair or unfair it’s life and it has been fairer to me than a lot of people. I’m not even alone with this disease, I know of far too many people doing battle with cancer; some win, some lose but in amongst them, I’m not even that unlucky.

 

It’s like the rational side of my mind simply can’t or won’t blame biological processes (gee, thanks Dad). Sometimes, I would dearly love to have a full blown pity party with streamers and a cake, lots of cake, but I get half way into a “why me?” thought and I just can’t follow through. Maybe it’s brewing, maybe one day you’ll return to this blog to find a black-hole of a post. At the moment though I’m on the side of Happy.

 

I’m aware that this sounds sickly sweet and far too saintly, but please read on, I’m about to blow that out the water…..

 

Anger is good, I doubt you can get through any illness or loss without it. It’s what keeps you fighting and we all need a little fight in us.

 

So, do you know who gets my spectacularly, irrational anger at the moment? Those who abuse these amazing brain receptacles we’ve been given. Mine was in fairly good working order, I was looking after it ok, and it still malfunctioned on me. I can’t seem to get angry at it, so I’m going to be angry at you. 

 

1 in 3 people are going to get cancer at some point in their lives, so why in the world do you want to increase the odds that it’s you? Because if this looks like it is a fun way to spend a year or more, I’m not telling it right.

 

I guess I should go back to the first incidence of blind rage. A few days after my diagnosis I was sitting in a jacuzzi (I know, I know it’s a super tough, first world life I lead), it was pretty busy at the pool that day and everywhere was rammed*. I had had only about 2 minutes of bubbly goodness time when two huge people started tutting at me, my mind was occupied so I didn’t at first notice them, but they forced me to squish up with their eyeballs. Meaning I was bubble-less, so now I am just sitting in hot soup with 6.5 strangers, 2.5 of whom I would happily fillet and I’m thinking – “I’ve had a bad week, I really need these bubbles, here I am with my broken body, which I take care of and you don’t look like you care at all and I bet your bodies are just fine. And now you want my bubbles too? Well that’s fucking typical.” So I said nothing and got out. 

I got my passive aggressive revenge later when one of them wanted to dry their hair and I put my shoes on more slowly than normal while sitting at a hair drying stand. Yeah, yeah – How do ya like them apples lady?

 

And don’t get me started on the skin burners and the smokers – it simply blows my mind, how anyone, in this day and age would knowingly play Russian Roulette with two of the biggest Cancer Guns out there….. I have no words.

 

So feel free to tell me that you only live once, life is short and you should make hay while the sunshines.

 

1 in 3 people get cancer. Once you hear that diagnosis, you may get the anger but you will almost certainly get the guilt. The gut wrenching, stomach flipping fear that you could have done / not done something to stop this from happening to you. I imagine it’s a hell of a lot worse when that something is staring you right in the face.

 

So I say – do what you want, whoop it up with a cigar in one hand, cake in the other, butt naked in the midday sun if it makes you happy but do it in moderation and stop if you can see the effects too harshly in the mirror. Oh and check your boobs or your balls or both from time to time!

 

**** Can I book end this post by pointing out that I’m not totally ignorant? I’m aware that socio-economic factors play a huge factor, that other medical conditions can also be a cause, that illnesses like SAD and addiction are no laughing matter. That I’m aware how judgemental I sound? Can I also point out that I said that my anger was irrational? Gosh, I mean, it’s not like I’m blaming God….*******

 

*As a side note, I have observed, where I swim – in a rammed sauna/jacuzzi situation the females of the group will squish up and meekly make room, the males actively seem to open their legs wider and talk louder. What crazy Gender Politics is that about?