isn’t cancer fun?

pollygosh_hair

A Day of Firsts

Yesterday was a day of Firsts, the First Time that I’ve cropped my hair – it is now the shortest it’s ever been, by a good few inches. It was a pre-emptive, two stage strike (to put it in vaguely army lingo – at least from the explosion films I’ve been watching).

pollygosh_hair2

I’m going to try cold-capping (I have mentioned my vain streak, right?) which I believe will be easier with short hair. Silk pillowcases help too apparently and work with the Princess Vibe I’m going for….

Imagine the trauma, as well as the mess, if cold-capping doesn’t work or I bottle it (it’s deeply unpleasant apparently – a real test of vanity) and I started losing very long hair. I am not the best at brushing my hair anyway, A. is constantly teasing me, my moulting clogs up the vacuum – magnify that to the power of 100! I’m fond of our vacuum.

When this whole thing started, I’d been growing my hair, it had just reached chest length – ironically enough. It was the longest it’s been for at least 10 years. I thought it would take me and others (my Dad mostly) time to get used to shorter hair again. So I’ve cut it in two stages, with an option to buzz-cut later on…..

Incidentally, the above photos are to serve as a public service announcement – I managed to scare the crap out of my Brother in a crowded cafe (where he wasn’t expecting to see me), having neglected to mention I’d had the first cut…. I shall never forget the abject terror on his face, as he tried to place the person hurtling, too fast, towards him.

That first cut was a sort of cropped bob thing, that description does nothing for the actual miracles my haircutter D worked, sorry D. This, turned out to be the emotionally trickier cut. The cruuu-ack, cruuu-ack sound of scissors cutting off my ponytail – not a sound I’d care to hear again.

The second cut, I feared the worst but I actually handled it better. Having had a month to get used to shorter hair and bringing Miss Z along for company helped. Last time I’d sent A. off, as I thought if we made it a big deal, it would be worse. If you’re doing this yourself, take someone, it’s a distraction if nothing else – providing their poker face is up to it.

D.  turned the chair around to face Miss Z, so I was only dimly aware of what was going on. Does anyone else have that thing, when sitting at the hair-dressers, staring at your own face – it just becomes a jumble of features and you can pick out each and every flaw? After 34 years of this, I’m pretty convinced that my eyes are wonky and I have more pores than anyone else, ever.

I feel very grateful that I have D. as well, he’s been cutting my hair for 4 years now, so I trust him.

Yesterday, was also the First Time I noticed how much long, flippy hair is out there – cropped haired females are out gunned by a good 25:1. This could be because I was walking home through prime University real-estate, the Bristol Uni girls always seem to have the fashionable crows nest thing going on, they’re mostly blonde too or ombre (surely this has died a death now, you are not a t-shirt from the 70’s).

My First walk home with cropped hair, was a bit of an eye opener, there I was feeling completely exposed but sort of brave and it turns out I’m invisible. As a long flippy hair person, I found, people generally make room on the Zebra Crossing or the pavement at least, and cars slow down when you cross the road. The world seemed to be drinking the kool-aid of the long flippy hair. D. told me that, it was very rare for people to cut their hair from very long to very short. It’s just not done.

When I was 14, I longed to cut my hair off, just like Winona Ryder but I knew I’d be ostracised for doing so (Mean Girls). That feeling has stayed with me for 20 years. If I hadn’t been pushed, I doubt I’d ever done it.

As a female. there’s a confidence, a self belief you need to cut off your hair. It takes balls and a strong knowledge of who you are. I don’t have that at the moment, who I am changes hourly. So yesterday, armed only in the knowledge of who I was - long, floppy hair person – and who I thought you had to be to rock short hair. I turned myself invisible.

I don’t mind being invisible, especially not at the moment. If I do lose my hair completely, from what I remember from being around mum, invisible is preferable to the stares and the pity.

I hope my sense of self rises from the ashes. I hope I can do the crop proud.

Oh, also, yesterday was the First Time I’d ever come across a rotten egg – argghhhh – I could of gone another 34 years without that. It was the First Time I’d ever discovered yesterday’s pants in my trouser leg too – while out in town no less. I guess I was more nervous than I thought.

I’m actually grateful for these Firsts, it meant yesterday wasn’t all about hair.

 

Top Five things I’ve discovered, so far, about short hair

Swimming feels amazing.

First time ever my hair looks better now I’ve slept on it.

You can save 10 minutes of drying time (imagine what I can do with that*)

I can now get rid of all hair bands. A. is most pleased about this, my hairbands used to multiply colourfully, all over the flat.

I can spend all the shampoo money on lipstick

* list to come

pollygosh_funnyorinteersting

Truth Speaking aka Golden Rules Vol. 2 – The Grumpy Edit.

Yup, I feel sick, hormonal and bloated (darn you fertility treatment, should I ever use these eggs, my future children had better be; sweet-tempered, genius, rock-god, bastions of love, peace, the environment and live in the worlds of Science and Art or I’m sending them back to the freezer).

I thought this would be a perfect time to reveal more golden truths…. A lot of these revolve around social media, ick. I know I could just not look but a) where is the fun in that? b) some days, it’s my only view to the outside world, please don’t blame me for wanting to make the view better or out another window….

  1. Nobody can tell from just looking at you: your mood, your idiot-tolerance level, or how you are feeling mentally and physically. This means you may have to tell them, try and do so politely. I should really get a t-shirt.
  2.  

  3. Only A. can get away with calling you Eric Bana, even he will need to tread carefully.
  4.  

  5. Incidentally, you will now totally get the line in Avengers Assemble, when Mr Bana reveals the secret of controlling the Hulk.  “I’m always angry”. I can only control the ‘Pulk’ for so long, try and read the signs people, save yourselves.…
  6.  

  7. Signs include: one word answers, growling, overly sarcastic comments, no signs of humour – at all, actively ignoring you and lastly, actually walking away – ps. don’t follow.
  8.  

  9. It is truly eye-opening just how many ways the universe will conspire to piss you off.
  10.  

  11. It feels really good when you bite your tongue, you generally like people – there have been no rage induced incidents yet. This feels akin to winning the Noble Peace Prize, I am often surprised I’m not thrown more parades.
  12.  

  13. You are so competitive you will compete with anyone for the title of best patient – it is a self given award, nurses won’t pick sides (you’ve tried) …
  14.  

  15. …You will spend many hours wondering how insecure you have to be, to need this level of love from everyone treating you.
  16.  

  17. Dad and A. are titans, saints and wonders. Try to remember not to push them too far, especially not just because you are in a bad mood.
  18.  

  19. Remember your P’s and Q’s, you are not the soul owner of the difficult day.
  20.  

  21. That being said: Please, please, please, reader, think before you write on Twitter or Facebook about your bad day / worst news ever. Really, REALLY? You are STRESSED about a meal are you? Train late, is it? You have a COLD!! – I going out on a limb here but there are worse things happening to people and I don’t even mean me particularly. I repeat – I can only hold back ‘Pulk’ for so long…
  22.  

  23. You will sometimes write things on your Blog that will make people concerned that they will say / do the wrong thing. When they tell you this, it will make your heart melt because those who are worried, they are probably not the person it was aimed at.
  24.  

  25. Some people will surprise you in the worst possible way. You will be better about dealing with it for you. ‘Pulk’ will be roaring on A. and Dad’s behalf.
  26.  

  27. To follow up, A, Dad and I are the same people we always were. Please treat us as such, if you count us as honest to goodness friends, don’t get weird on us now. It’s more hurtful than you could ever possibly know.
  28.  

  29. Naps, naps, naps are the elixir of life. Take them often.
  30.  

  31. Sometimes you are just too tired to do everything you want to do, learn to say No.
  32.  

  33. Just because you are reading this doesn’t mean you can’t ring me too. As my friend Miss H says, “I can read your blog or I can ring and ask you how you are, I will always prefer to ring.” This is why she is your friend.
  34.  

  35. You will need to work harder to feel grateful and lucky but you still are, so jolly-well work harder.
  36.  

  37. The sentence “if you get through this, you will be a stronger than ever” is only ever going to extract a long expletive heavy response along the lines of “ How much stronger do you want me to be?”
  38.  

  39. Also FYI not cool to use ‘IF’, you may think it shows your cool, “I’m not going to sugar coat or mollycoddle you” credentials, I will only hear “I am a moron”.
  40.  

  41. Please don’t feel the need to reference everything thus:  “it’s not nearly as bad as what you are going through” or “sorry to rant about something so trivial”. I do want to hear your news, and what’s important in your world but I reserve the right to call bullshit if it really is a storm in a teacup / easily solvable.
  42.  

  43. I am getting bossier and bossier the more restricted I become. It’s like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but instead of murders – I’m solving people’s lives.
  44.  

  45. A certain type of selfie really annoys me at the moment. Take a picture of something amazing instead or a person you really love. I don’t care if the pout or toplessness is ‘ironic’ – you look like a chump.
  46.  

  47. The round-robin “post if you know someone with cancer” status up-dates, are weird. They say a lot more about your need for drama than about any cancer sufferer’s plight.
  48.  

  49. FYI if we do meet, I am not as grumpy as I seem here, I do not have to talk about it constantly, I will not cry.
  50.  

  51. This summer is meant to be a hot one (yay) – don’t come anywhere near me if you have sunburn. I will beat you. YOU NEED TO APPLY SUN PROTECTOR (Factor 20 or above, yes even in the UK), often several times a day- shock, horror! It works, if it doesn’t, it is user error. Do you really want to be the loser who can’t even put lotion on themselves? I mean that’s pretty remedial stuff right there. I will beat you and then tell you all about my cancer treatments as punishment.
  52.  

  53. Reader, please, don’t let life drag you down. Do just one thing to change whatever it is that makes you feel despondent. I wish I’d done more of this. IF you get sick, you will have plenty of time to think about what you’d have changed and feel grumpy about it.
  54.  

  55. Remember, approx. 98% of the time, it is how uncomfortable you are feeling that makes you grumpy and short tempered. People are not willfully trying to vex you. Perhaps yelling will help but then they will grumpy and yell at someone else – it’s the snowball affect. Breathe Deeply and Walk Away.
  56.  

 

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_troubles

All my troubles seemed so far away

Tuesday 4th March

 

Today at 12.30 I found out I had cancer. Oh how I wish it could be yesterday again. As my friend TCP says “Well that’s a bit shit.”

 
 

Practical things leap into my head. It’s the state of fight mode I went into after mum died. That’s how it feels.

 
 

I keep thinking how much I’d prefer it not to be this way. 

 

Life can change on the roll of a dice, the flip of a coin – we all know this, all think we know this. 

 

Then it actually goes and does. 

 

You find yourself thinking “If it could only be an hour ago, two hours, a day ago, a week, a month, back when my biggest concerns were the regular, every day, garden variety worries of before. If only I’d missed the call, not responded to the text – I’d have had an another few hours of blissful ignorance. If I could just unlearn this piece of shit news. I would take more notice of what life felt like prior. Maybe I wouldn’t take timeout to smell the roses, maybe it would just be a work day morning like all those that came before, but I could try and capture how it felt, the not knowing”

 

You will think this on the drive to the hospital, where your brain is desperately trying to convince you that you misheard, or misremembered the news.

 

You will think this as you look out of the window, while MBS is explaining that sorry but you did hear correctly. Burt is not benign (MBS will not call him Burt), that he is a 17mm malignant tumour, Grade 3 of 3*. That tests will need to begin now.

 

You will mostly certainly be thinking it when you meet Breast Care Nurse 1 (BCN1) and subsequently create the black list**. You will think this as she fumbles her way through an explanation of treatments and fertility.

 

As you drive home.

 

As you begin to tell people.

 

There will be relief, numb relief, as Liam Neeson smashes his way through a middle of the road movie.

 

You will go to work the next day, where everything is different but nothing has changed.

 

You will wake up each morning, the sky won’t have fallen down and you will get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other. You will still worry about the little worries of life, be happy, be angry because this is now your new normal and slowly you will forget how it felt before.

The human brain is phenomenally good at rewiring, at surviving – at fight mode. 

 

But then, when you least expect it, you will crash.


 

Please bare with me reader because just at the moment, just for a little bit, I have spectacularly lost my sense of humour. I think ! walked out of the room marked ‘Shock’ and in to the Red Painted Room of Anger and Pain. You had better believe I slammed that door shut too. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

* Burt is quite small and he got down graded to 2 (champagne all round)
** Explanation to follow.

pollygosh_testing2

Testing, Testing…

+++ Please, if you are thinking – “Sheesh, this post is long”, just read the Mammogram section and the very end of the post – I am conducting an experiment++++

 
 

I’m writing this post while consuming a glass of Prosecco – it’s my first entirely painkiller free day after surgery – Whoop, Whoop! (Don’t worry, if I’ve ended up posting this at 10am, it’s actually being written at 10pm on Friday night, that’s how we roll on the recovery highway)

 

So, two glasses of Prosecco, let’s just see how this post pans out, everyone recall our 1 2 3 4 5 Mantras of little blog*? Let’s begin : 

 

I’ve spoken about a few of the processes / tests that can occur when dealing with cancer. Below, is not an exhaustive list (I believe I would need a needle Biopsy to have full Breast Cancer Bingo) but I thought it might be useful to cover my remaining ones -

 

But first, to refresh:

 

Needle sticks – you will get used to them. Extra bonus tip; you may need to have Radio Active Isotopes injected into your breast. When they tell you this your Inner-voice may being yelling “Hells NO”, but quiet it, as this one isn’t so bad at all. It’s a very fine needle so it barely scratches, the solution does sting but only for a moment. Cake walk.

 

 Core Biopsy – Hole punch and bruising. Not a morning at a spa but completely doable.

 

MRI – I refer you to the earlier post where I almost bottled it completely due to my cockiness. In case that post worried you, if you are not being a complete prick, it won’t be so bad. Might I suggest, not listening to the music, you really can’t hear it, it’s just adding noise on top of noise. Turns out, I’ll probably need one a year for ten years**, so I’ll experiment and report back.

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The New Ones:

 

Mammogram – My Mammogramographer (yes! I like it, hark medical world, I’ve created a new word – you are most welcome) was very chatty on the subject. I was apologising for my small chest (I have learnt now to always cherish what ever you are blessed with) and she said that to her (a lady who sees boobs all day for a living – mind boggling) truly small breasts are just nipples, while really large boobs take 4 or more sections to scan – good to know the world of breasts is so diverse. Before this, I have just been going on my own and the Hollyoaks Cast from FHM Magazine circa my Uni years….. 

 

She also told me that small breasts have an easier time of it pain wise, it may be more painful for those whose cups runneth more over. It’s basically squeezing your boobs in a vice. It is not dignified but at least it’s brief and I would hope, those doing the test are as kind as my lady was. I was going to write a rant here about how men don’t get their bits squeezed in a vice. Then I remembered what they do get and I deleted it (self-censoring, this is new)

 

Important point here – Burt DID NOT turn up on the Mammogram at all. This is because I am young and my breast tissue is firm (that is also my online dating profile***). If you are worried about a lump and you too are younger than 50 – make sure they do a needle or a core biopsy, remember Burt didn’t look harmful but he was.

 

CT – Nowhere near as bad as an MRI. Yes, you may have the weird remote injection (it’s like the staff don’t want to be near radiation and grow another head – I’m not of the science is behind that last sentence) and even weirder – the fluid is warm, you will feel like you’ve wet your self. It’s actually kind of cool, to experience how quickly fluids move around your body. Oh, BTW you won’t actually have wet yourself, my CT-ographer (and another one) took great pains to tell me this on several occasions, I don’t know if I looked really worried or not worried enough.

 

So, take home point**** from this blog post; these tests are happening whether you want them or not. Let’s face it, unless you are a masochist or you suffer from Munchausen’s syndrome (both of which, I am even less qualified to talk about), you don’t want the test. Well you do but you don’t. But you will have the test, you can either be brave or you can kick off and be a pain in the poor health professional’s ass. Be Brave, it feels better in the end.

 

It takes me all of my meagre courage to submit myself to tests. I think that’s pretty normal and healthy – again, unless your a masochist – running from pain is generally the way to go….

 

Inner-Voice reasoning when I’m weighing up being brave vs kicking off:

 

“The doctors won’t give me a test that I don’t really need, I want these doctors to like us.”
“You have pathological need for everyone to like us” 
“Perhaps if I show them how good I can be at taking this test, they will think I am cool and want to be my friend.”
“Good Grief”
“They will talk, in the locker room, about this amazingly brave and cool girl who took a test so well”
“Really? You’re still talking?”
“Then one of the Hot Doctors from Grey’s Anatomy will…”
“Those are Actors you freak”
“….Will show up at my door”
“and A. will kick them out”
“Hey this is my fantasy…Wait? Have they finished it already?”

 
 

I am now off to re-paint my toe nails red. This is actually my top tip ever, my lovely friend Miss B, started me doing it years ago. 

 

Paint your toes red because however undignified, painful or frustrating the days hospital visit has been, you will know you’ve been doing it while rocking awesome red toes. 

 

I think it works in daily life too. As Churchill said “if in doubt wear red (toes)” Yes in fact the Prosecco fairy has spoken, let’s make this a thing – red toes all round. Report back if you think it helps crappy days. Ignore your grandma who once told you “only cheap girls wear red nails” for the times they have a changed. 

 

Thank you!

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*Let’s please remember the 1 2 3 4 Mantras of Little Blog 1) I hope it doesn’t happen to you. 2) these are my own personal views 3) check your bits and bobs 4) everything is better with cake, 5) Be Kind

 

** Damn you long reaching consequences of Cancer, point to you!

 

*** Joking, obvs….

 

**** Who says that outside Corporate-land? Me, apparently after a couple of glasses, can it be that I get more geeky with booze?

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Truth Speaking aka Golden Rules Vol. 1

It is another beautiful spring day outside. Unlike yesterday, I am writing this post in the waiting room of the BCC (point to cancer- what cancer doesn’t know, is that I’ve got an amazing brownie for after this meeting – point to me!)*.

Dad is reading a paper entitled ‘Presynaptic Spike Broadening Reduces Junctional Potential Amplitude’ – I’ve copied that with out knowing what it means, there are some very pretty graphs on it. I am resisting my desire to contemplate the plug sockets again (they are at an awfully funny height for sockets) and so I am writing this list of truths, rules and top tips**, I may write longer posts on some of them but here goes, in no particular order:

  • Try, if you can, to prep for your future by going on a roller-coaster, blindfold. This is what results days, tests day or in fact everyday will feel like, the highs and lows are “Cray Cray”.
  • You will come away from every appointment with a saplings worth of paperwork, proving that cancer is not just bad for you, it is bad for the environment.
  • You will not be able to comprehend how far reaching a cancer diagnoses will affect your life, present and future – this is a very good thing.
  • Lymphedema may prove to be a bigger nemesis than cancer. Grrr.
  • You will worry about money, especially if you are a freelancer. You will then realise that there are people a lot worse off, that you have options and that you are, once again, luckier than most.
  • Conversely, money worries will probably not stop you spending extravagantly on crazy things because a) it makes you happy, even just for a minute b) why the hell not? Try really hard not to go too wild because…
  • ….You will still have to do everyday, normal things like paying bills – the bank does not know you have just been put on a mental rocket to Mars.
  • Final note on shopping, try not to internet shop while high on morphine. I, apparently, have a Turkish bath towel winging it’s way to me – from what I remember, it really seemed like the most important purchase of my life at the time. (If I’m being kind to myself I could see it has a defiant shout – that I’ll be swimming again soon).  A. once bought a vegetable peeler when coming down from sedation, we already had 2. So I guess we’ve got off pretty lightly, as long as we don’t mention the shoes….
  • It will take more than breast cancer to convince Dad and A that you should be allowed a French Bulldog – not even when you bat your eyelashes.
  • Your Doctors (and all NHS staff actually) are titans but they may not know everything at the very moment that you may wish know it. Like your parents before them, they may seem God-like but like you, they are human. They are the best kind of human because they spend their days breaking the worst kind of news. Always keep this in your mind.
  • The above, is why you will spend you days at BCC trying to get the gruff, scots receptionist to like you…. heres still hoping.
  • The hospital will suggest you bring someone with you to your appointments, to help remember what is said. However, you wouldn’t take someone who didn’t love you, but because they love you, they may forget too. Don’t worry, between you both, you can cobble it together. BRING A NOTEBOOK.
  • You will realise just how vain you really are.
  • You will feel guilty, about a shed load of odd things. This will at times annoy and exasperate your loved ones.
  • When used judiciously the phrase “who wants to talk about cancer” can bring levity to a situation.
  • Following on from the last point, only use your C-card for good, preferably funny reasons.
  • You will promise yourself you will not use your C-card to gain the advantage – with great illness comes great responsibility.
  • At some point, in a fit of pique, you will break this rule. Don’t be to hard on yourself when it happens.
  • You will find a lot of humour in life with cancer, just don’t push yourself – it’s surprising how quickly darkly funny can turn simply dark. Advise others of this too.
  • Medical Professionals are not allowed to find your illness funny. Case in point; when asked about your alcohol consumption (which you will be several times a visit) your answer probably shouldn’t be a) right now? yes, Gin please or b) I am now an alcoholic (delivered dead pan)***. But they must have a a sense of humour or else they wouldn’t make you wait for the Breast Nurse in front of rows upon rows of boxes of fake boobs….
  • You will start a bucket list (or if that’s too bleak a Life ‘to do list’) when you read it back you will discover a) you will need to be a millionaire b) you are generally a lot shallower than you’d hope and c) you are obsessed with food.
  • The first 3 questions you will want to ask, upon finding out, will probably surprise you and possibly the BCC nurse you are speaking to. Asking if you can swim while having Chemo as your opening gambit for instance….
  • You will become a walking cliche, this will piss you off.
  • Your body will no longer belong solely to you.
  • Do not be cocky about any test or hospital visit – karma will bite you on the ass.
  • People will spend a lot of time telling you – you are young. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes a bad but because you are so vain it will always feel nice.
  • This goes for anything to do with your BMI too.
  • No one will know how to react when you tell them something like this, you wouldn’t have known a week ago, this will sometimes annoy you.
  • You don’t suddenly become any better at handling other peoples bad news. You will forget the phrases that annoyed you and use them on said people. At some later point, this will really peeve you too.
  • Always thank your medical team, your loved ones, friends, blog readers and supporters.

So Thank You, Thank You and once again Thank You. Your words of kindness and love fill my days with light.

* I also got no more bad news today – another point to me!

** Let’s please remember the 1 2 3 4 mantras of little blog 1) I hope it doesn’t happen to you. 2) these are my own personal views 3) check your bits and bobs 4) everything is better with cake.

*** Not least because they’ve probably heard it before. Several times.

 

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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?

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My First Specialist

I trust MBS (My Breast Specialist) immediately. Like a newly hatched chick I would follow him anywhere. This has very little to do with how young he thinks I look (if it’s a technique to gain my trust, it’s a great one) and everything to do with his nature. He is just so intuitive, when I explain why I’m here and the family history, he doesn’t labour the point but swiftly sets about the tasks that will help relieve the anxiety.

He explains what he sees on the ultra sound; a general anatomy lesson not just Lump oriented  and encourages me to watch the screen when he takes a core biopsy* – I actually see a needle** piercing the Lump. He even allows me to look at the little cross section he’s taken, “Like a little baby worm” he says. He’s right, it looks exactly like a powder-pink baby worm. To my mind cancerous tumours should be black and viscous like tar – I have a feeling this has a lot to do with those creepy government anti smoking/lung cancer ads and less about learnt science. In short MBS is super cool.

The thing I love best about MBS is that once he has explained it all to me, he is most anxious to set Dad’s mind at ease, sending me with the nurse to fetch him. He explains succinctly that from the look and feel of it, it’s a benign tumour. The core biopsy will confirm it but he’s 98% certain and he’ll text me on Tuesday with the results. I skip out of his office into the sunshine, to a life of few cares and little worry.

*A word on core biopsies, three words actually – Brace. Your. Self. It’s like being hole punched from within. Most peculiar and if you aren’t ready for it quite disturbing I’d imagine, obviously MBS made sure I was quite ready (gosh, I feel like I’m boasting about MBS but I feel very lucky to have him). The local anaesthetic means there’s no pain but you do get a freaking cool bruise. Everyone is different but paracetamol for a few days sorted me out. I did get a few sharp stabs when I forgot and caught myself, should have been better with the Arnica but I say that whenever I have a bruise.

** I’m afraid with cancer tests come a lot of needle jabs (sad face). If I haven’t had a needle stick for a while I always remember them worse than they are, which is stupid as I’m forever poking myself with sewing needles and the like. The build up doesn’t help, I just try to relax and zone out,  they’re generally over pretty quickly. The debate rages on as to the merits of looking vs. not looking – I generally look, I do not like surprises. This is also because I have funny veins, they hide and wiggle out of the way, I like to try and help (which now I think about it, probably isn’t very helpful, who likes an audience while they are trying to work…… hmmmm something to ponder on). I prefer the nurses who can acknowledge that perhaps needle sticks are not their strong point and hand me over to a colleague, as opposed to those who forget that I am not their human pin cushion. To those I say, perhaps it would be kinder to evoke the three strikes rule, while I understand you’d like to save face, I would very much like to save my arm.

Also, while I’m on the subject of needles; why is it that I am surround by menfolk who turn green at the very thought of injections? This is dull when I’m trying to show off war wounds. Women seem a lot more blasé. Am I wrong about this?