story so far


A Shift in Time and Space

Things are changing in my world. Not in the ghastly – cancer’s going to mug you and take your year – kinda way. That way knocks the wind out of you, leaves you on your ass while it skates by shouting “loser”. So I’m very grateful it’s not that kind.

Life is yelling “Forwards” at me, rallying the troops and charging off in the most unexpected directions. I’m married for crying out loud! I mean, what!? The other big change is in my career.

For pretty much all my working life I have been a stage manager. I have worked odd hours, lived behind a curtain and fashioned a life in the dark, in the backwards hours of the day. I love, love, loved (almost) every minute of it. It is where I’ve met the majority of my most beloved humans, including A (who once kissed me behind a set door, when a smoke machine was going off, *sign*). My work, for the longest time, has been all rolled up in my personality, my identity. If I wasn’t Polly, Stage Manager, I wasn’t at all sure who I was. I stage managed a performance on the day of my mother’s funeral – I wrote her eulogy during a dress rehearsal, between cues. I’m the girl who went back to work 3 weeks after finishing Chemo. I stage manage, there for I am.

Then cancer happened; surgery, chemicals, radiation happened and I can’t be Polly, stage manager, all the time anymore. My body, be it temporarily or permanently (juries out), can’t keep up with back to back shows. The crazy hours, the stress, it’s not helping me recover. But it’s more than that, I’ve realised that evenings and weekends not spent at work means seeing more of the people I love; that siren call of regular hours, my allotment, evenings with my A. It’s having a life and work, not just a life at work.

I want some thing else. Not better, but different.

Has discovering this been painful? Is it scary trying to figure out just what the hell I’m meant to be doing now? Was turning down a show, with pretty much my favourite people involved, my work family, like taking a bullet? You betcha. I feel like a turtle without a shell, all soft and unprotected.

I wake in the night wondering – What if I lose contact with all those wonderful, colourful folk I’ve met? What if there is nothing else on this earth I can do?

Then A. gently reminds me that my health is more important, living a long life is important and I’ll figure out a way a filling it up.

So I am now Polly, part-time stage manager, student of holistic massage, sometime blogger and kicker of cancer’s ass.

Anyway, I thought it was about time that little blog reflected these shifts; looking backwards all the time means I’m bumping into a lot of lamp posts.

I guess I could just say goodbye to little blog, leave it as a testament to my year or so of cancer but I’d miss writing. Plus why just write about the bad bits? So yeah, the tag line to this blog should read PollyGosh: A little blog, not always about cancer.

Thank you for reading along thus far, I understand that not everyone will continue. Little blog has been a handy dandy way of keeping you posted when I was unwell. I very much hope it never has to be that tool again. Please check in every now and again.

Oh and if anyone has any bright ideas for a career for me – answers on a postcard (she half jokes).



It may be winter outside….

But in my heart (and on my head) it’s spring!

While I spent the summer complaining how uncomfortable and resentful I was, going through Chemo in the hotter months. I’m glad I am not just starting to lose my hair now, it sure is chilly on the ol’ noggin these days… Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure, whichever season I started chemo, I’d find reason to grumble about it. Chemo is just a very grumbly time.

So the leaves are falling, the fog is rolling and the temperature is plummeting and a mini renaissance has taken hold of my body. While it may not be as beautiful as the first crocuses of spring, the velvety fuzz covering my head is as welcome a sight. I wake up each day to new growth. It’s a very funny experience growing your hair from scratch, I will it longer as I brush my teeth each morning. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve started to shampoo and condition it, a bit of a conceit as it’s barely an a mm long. I want it to know it’s welcome and greet it with love. I shall never take it for granted again. I sport it as proudly as Rapunzel must have.

I’m finding it oddly ironic however, that in amongst this re-birth of Polly, I’m spending more time than ever at the hospital. Every weekday morning at a stupidly earlier hour, A. and I drag our weary bones to the Radiography / Oncology department where I am stripped, prodded and zapped with lasers. I imagine it is somewhat like an alien abduction feels like, just prior to the anal probe….. Bright lights, cold hands and strange crackling machines. It certainly feels alien at 8am on a weekday morning. Not that it would be ‘par for the course’ on a weekend, you understand.

What with all the stripping and all the strange hands on my breasts. It feels a bit like being newly diagnosed again and as I’m barely polite before 9am, it’s a job in itself not to slap these hands away. Being physically restrained helps, my arms are held in a position above my head by a device, I’m inaccurately going to describe as hand stirrups.

3 pinpoint tattoos are meant to guide the radiographers to the exact areas they need to zap, though I do seem to end up with a lot of red pen on me anyway. 15 minutes later I’m back on the streets, slightly bleary and destined to spend the rest of the day rubbing fridge cold Aloe Vera gel onto my skin in an effort to dissuade laser burn. A. rather evilly finds my cold gel dance unproportionately amusing.

We’re certainly living the dream at the moment.

People have been asking me since I began treatments last week if I’ve noticed the fatigue but I worked a 61 hour week last week. Between that and the early morning appointments, I can’t really tell. Roll on the 23rd of December I say, when I’ll be treatment free. Just in time for Christmas. Which is probably why I’m so ridiculously excited by the holiday season this year. Buying an advent calendar for the first to in years. There just seems so much to celebrate!

So should you see a fuzzy headed women, skipping about town, decking the halls, mulling some wine and indulging in a mince pie or two. Please don’t begrudge her the christmas album she’s playing on repeat. It could be me counting down the days until this disease and it’s treatment are behind me. Spare a thought for A. too who is charged with trying to reign me in!


Update 1

Well Hello There!

I was going to write this update in the a numbers breakdown style, a la Bridget Jones; Nos. of Times Sick, Teaspoons of Apple Sauce Consumed, Pills Popped, Hours Slept etc….


Good sense prevailed however, so I shall just say after a a week and a half at my darling Papa’s home, I am back at the flat! I was  even on my lovely, lovely allotment yesterday.


It’s good to be back. Though I cannot ever thank my Pa enough for taking care of me and answering my every Princess whim. He now passes the torch to A – an altogether tougher task master (but that’s necessary too).


For many reasons, simply not that interesting to go into, it makes sense for all of us to manage my weeks this way (though these things are changeable and so am I!).


For those who want to keep up, this in my 3 Week Cycle:


Week 1 Chemo Week: Apologies if I go undercover this week, no texts, emails,          phone calls answered etc…


Week 2 Immune System Failure: I try not to hug, kiss or in anyway touch people but am out and about, Available for tea / coffee at home, occasional outings, Sorry No Children.


Week 3 Normal Service Resumed: I’m back baby! Please hit me up with fabulous invites and leisurely coffee times – no really, please do. I may rabbit on at you like a hyperactive child – I am giddy on life! A and P will be pleased for you to take me off their hands for a bit….

Of course this is Chemo so all the above is ‘Subject to Change”  – Boring!


I also wanted to mention, I’m probably not going to write much, or at all, about the nitty gritty of my Chemo. Not yet anyway, I’m not being coy, I just want to do so in a more timely and responsible fashion. 


Little Blog is above all a personal record for me and my loved ones, I will therefore have to find away for telling “My Life with Chemo” story but should anyone stumble here looking for guidance or reassurance, I simply don’t want to scare them. Buy me a Non-alcoholic drink and I’ll happily spill my guts in person…  


Everyone reacts differently, everyone will have their own way through. It may be, I get others on here to write about their time too, highlight those differences. If anyone wants to or knows of anyone who may want to share, please contact me.


Thank you to everyone for their support through this first round. 


Week 1 starts again on : 2nd July 2014




I, Robot

We’ve been staying with my Dad (Sainted, Sainted, Chief of All Saints) for a while now. For matters of convenience and loveliness mostly, and the small fact that car journeys make me want to vomit, but mainly for reasons of loveliness.


I’m not sure if it’s because there are more mirrors here, or they are in places where one actually look in them (a mirror I wouldn’t look in!), or if it’s because our flat is smaller, so there, you can’t get so far away from them, for a more ‘overall’ look. At Dad’s they seem to be hung perfectly and I’ve discovered that from the waist up, my body looks like a battle field. More so now I have my PICC line in.


When I was little I remember Brother, painstakingly plotting, designing and executing vast battle grounds in our bedroom. Duvets, pillows, stuffed animals became landscapes for Lego, StarWars, Transformers and the odd Ninja Turtle to do battle over. Brother was quite advanced, I remember one such scene-scape actually having a soundtrack.


If it wasn’t so Avant Garde and frankly, creepy, I’d strip to the waist, lie on the floor and allow many a Lego battle to use this scarred and beaten ground to do there worst. I feel I’ve been doing that a lot lately, for any medical practitioner who wants.


There’s the red scars beetling their way across my armpit and left breast – thin, precise, skilled but angry looking and out of place, to me, having lived without them for 34 years.


There’s also the lack of symmetry, I find it far from pleasing. I’ve been giving it some thought and the only way to describe it is thus; imagine a marble bust, imagine a chisel aimed at 45 degrees at the bottom of the Busts bust. Now take that stroke. That is my left breast. Again perfectly rendered, skilfully done but not the body I’ve been used to for number of years now. Topped with an as yet still blue nipple – faded like a loved pair of jeans but blue enough to be Extra-Terrestrial.


I am feeling a certain kinship to the Mavel Comic Heroes. Iron Man or Captain America especially, thanks to the new PICC line. It’s a tube that leads from a vein in your arm to inside your chest cavity – about 2 feet of tube FYI. It’s clever and disturbing (let’s just say I’ve also been feeling for Wolverine of late) how they how they insert it. It helps preserve your veins from the rigours of Chemo but subtle it ain’t, unless you like the stares of small children, long sleeves are a must. Which is annoying because I have a lot of weddings to attended this summer.


So I say Yes to Battlefields, wars waged inside and out, I believe, according to someone in the 80’s Love is a Battlefield also. I can tell you, I think it takes a certain, strong kind of person to tell you, you are beautiful while one is dealing with all this (or even be prepared to lie about it). I’m frickin’ lucky with the Iron Men in my life, I’m too vain to do it without them.


Side Note – Chemo 1 is done. I don’t want to talk about it at the moment.


Conscious Uncoupling

‘It is with mixed emotions that Little Blog announces that the Conscious Uncoupling of PollyGosh and Burt, the tumour formal known as Benign. Which took place on April 1st 2014. 

In an operation lasting one and a half hours. A team of dedicated professionals literally cut away all ties between the two parties. 


Burt then spent a month in Analysis, while PollyGosh recuperated quietly at home under the watchful eye of her ever patient Papa.


In a statement, given exclusively to Little Blog, PollyGosh wished to thank her friends and loved ones for their on going support. 


She is also quoted as saying; “I knew the relationship was going down hill when Burt started growing a little too big for his boots, he was multiplying recklessly and since conformation of his tumour status, I could no longer bear to touch him. This separation is right for both of us. Well, mostly for me.”


PollyGosh is so keen to totally purge Burt from her life, to which end, she will be seeking a chemical intervention too.’


It doesn’t sound all that amicable really, does it? I think amicable would be stretching it, after all, Burt never wrote or sang me a song about the colour Yellow.


That being said, in a weird way, I miss him. Only very occasionally. Like animals bred for eating, racoons and annoying co-workers, you should never nickname your tumour, that way trouble leads. 


Still, I grew him. For a long time, if I woke up scared and alone (which, even if there is someone lying next to you, or across the hall, you do feel)- it was Burt who was there. Perhaps I am experiencing my own form of Stockholm Syndrome. 


Perhaps too, I know if he was still here, the rest that is to follow would still be that bit further off. I’ve had experience of surgery and so that, for me, wasn’t so scary.


My lumpectomy went incredibly smoothly – I believe, I mean, I slept through it – so what do I know? From my end, it was smooth, flat out, horizontal stylee. 


My Anaesthetist (an amazing NZ women) gave me good drugs, a derivative of morphine. I woke up in a glorious mood. 


To quote Dad – in a conversation he had over my head, with a rather worried looking Brother, who I was trying to comfort at the time, with witty banter and a chipper attitude.


“Yes, she’s been rabbiting on like this for hours”. It could be that my mind is playing tricks but it came out a little weary when he said it.


I was vaguely aware, from Brother’s widening eyes, that the more I tried to reassure him, the worse job I was doing.


I think Dad had the most ‘interesting’ time, the day of the operation was April First,  so I kept on trying to play funny jokes. I’d then get a little peeved when his concern stopped him from laughing.


Anaesthetic can make me melancholy, feel rather vulnerable and nauseous. I’m not sure if this is universal or just me. My advice, that I really must take myself, don’t be a hero. Take the painkillers they will prescribe on a regular basis. It’s easier on your system to keep the level constant than yo-yo up and down. Sleep your way through it too. Sleep is the best cure all. Give yourself time.


For me, the pain was manageable. On a sliding scale I am not a Marvel Superhero, (it doesn’t seem to matter how many suspect laboratories I hang out at, or how many buttons I press while there) but I’ve got some game. It was standard workaday pain levels but you shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable. That is what the drugs are for. The more pain you suffer through the longer it takes to heal. So I repeat, don’t be a hero, or a martyr – the is no prize for that.


My biggest ambition was to leave hospital the same day. FYI – lumpectomies are considered day cases so this was not the macho achievement it may sound. 


I hate hospitals. Kind of an obvious one really but never the less true. I always want to leave as soon as possible. You need to pass certain tests before they will allow you to vamoose: eating, peeing, walking, dressing – no vomiting. 


I had nearly been caught out after an ear operation a few years back. Like I said, I am affected by anaesthetic rather badly. I always feel nauseous. 


That time round, I did not want to move, or eat. I was down to the wire and nearly had to stay in – it’s with thanks to Dad and A, that I didn’t. It was a bit grim. All I’m willing to say is, what happens on Woodlands Ward, stays on Woodlands Ward (but if you direct mail me I will tell you).


This time I was determined to get going quickly. Thanks to the morphine substitute, I got right on task. Dad discovered, that the least you had to eat to be OK’d to leave was biscuits. I ripped open the packet of especially bought Rich Teas, one handed. Pretty much as soon as I was back on the ward. Every time a nurse came anywhere near I shoved a biscuit in my face – I ate about half the packet, I am not a huge biscuit fan. I drank enough fluid to accomplish other tasks…… I got dressed, on my own. I tried to be a star patient, basically (this has a bit to do with wanting to leave and a lot to do with needing to be loved)


It worked. I got in and out in a day. I don’t think I’m at all special – the lumpectomy was really ok (Burt was small and in an easy to reach place, other tumours may be different). Possibly the weirdest part being the blue nipple – which I know I’ve still not fully explained but it makes A. nervous, like I’ll post evidence or something. As if I would……


So Burt and I are separated, It’s been over a month now. I wish that was the end of the story but it seldom is with Cancer. It was a major step though, it means that I am tumour free, which is a very comforting feeling.



I’m really not sure about the logical thought process behind this, it is apparently more common than you might imagine. On being given a pretty scary piece of health news, I obviously took the only natural course of action and became a hypochondriac.
I would have hoped, much as I hoped for enlightenment, that Cancer might have liberated me from all other worries, especially those surrounding health. It seemed only fair, frankly. 
To put it in to perspective I was probably a 2-3 on the scale prior to Burt. I have a pretty vivid imagination but generally I worry about other peoples health (sadly a fallout of my Mother’s death) – can you be a hypochondriac by proxy?
In the days after Burt, I would be kept awake at night worrying about every single twitch or ache. I was convinced that I was riddled with cancer, hundreds of little Ernies, if you will. I felt so guilty, how could I have not known something so major was going on inside my own body? What else had I missed?
I became hyper sensitive to every sensation after that. Even after being reassured that we’d caught Burt incredibly early, I still worried it had somehow gone everywhere. This shows my ignorance about my own cancer (even when you are listening, sometimes shock hears something very different) and was probably exacerbated about my ‘knowledge’ of cancer via my Mum and Grandma. A little bit of knowledge, coupled with a hyperactive imagination, is sometimes worse than ignorance.
I’ve always been very jealous of those who seem to have heightened awareness of their own inner ecosystem. A., is one of these, when we first met it used to fascinate me how attune he was to a body clock, that I just couldn’t hear. I assumed it was down to the amount of exercise one does. As I was doing close to none at the time this made sense. I had also had a few brushes with punishing my body, withholding food and the like – I would have been pretty surprised if my body is speaking to me at all.
I am the type, who at the end of the day looks down and realises they are covered in bruises but has no recollection of walking into the wall and then falling down the stairs. I was not careful with my limbs and because of this, I usually had something that ached, so tended to ignore it. I felt sure I was paying for it now.
My Breast Care Nurse recently pointed out that I may have noticed in the run up to finding Burt that, looking back, I had probably felt “a bit run down”.
I’ve been racking my brains over this but 2013 had been a pretty crappy year – I spent quite a bit of it feeling like I’d been hit by a bus anyway. I’d fought back, gaining my mental health and starting to exercise more. I remembered to feel grateful and not to take so much for granted (ha! I realise now there was still a hell of a lot I took for granted). I honestly felt better, much better, than I had in years.
By Christmas, I was incredibly chipper. I don’t think I even got a cold. Any tiredness would have been put down to the Festive Season. I guess, if you’d been feeling ‘run down’ for 3 years and were now feeling a city mile better than you ever have before, you simply wouldn’t notice.
It was also blowing my mind that even after finding Burt – how fine I felt, better than fine really. I had gone to the medical professionals with a lump and no other symptoms. In fact, and i think this is a huge cliche of the Cancer world, it wasn’t until we started the process of ‘getting better’ that I felt anything other than my new normal self, health-wise. 
So what cured me of this dabble with Hypochondria? Having spent a few days terrified of my body and being reassured that it was just the one tumour. Dad and I had to spend an afternoon getting used to the idea, of perhaps, another Burt, an actual Ernie, this time in my sternum. 
Luckily, more tests put paid to that nightmare scenario but it was one hell of a week. MBCS had pushed on my chest and ask if it was painful. It hadn’t been, it honestly hadn’t, but in that moment it began to ache, a ripping feeling – like being stabbed over and over. It didn’t stop until I officially got given the all clear, when miraculously it went away as quickly as it had started. 
Funny how the brain works – MBCS had made it clear that he thought the chance of another tumour was minimal, but Burt had been 98% not a tumour and I’d been told he couldn’t have spread. All of a sudden, I knew, in my bones, that Ernie existed. I would have put money on the fact. My silly, susceptible, little grey cells.
So it was non-existent Ernie, a brush, with even worse news, that caused me to let go of my hypochondria ways. Well Ernie and the fact that, my entire body has been scanned in incredible detail and from every angle imaginable, I do mean every angle.
Conclusion being, I have enough on my plate – I shouldn’t go looking for more.
Side Note: I realise this might be another of my unintentionally scary posts, I don’t want to create an army of hypochondriacs.
Learn from me – act now to be more in tune with yourself, both mentally and physically. What is ‘right’ for you? Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t take good health for granted.
Check your Bits and Bobs and if in doubt don’t be too stubborn to go to the doctor -Dad drives me mad with this one. What’s 15 minutes of embarrassment in the face of a long and healthy life? Embrace being wrong about being ill – what an amazing feeling to be told you’re not sick.

Better Get Livin’

It has been all quiet on the Little Blog front lately, sadly there hasn’t been another Cancer Miracle*, just a combination of events that have left me a little preoccupied.


A. returned home from his extended work trip. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have him back. It was weird at first, apart from a very precious, stolen week, prior to my lumpectomy, he’s been away through most of the drama so far. We are now learning to navigate how ‘We’ as a ‘We’ do this. We laugh a lot and we are both being patient.


I am staring down the Barrel of a Gun marked Chemo. I really wasn’t expecting to be. That sounds weird, what with the whole cancer thing. Everyone knows these two go hand in hand, best of friends, thick as thieves. I knew this, I knew this up until the moment it looked like I’d dodged that particular bullet.


You see, all the way through Little Blog, I’ve said I was lucky (except when I’m in grumpy-mode, when lucky can take a running jump), I have been, I am. I shall bore you with the check-list of what has gone my way at another point. For now, trust me, I wasn’t being all Pollyanna-positive entirely due to my plucky tenacity and can-do attitude. I was backed up by science and I never disrespect science. 


It came down to one test, one lousy test – all I needed was a low score, which everyone expected (given everything else), I would get. A medium score, would give wiggle room but No, I aced it – too high to argue with really. A very bitter pill, considering I was never really, what one might call an academic -all I needed to do was flunk, it just wasn’t to be.


I should really never forgo my motto “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” I got a bit cocky again, the motto was totally ‘forgun’ for a while there.


When Burt was removed, so was the cancer, everything that follows is to stop the cancer (Burt’s Posse) returning**. Lucky in it’s own way, very lucky considering the alternative but not easy. To carry on the Gun analogy from earlier – where chemo is concerned, I needed to pull the trigger. I needed to decide if this treatment was happening. Ok, I would be going against medical advice if I didn’t go a head but where once that would have seemed unthinkable, it was to my mind, a real possibility. 


 Just as I am learning that, at first, pushing a needle into you abdomen feels counter-intuitive***, saying ‘Yes’ to four and a bit months of preventative chemo, which might not actually be preventative / might not actually be necessary – depending on the way that unknown deck of cards is stacked is, well, counter-intuitive is the very least it is…


As MO points out, you have to be physically and psychologically ready – I have until early June and a to-do list of epic proportions.


As Queen Dolly Parton croons “You better get Livin’”, and I have a lotta living to do, people to see, research to do, Chemo Chic to develop, and hopefully holidays to take. 


I do still love writing Little Blog, I will still write Little Blog but forgive me if I go be a bit ‘everyday’. I’ve not forgotten about all the things I want to write about for future me, for friends and maybe to help someone else. I just need to live ‘in the moment’ for a while – and now I shall roll my eyes because I just finished a blog post with that…..

*The first Cancer Miracle involved managing to extract a tiny acknowledgement from a some-time adversary. I think that’s when I knew this Cancer thing was serious… 
**we can talk about those fun statistic another
***we can talk about this another time too

She’s So Vain

I’m really vain, really vain. Not the easiest thing to admit to, I didn’t really realise it until I got diagnosed. Overnight I became a Vain Hypochondriac*, no mean feat.
What was the first thing I did post diagnoses? It was not jump on Google and find support groups, healthy eating plans (hello, cake), I did not read up on everything ‘Breast Cancer’, I most certainly did not look at survival / reoccurrence percentages. Apart from the last one – truly a waste of energy – I have started to now, I promise.
No, what I did, almost straight away was to start Pinteresting cool short haircuts. Though, I suspect you may also need the face of Michelle Williams, Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence to actually pull these off. A point, I’m studiously trying to avoid, especially as I may well be bald soon anyway.
I am yet to find out about my “treatment package” – I think this term sounds suitably ‘Spa’. Some radiotherapy with your pedicure? If you insist, which you do. As I’m so young (yawn), Chemo is a very real possibility – in fact I’m very lucky that there is a slither of hope that, I may not have to have it. Oh, Cancer Roller-Coaster, you are just so fun.
I once managed to get two different types of infection on my nose at the same time (it’s a talent), my snout was basically a big ol’ puss filled mess. I cannot tell you how self-conscious this made me. My confidence plummeted and a became a grump, I hid behind a turquoise and pink tartan baker-boy hat (there really was no excuse for making the situation worse…) for nearly 2 weeks.
I know how changing from the ‘norm’ can effect me.
I’m concerned about the bald thing too, we are shuttling along towards Summer and there is no way I can wear a cool, slouchy beanie hat in July without boiling – which may be worth it.
This leaves scarves, I’m not sure if you get given scarves when you start treatment but some of the ones out there are a little too out there, if you catch my drift. I’m wondering if the budget will stretch to a little vintage Hermes (or at least something that looks like it). However, the truth is, bald head under a scarf screams “I’m Having Chemo but look how well I can hide it”.
I hope I will be brave enough just to rock a Bald (heavily SPF’ed) head; I worry about how cute my skull shape is though. I have a feeling due to my clumsy nature and a particularly hurtful incident, riding my tricycle on a frozen duck pond (that was not a smart plan, 5 year old self) - it may well be lumpy.
After fretting about all of these things, I very swiftly rang my friend Miss L -1) She is a brilliant human and we are the founder members of the Motherless Duckling Club, meaning we’ve gone through some stuff together. 2) She is one awesome photographer, she’s seriously great. I wanted to document ‘me’ before this ‘me’ was changed.
I know some of these changes may well be fleeting but some are more permanent. I just wanted a record, for my future self.
Miss L happily agreed and soon she, her sunny personality and her wonder camera came for a visit. Not long after lunch and cake (which possibly wasn’t the smartest move, but cake is cake), I found myself *almost* starkers posing for photos. Which is not something I thought I’d ever, ever do. My training with medical professionals came in quite handy and I wasn’t as awkward as I thought…. Miss L is also very good at her job and that really helped. We laughed mostly, and realised I’d never make it as a topless model – which I’m not that unhappy about.
Miss L has actually Blog about this shoot on her site, link below, don’t worry all pictures are of the of the tasteful, non-explicit variety.
I have battle scars already, I’ll be proud of them too, eventually I hope. I find out about the rest soon. really soon. I think, with Miss L behind the camera I’ll want to document this ‘me’ too because this is the ‘me’ of now, she may be battered and not as she was but life is too unpredictable (and hopefully long) not to try to be comfortable in this ‘me’ too.
*more on this later……

Lydia Stamps Photography



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.


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.