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Hear, Hear

Momentous events are occurring round pollygoshville; for starters I have my fringe back which is a bigger deal than you might think. Hair takes a gosh darn long time to grow and in ways I can’t fully form the words around yet, it has impacted on how I’ve viewed myself.

For ages now, I’ve known to the outside eye you’d probably never guess what I was doing 2 years ago. I am thankful that I look well, even though it makes the inside wounds harder to spot.

It’s not about looking unwell or well anymore, it’s a matter of looking like me. It really doesn’t matter if I look like me to you or if you think my hair is cool or even that it suits me better short. In fact, I get a little irritated with the compliments because those things are besides the point – it wasn’t my choice, it just was what it was.

Imagine being forced to wear your least favourite colour all day, everyday, doesn’t matter if the cut is impeccable or the style is very ‘now’, you didn’t choose it and choice in life is everything. Shallow? probably. Human? Hell, yes.

Does it make sense to say that it’s taken until I’ve got my fringe back to be able to understand how unlike myself I’ve been feeling? Well, it’s back now and it’s another baby step into feeling more in control again.

Another step towards control is, I’m getting a hearing aid. When the possibility of such a thing was raised the first time, I was thirteen, had braces, and didn’t want another thing to make me feel awkward or different. This time around I’m trying to embrace it.

So yeah, I’m deaf, I’m deaf in my left ear, not profoundly deaf – I’m in the moderate to severe camp (woo)

I don’t talk about it. Mainly because I like to think it doesn’t effect me much (it does) and also because in the last 36 years I’ve yet to find a cool way to bring it up.

If you don’t do it soon after meeting someone and (for some dumb reason) I always think that’s a strange thing to do, talking about it later is even more awkward. I get a little stuck because I sometimes forget and as I can normally think of about 200 more interesting things to talk about it often goes unsaid.

Plus what with the cancer thing, I sometimes feel like a properly faulty toy and that, for what ever reason embarrasses me. So much so, that I’ll do pretty much anything not to tell people about it.

So if you know me and have ever wondered why I sometimes just smile and laugh when you’re telling me something profound – it’s because at least 100 times a day I mishear or don’t hear something and I’ve misevaluated your facial expressions. Sorry about that.

I’ve got ways of coping, I’ll just walk on the right side of the street, pick the quieter restaurant, I will stay quiet in conversations until I’ve figured out the bits I’ve missed. Lately though these mechanisms have been feeling kinda limiting.

So, I’m getting fitted for a hearing aid. I’m fed up of being limited, of feeling frustrated or making people cry when they’ve told me their pet has died and I heard something completely other, something possibly incredibly rude. Plus I saw Finding Dory recently and it brought home the fact that I should probably not feel so apologetic to be different.

Here are some weird facts about being deaf:

1) My parents found out I was deaf when everyone got tested in school and my lipreading ability was pretty darn impressive. I still rely on lip reading; it’s an incredibly useful skill when watching awards ceremonies, sporting events, when trying to figure out how a meeting is going at work or when you are at the same party as your arch nemesis (not that I have one obvs).

2) Round tables are not my friend. I like to stick myself in a corner. If I’m out with you and you feel your being moved about like a sheep dog herds sheep, it’s because I’m working really hard not telling you I’m deaf.

3) I hate pubs, I’m a more sociable person than I feel I am able to be in a pub. It’s unlikely that I’ll choose to socialise in a pub, I’m not that fond of parties either. I feel a lot more stupid than I actually am in these environments, like I’m a smiley, vapid person with no actual views on anything. When really I’m just having a hard time hearing everything.

4) There’s a small percentage of people who think it’s hilarious to answer “what?” when I tell them I’m deaf. To that small percent, I say this; while I might laugh a long when you do it, I am secretly judging you as being an insensitive douche. It takes courage to admit a failing and as I’ve said, I don’t do so easily. Don’t be a dick about it. It’s also not an original joke, if you think it is, you really are deluding yourself. Plus just because I’m not profoundly deaf, doesn’t give you permission to laugh at a disability. Unless you are the type of knob who kicks people’s crutches away or trips-up the visually impaired – either way I’m judging you, unfavourably.

5) It gets more difficult for me to hear when I’m tired. I have to work harder than ever to understand, and if I’m tired I’m more likely to take a punt and answer the question I think you asked, so hilarity can ensue.

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Run Baby Run: Part 1, Heartbreak

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”

― John Bingham

Let’s get one thing straight, despite the above, I am NOT an actual runner. I like to think of my self as someone who happens to find they are running, on a semi regularly basis, if it’s not raining.

I used to be scared of running. Not the physical sensation of running per say, but of what people would think about my running; what I chose to run in, what my body looked like while I was running – that I wouldn’t look enough like a runner.

I basically thought a pack of means girls would come after me in all their stick thin glory and tease me. That was basically my nightmare scenario. Actually that’s still my nightmare scenario. It’s the old paradox that most of the people running don’t look like they need to run, because they run. Same with gyms. Yikes.

Then something came a long that actually made me feel worse than what the imaginary mean girls might say. Heart Break.

I ran for the first time, as an adult – other than being chased or for a particular reason (like buses, cake sales or seeing friends in a crowd) because I was heart broken and someone wise said it would help.

I ran because there wasn’t a shout loud enough to convey my grief or a pillow huge enough to punch. I ran to exhaust myself because my inner monologue was driving me mad. I ran because I didn’t want to put weight back on.

Yeah, let’s not kid ourselves, my running was mostly triggered by vanity. I continued running for other reasons, which I’ll share with you next time.

I cannot in all good conscience tell you I run, now, after the heartache healed, to commune with the world around me. That I love how the sun feels on my gazelle like limbs as I prance by with a cool breeze drying the sweat womanly glow from my face.

It’s just not true. I still don’t like to run. There are people who do, who run for the sheer pleasure of running. I run for the pleasure of stopping, and how I feel afterwards which is mainly exhausted and smug. I’m obnoxious that way. I’m sure there’s an endorphin high in there somewhere but presently this is covered by the smug.

Is it possible to run to mend a broken heart? No, probably not, sorry. Is it a good distraction? Absolutely, if you’re anything like me, the shock of running will be a different sort of hell. It’s also surprisingly difficult to run and cry, it makes you choose how to use your oxygen and whether you want to lose bodily fluids from your eyes or your sweat glands.

Plus you can stomp people’s heads into the ground as you run, metaphorically speaking and that’s quite fun. You also get to feel strong and capable and that’s often stolen from us during the desolation of heart break.

Below I am sharing my running playlist, I once again open myself and my musical taste up for ridicule; see here for what you should listen to while driving America in a car, possibly with a loved one.

Heart Break Running List 2013

Short and Sweet, it’s hardly stereotype busting. Basically grab a whole load of Angry Girl music and whack em’ on a play list. It’s so short because I would play ‘Blow me one last Kiss’ on repeat for most of the run and sometimes sing along too – not often mind, as I ran out of puff…..

Warm Up:
YES – McAlmont and Butler
The ultimate break up song, IMO, plus it’s epically long so it makes a good warm up walk option.

Running/Walking (in my case):
So What? – Pink
So what, I’m still a rock star – I think I’ve made my point.

Blow Me One Last Kiss – Pink
Sheesh, she’s an angry lady sometimes. I like this one, mainly because my dad found it on the radio and basically decided it would heal my heart. He choose well, it’s a break-up classic. Plus there’s swearing, which I think you need when you’re sad and pissed off.

Bullet Proof – La Roux
I just wanted to be tough, a whole lot tougher than I felt.

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift
I like Taylor Swift. I like her because she is Taylor Swift and yet her heart has been stomped on, a lot, a lot a lot. I find that comforting (sorry TS).

Single Ladies – Beyonce
I mean… really…

Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine
It has the word run in it. A lot. And that sometimes helped me to remember what I was doing ( I wish I was joking).

Cool Down:
Born This Way – Lady Gaga
Something about the line: Keep your paws up, you were born this way.

Rumor Has It – Adele
The ultimate beat heavy, revenge song. Plus Adele + heartbreak = Duh!

Don’t Look Back – She and Him
‘All you’ll ever get is the dust from the steps before’
I used to try and end it on a cheerful breakup note.

What can I say? You want good taste, probably best you look elsewhere.

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Gratitude is an Attitude

I’ve been a grumpy bum today. Strike that, this grumpy bumminess has been building for a while but I think I topped out today.

I was angry at everyone. I was angry at the other road users – Fun fact, I’ve never used my horn, mostly because I drive a Micra and that thing sounds like a tiny duck who’s mildly peeved, I mean it’s not even worth it. So I was angry at my horn too.

I was pissed at everyone at the pool. They were talking in the water and not swimming. They were talking in the sauna and not shhh-ing, I couldn’t even hear my angry thoughts.

I was completely flummoxed by my loved ones, who seem continually unable to give me the unanswerable answer to the non-question I’ve not been able to articulate but which they completely wouldn’t understand anyway.

I’ve been angrily giving everyone a piece of my mind (only in my mind), how their piddling worries would be so easy to sort out if they would shut the f-up and listen to me.

I was retrospectively angry about the interview I heard on Radio 4 with a “thirty something”, miserably living in London and annoyed because she just couldn’t afford to have that third child; like children are some sort of right, like the earth can currently sustain all the people we already have. Seriously Lady, seriously? And Radio 4 this counts as a legitimate concern?

It was around about the time I was yelling at the washing machine, who was making a tonne of noise, that I suddenly realised who I was actually angry at and of course, that person was me.

I felt like I could fix the rest of the world but I couldn’t settle down and fix me. I know what I have to do – most of the time when I get this mad, I always know what I have to do and that makes me even more mad, it just seems like I’ve not got the guts to do it and I HATE being a chicken.

Then I remembered I hadn’t blogged and I got the Mean Reds all over again.

I haven’t blogged because I’m scared and embarrassed and slightly intimidated. I want to write about things other than cancer but I don’t know if I can. I want to write about flippant fripparies of girliness but I’m worried that means I’ll come across as shallow. I want to write about things I’ve been finding useful in my day to day but I’m shy, cause what do I know? I want to write about food I like to eat. I want to write about house plants, how I love to hate running, and how there are times, when nothing is more pleasing to me than applying smeary gold eyeshadow because it’s summer and heck, it’s my face.

I spiralled down even lower when I remembered I wrote this post, almost 2 years ago and it was meant to serve as a reminder; of what I should be doing, what I shouldn’t be wasting, and most importantly to be grateful.

I’ve mentioned this a thousands times but I’m (usually) a huge fan of gratitude. My internal theme tune to cancer was Pharrel’s Happy. The book that got me through breakups was the Happiness Project (which ironically I’m re-reading at the moment, ironic because I’m grumpy not that I’ve broken up with A).

I like to be happy and I like to be grateful, I’d go further, I think as a member of the privileged West it’s my duty to be happy and grateful but sometimes it’s gosh darn hard and sometimes I just want it easy because I’m lazy and come from the privileged West.

So today, to kick start writing about things other than cancer and to remind me to be brave and grateful; I give you my first “Gratitude is an Attitude” List. Let’s take it as read that I’m greatfully grateful for my family, friends, health etc. This is going to be about the little things:

1) I lot of my small gratitudes are food related, I’m not going to lie. So I’ll just smoosh them together here and call it 1.

I’m grateful for S’mores at the weekend if the weather is good, I’m grateful for stealing sips of A’s ice cold beer after we’ve been working down the allotment – I could have my own but someone else’s tastes so much better. I’m grateful for the idea of ice-cream sandwiches and bad movies on a hot night. For the thousand courgettes we’ve harvested because if I wasn’t grateful I’d be sick of courgette. That somebody figured out that savoury nuts and milk chocolate is possibly what the angels eat… phew that’s probably enough for now.

2) I am grateful for the plant I have whose leaves look like hearts.

3) I’m grateful for the feeling of the cold bucket after I’ve been sitting in the sauna. I’m also grateful for the smell of the wood in the sauna.

4) I’m grateful for the bowl of stones and shells from all the beaches A and I have ever walked on together.

5) I’m grateful for the familiarity of favourite books. They are word friends who weave happy and protective shells around us.

6) I’m grateful for candles that smell of Roses and Earl Grey tea.

7) I’m grateful for colourful nail polish and that Chanel once brought out a gold one called Diwali, which is also my favourite word. So, I’m grateful for favourite words too.

8) I’m grateful that my stomach muscles ache because this means I’m getting them back and that I’ve been laughing a lot.

9) I’m grateful for long car journeys with A because everyone knows this is when the real life s*&t gets sorted.

10) I’m grateful that I can remember (eventually) that writing and publishing on my little corner of the internet makes me ridiculously happy, even if it’s just me that reads it….

Ok, I feel better now. I’m going to be writing silly little oddities more frequently I think. Sorry if that bugs you.

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Dear A – a funny sort of love letter

You know that clock that shows the Earth’s age and then blows your mind by reminding you that humans have only been around for like a second? Well, if that clock was for marriages, A and I would be a millisecond.

Which probably goes some way to explaining why I’m not that great at marriage (yet). I’m really not, there are days when I think “man, I did not win at marriage today” or “wow, that was some bad marriage-ing just there”. It normally involves tissues in the washing machine, inadvertent messiness, hangry meltdowns or eating all the Maya Gold chocolate in the house.

I wish this was an exaggeration but it’s really, truly not – willingly splitting the last 4 squares of chocolate (instead of eating it all, which is my gut instinct) is one of my best marriage moves.

I can’t even use the word husband that often, I bottle it and end up saying “my A.” instead.

You are probably going to laugh at me when I tell you that this is a love letter. My thought was, as paper signifies Year One of marriage, I’d be throughly modern and print out a blog post for A. I think I’m proving, right here, just how brilliant I am at this marriage business.

That’s right people, I’ve been grappling with marriage for almost a year now, actually I guess that’s more of a ‘we’ thing (the ‘we’ thing, that’s marriage 101). We’ve been grappling with marriage for almost a year – 28th of May, if anyone’s wondering.

And like I said, I’m not brilliant at it, I’m even slightly embarrassed to celebrate our anniversary. I mean 10, 20, 30 years, that I get, that’s weighty. You’ve got to respect that kind of sticking power. I’ll throw us a ticker-tape parade when we reach a decade. But a year? What business have we to celebrate that? That’s blink and you’ll miss it territory.

Plus, it’s not actually a year, we’ve been together (mostly, anyway) for nearly 7 years! Do those 6 previous years get wiped from our slate? I’m not cool with that, those 6 years were hard won. We learnt some painful lessons in those years, we grew up in those years, we survived those years. I’m damn proud of those years. They were a lot tougher than our first newly wed year, that’s for sure and certain.

Also, I guess I’m new to this, but should I need a special day to celebrate a wedding? I prefer living a marriage. I rejoice daily, or at the very least weekly, when I realise that waking up to A is a rest of my life deal. If he’s away for work, it makes my heart glad, that he is legally contracted to come home to me, eventually. When flying back from a blissful holiday together, though sad, it’s fine really because we fly home together.

I’m hoping I can learn marriage or more importantly partnership by example. We’re surrounded by couples who show us what that truly looks like. We know fellow elopees, the newly engaged, some who have a scant year on us and the seven year itchers. We have role models for whom marriage isn’t their jam; who survive just fine without the paperwork. There are others who have been married for decades.

It is endlessly fascinating to me, watching how these people do it. How they compromise, work through their junk, How they LOVE.

They love in a way that is sure and true and deep. They love despite some things and because of others. They love through the uncertainty, this minefield of a life. They love through morning breath and explosive diarrhoea. They love in a way that makes sharing the chocolate come easily.

And it’s all so bloomin’ different it seems to me; someone’s total deal breaker, is another person’s Tuesday afternoon.

We talk about the uniqueness of snowflakes but it’s this weaving, complex dance, this joining with a some one else, that’s unique – and hopefully less icy.

So do we celebrate the art of love or surviving relatively intact? Can we celebrate halcyon days or not quitting this year? Do we celebrate the memory of the day we decided to be brave? Does what we celebrate change from year to year?

Some people shun it, some people have fought tirelessly for the right to do it. Marriage clearly isn’t for everyone. I’m not even sure it would have been right for me with anybody else. It wouldn’t have stuck. It’s the being married to A that fits. It fits like it doesn’t need celebrating. We are just where we should be.

So for that reason, I want to get good at marriage because all I really know is, for me, being married to A feels better than not being married to him. I want to continue to have the privilege and it is a privilege, of loving him and being loved by him.

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Out of Office / Out of My Mind

I am away. Out of Office. Yet compelled to write.

I read a lot when I go away. I’m in an Agatha Christie zone at the moment, so much so that I’m living a kind of weird half life as an 85 year old sleuther I’m not sure that A. my 32 year old companion appreciates being on holiday with this weird hybrid, especially as I am not that cool as my 36 year old self. In all honesty I think Miss Marple has me pipped to the post in most departments but as Cava is 3 Euros a bottle; I’m not sure any of us are actually worrying.

To give myself and A. a break I decided to give Lena Dunham “Not that kind of Girl” a go. It has been downloaded and forgotten on my iPad for 2 years now. It’s eye opening, especially to the 85 year old in me. I am intimidated. I’m about half way through it. So far I’m wondering if everyone who is raised in NYC, grows up at light speed, if that’s a good thing and pondering whether I should (while simultaneously being relieved that I don’t) have more/any weird sex stories.

Plus there’s her huge talent for writing, directing and acting. Plus there’s her age. I am intimidated.

It’s dangerous reading, which is probably why it’s taken me 2 years to get to. It’s dangerous because as anyone who’s be eyeballing up their existences knows, when faced with the achievements of those younger than yourself, you can easily feel you’ve made all the wrong choices about all the wrong things. That time is marching on and you are none the wiser about who you are and whether you are remotely on the right path.

You can feel at ease one day, that this is the way everyone feels and the next you feel oh so foolish that you didn’t have the balls to write about it when you were 25. That it’s taken you a full decade longer to be even a little bit comfortable with expressing yourself or thinking that the way you form sentences isn’t just the way that everyone else does, so why bother doing it?

I like articles that tell me that 40 is the new 30, mainly because I feel like I turned 30 and then hit pause, every birthday since I’ve blown out my candles and wished, really WISHED that some semblance of a normal year would follow. Every New Year’s I’d baptise myself in fizzing bubbles meaning to wipe the slate clean and start again shine and new (sidenote: waking up with a hangover doesn’t really work with this symbolic gesture, you feel rusty before you begin).

Then someone would die, have a breakdown, break my heart or get cancer (mostly me) and normal would seem like a unicorn in a tutu. Then life would be about ‘getting through’ or ‘surviving’ and whining about it on this here little blog and I’d put off for another year the actual things that make you a grown up, which nobody can explain but I feel that I’ve yet to achieve.

Then last November I blew out my candles and wished for a quiet year but this time I got it and I’ve spent many hours since trying to create the drama that seems more normal to me. Like a sailor who still sleeps in a hammock while she/he’s on shore leave. High stakes and heightened emotions feel like my norm, cold turkey seems so much greyer than I predicted.

It’s not just big dramas either, take this holiday. I refused to pack until about an hour before we departed. It’s weird.

So now I sit here in our little piece of heaven for a week in a sort of lovely duel solitary confinement – we have a pool, sun loungers and a BBQ, we really don’t need to see anyone else and it’s like the sun is actually drying me out, mellowing me out.

Until I pick up Ms Dunham’s book and come face to face with everything I am not. My drama addicted brain starts pushing my buttons and I’m twitchy and spoiling for something I can’t quite put my finger on. Then I turn the page and learn that she is frightened of dying and of cancer. And suddenly I can’t relate but in a totally different way. So I go back to Agatha Christie and watch my scars, both inside and out, turn golden (under a heavy layer of factor 50) in the sun.

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Going Rogue is in Vogue

We are messing with my Meds. Which means we are messing with my hormones. Which means trouble. While I say ‘we are messing with my meds’ in a chavilar fashion, I’d like to make it clear it is with the full permission of my Specialist and Nurse, I have not gone rogue.

My cancer was oestrogen sensitive which means, in short, that my type of cancer feeds off of a hormone being produced by my body, which is a bummer. I am very fortunate that there is a pill that can suppress oestrogen production. I am very grateful for it and I’m very, very lucky that I have this option. However, what this means is that my body and these pills have been waging an internal war for about 18 months now. There is always collateral damage in war and the side effects (for me, not everyone) have felt pretty brutal.

Until about a month ago I’d not had a decent night sleep in 2 years ( I know new parents, neither have you, but my Pills don’t redeem themselves by giving me kisses or giggling at my funny faces), coupled with leg cramps, a clouded mind and crippling hot flushes 4 times hourly, I was getting a little down – depression is another side effect.

So I got parole, 3 months off the meds and it’s eye opening. I have a brain again, can concentrate on reading and writing, can swim for longer, I laugh more and for the first time in ages can go out late, dancing, no less. I feel like I’m finding myself again (well not again), finding the new person on the other side of all of this and it’s exciting and a little weird. I feel like a human, an actual human, not an automaton.

Not that flooding my body with hormones again hasn’t had it’s own issues. Remember when you look back at the cringe inducing teenage diaries you wrote, or observe a pack of teens all awkward in a park? You know how you sign and think to yourself, “you could not pay me enough to be that age again” ? Well, I have a feeling that this rush of hormones is plunging me distinctly into the teenage zone. Only now, at my age, it feels AMAZING though somewhat confusing and yes, socially awkward at times.

I’m enjoying freedom, I’m enjoying freedom so much I’m not quite sure how I’m going to go back to jail again. The Specialists like to quote statistics, it’s all about projected years of life VS cancer VS my age, at least I think that’s what they talk about. I cannot keep the information in my head. Not in my usual ditzy way, I simply can’t try and live a normal-ish life with that information in my head. They’ve told me these stats at least 10 times now and each time, Poof! gone by the following week.

You want to know the craziest thing? The pills give me a 1 to 2 percent extra bit of protection, just 1 to 2 percent!

So I’m trying to figure out if I live life to the fullest, happiest, joy fuelled-ness and live without the extra 1 to 2 percent chances or do I go back to a greyer, safer, tougher way of living? I guess writing it like that you can see the way I’m swaying. Yet, what do I do with the guilt? if it comes back, for the people who don’t have the opportunity of the wonder pill? But what if I take the pill and it comes back anyway but my days haven’t been quite as sunny?

Answers on a postcard please!

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Burtaversary!

This is an email I sent to A. just before my diagnosis, he was away on an international tour, I used to find this email sad but now I just think how far we’ve come.

Benign Tumour! Almost! I’ve named him Burt.

Hello my dearest flying man,

So I met a very kind Dr today.

I also got to look at the ultra sound of my breast.
Burt is about 17mm wide, and if it is a Fibroadenoma- a benign  tumour caused by stress. Thank you 2013! 
It’s 90% likely that it is but he took a core biopsy – results on Tuesday.
That was not a pleasant one but more   thorough than the needle biopsy. Had a local anaesthetic and then they cut the skin poke a big needle in and punch a core of the tumour out. He should me the sample after, it looks like a little worm.It’s pretty sore now but ok at the time. I got to watch it all on the ultra sound which was pretty cool.
Might have to have it removed in future. 
I was very brave. Just a thought when your thinking of presents….;-) I jest I jest!
Love,
Me 
O

Skipping forward some stages it has now been two years of colossal highs and lows. I wanted to mark my 2 year Burtavsary with a short ‘state of the union’ about what I’ve learnt and what I’m still struggling to learn.

It takes a bloomin’ long time to grow your hair back.  My hair is apparently about 3 months away from a short 20′s style bob, presently I don’t feel I have a hairstyle, more like a mop on the top of my hear that wilfully refuses to do my bidding (which I have been informed is perfectly normal for a two year old).

It takes even longer to grow your eyebrows back, which is odd. I’ve also learnt that eyebrow serums can give you werewolf cheeks – if applied before bed and smeared over your face – it stimulates all hair growth apparently.

Chemo weight is very, very hard to lose, especially when you love cake…..

Sometimes it’s very, very hard not to just wander around repeating “what the hell was that, what the hell happened.” This was not meant to be my life but then A. dances past in a striped pair of pants, old skool RnB on spotify and you wonder if it wasn’t what happened maybe life wouldn’t be as sweet.

I still think about cancer daily, I still have to talk about it a lot. I beat myself up about this but then I think; if I’d seen a talking chicken or a flying monkey I’d probably still be talking about that. Cancer is as shocking as a flying monkey.

If cancer is a weeping, bloody wound, recovery is like an itchy scab. When you have an open wound people comment; when you’re covering up a scab no one talks about it. Except if it’s a shark bite then you can be all like  “hey, I got bit by a shark” and you’re cool. Recovery is sometimes as lonely as swimming around and waiting for Jaws.

Sometimes these days, when nothing much is happening, feel like loopy bubbles of pure joy. Other days I feel a bit like I’d imagine Odysseus felt a few months after he was finally back from Troy – a bit like he should still be outsmarting Sirens and dodging Cyclopes’, I guess when you’ve finished something epic everyday sometimes feels a little everyday.

Hot flushes are the devils work.

I wish I could say that I learnt the secrets of the universe while puking my guts up or the strength of Samson returned with my hair but it didn’t. I’m just a person that something rubbish happened to like a lot of other people are. I think I laugh a little more easily, I’m happier to speak my mind more openly, on a good day I remember to count my considerable blessings and on a bad day a remember there have been worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five years more

Dearest Ma,

It has been five years again, last year I was convinced it had been five years – four didn’t seem hardly long enough for how long I’d been missing you. Four years seemed like no time at all and so much has happened in the years since you died. As always lots has changed since last year but that is what happens when someone is gone, they miss stuff and they are missed.

I hate January, I mean I really hate it. It only really occurred to me in the past few weeks but nothing good ever happens in January. This year Alan Rickman and David Bowie died and that’s not even scratching the surface, they’re just the ones the media has told me to care about. So no nothing good happens in January. Apart from Marla, Marla is a great thing to happen in January but apart from that January can jog on, as can February. March is where it’s at.

Well, you’re probably wondering why I’m spending our yearly communication prattling about the little things and not filling you in on the ‘news’. Well Ma, that’s what I miss, I miss discussing the little things. The daft things, the funny things, the mad, bad, sad things that we’d chat about on the phone or bitch about in the kitchen. That’s what makes me feel your loss.

Did I miss you when I got married? yeah, I did that – I got married and it is awesome. I missed you, but truth be told as we had but a single (though very lovely) guest it made things easier. All the faces were missing so yours didn’t standout as it usually does in its absence.

What I miss is asking you about this actual marriage business not the wedding.

It’s the little things that make up a day not the giant things that make up a lifetime.

Like the recipes I try and recreate that don’t taste like yours.

Like grumbling that it has been almost 18 months and my eyebrows have yet to properly grow back (to which I’m sure I’d have been given sympathy and then a sound talking to).

Like the fact that you will never, ever know what happened at the end of Downton Abbey.

There are amazing plays and performances you have missed.

Political Scandals, though I guess I’m glad you have been spared Donald Trump but still.

I’d like your opinion, I’d like your laughter, I’d like your god damn tears and I don’t like having to miss you instead.

I guess I’m lucky, you had a strong voice and an opinion on everything. In my minds eye or my brains ear if I’m quiet and still or just not thinking directly about it your opinion comes to me. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes not but it comes just the same.

I guess that’s what a parental legacy is being here, in me, even when you’ve been gone five whole years.

I love you Ma, I always will.

Me xxx

red toes

Do These Genes Look Good on Me?

Sometimes Facebook tells me when it’s been a while since I blogged. It actually says “it’s been a while since your audience has heard from you”. It’s been saying that a lot lately, I’m slightly tickled about having an audience.

Well, little blog it has been a while. I wanted so much not to just bleat on about cancer, to move forward. I thought I wouldn’t write until I had something else to say again but cancer still skulks about in my shadows (the spectre not the physical form, thankfully). It’s hanging about a little closer at the moment.

So, I feel fairly certain I should write, it helps and I’ve learnt you shouldn’t spurn help just because it will hurt your pride. Yoga and meditation have been helping, I am a rubbish but diligent mediator, a bad case of jumping monkey mind. It’s just time for the big guns….

In many ways I’m a creature of habit, the Eskimos may have over 300 words for snow, I’ve about the same when it comes to describing the exact hue of a red nail polish. I’ve almost enough to ombre my nails (9). A. doesn’t think a 10th is really a necessary purchase, he’s wrong. And if there really are 50 shades of Grey, I’ve at least a third of them hanging in sweatshirt-form in my closet.

Does this bother me? I hadn’t really considered it not until recently. A. is the same, Oxford Blue Shirts (each slightly different) and I’d forgotten how much we teased my Papa about his 4 different pairs of the same shoe, each worn slightly differently. Forgotten, until I was visiting his house recently, laundry day as it happened, and there they were; Navy is my Papa’s colour, tonally different but sweatshirts just the same.

It amused me and gladdened my heart his habits are my habits, peas in a pod. Then I wondered if it went deeper – skin and bone and blood and cells and DNA deep.

You see folks I’m being genetically tested, BRCA 1 & 2. I’ve been waiting a while, it’s called the “Angelina Jolie Affect”, a lot more people are aware (hurrah) but that means the longer the wait. That’s not a bad thing, you can push it out of your mind mostly, so far back that the alarm bell is more like a fairy bell tinkle but the nearer results day comes the more like a klaxon it sounds.

Nothing will change but perhaps something will shift. They’ll be decisions to be made again but I’ve made tough decisions before, there will be more statistics and I hate statistics but the threat is not imminent. I’m still cancer free. So what does knowing or not knowing actually achieve? Why does it seem to matter so deeply to me? Why have the darn test in the first place?

Well, for me, I’ve already had cancer, my risk of return is higher than the average bear, so why not know. I’m a forewarned is forearmed kinda gal.

I can then choose to cut off my breasts and remove my ovaries. It’s extreme but it lowers my risk of return to civilian levels again, and maybe I get some respite from the bloomin’ hot flushes from Tamoxifen – so they’re big pluses. It would mean MRI’s every year, which is not my favourite thing but I’d feel more secure having an MRI than a mammogram (my tumour was undetectable on the mammogram). Apart from the higher rate of return and the (shall we say) full on surgery it’s not too bad.

Truth be told, I always assumed it was probably genetic, there’s a lot of cancer in my family. A lot, a lot. But what if it’s not? what if it’s fluke? With my families track record, this would blow my mind. What have I done to cause it, what have I not done? No one to blame but yourself and your cells and you make those. No wonky Gene defence, nowhere to hide. If it was fluke then Karma, luck, and a higher being is out the window because I’ve had my share of pain (and yes, life doesn’t work that way and yes, people suffer more than I have, much much more but not knowing and waiting make me selfish). Minds Will Be Blown.

I keep my toes painted red and I slip on my grey sweatshirt armour because it’s simple and I love simple. Simple on the outside because what lies beneath, way way down, DNA down, well that’s just too complicated for now.

2.5

Marriage: The first 2.5 months (longest I’ve ever been married)

Having now been married for a grand total of two and a half months, I’ve decided this fully entitles me to write a post about what I’ve learned being a wife (!). It will be long and exhaustive to represent the many, many hours of married life I have under my belt. So here are the Top Five things I’ve gathered so far….

1) When I was younger I often read Erich Segal’s novel Love Story – mainly because it was pretty short and our copy had a wonderfully 70′s pop art image on the front. It had all sorts of wonderful elements to it – college life, young marriage, hidden illness and death – oh the delightful tragical-ness of it all. It also tried to teach me that being in love, means never having to say you’re sorry.

Well, 2 months of marriage has taught me that this is bullshit. While I can see the romance of that sentiment, you absolutely need to say you’re sorry. Speaking from experience, we tend to be far more ghastly, far more vicious, to those we love best; as opposed to work-colleagues or strangers. Yet, we are quicker to apologise to those types, never mind that they aren’t going to cook us dinner, dry our tears or split the bills (well not often anyway). Far more prudent to apologise to a spouse, who, let’s face it can turn the life-support machines off. I have a fear that the consequences of not saying sorry for bad behaviour or misdeeds can ripple down the ages and I want lots of ages.

So apologise and mean it when you ought. The making up is rather fun.

2) Compromise is not a mythical and far away kingdom. It’s more like the name of the next street over, you actually have to walk up and down it regularly, especially if you’re popping to the shops.

I learnt more about this when we were planning our little celebration recently. The celebration started life not having anything to do marriage, it was about growing hair etc. I had secret Pinterest boards and fantasies about flower crowns, it helped brighten the vegetative post chemo days.

Then we eloped and boom the party had another meaning too. Which meant another human (who I’d just promised to share everything with) suddenly started having opinions! I mean WTF?!? It took me a little while to get used to this new state of affairs. Obviously I was gracious and accommodating at every turn, it definitely was not when I learnt the importance of an apology.

However, at some point, when my version of events was not entirely tallying up to A’s version. I realised how lucky I was to have such a hands-on and interested partner. It would have been awful if he cared not a jot, simply grunting in response to the hundred paper cranes I folded.

3) Apparently married couples who hobby together stay together. I can testify to that – even when A and I split up, we still co-managed our allotment (which probably was an indication that we weren’t entirely done yet). The was often a lot of angry digging or weeding but neither of us backed away.

You always have something to talk about with shared hobbies but what I’m learning the other side of “I do” is; that having separate hobbies can be jolly useful too. While I’m sure A wishes I was more interested in bikes or space and while I sometimes wish I’d never pointed out to A. that he swims like a frog. The time and space away from each other means we are ever so pleased to see the other upon our return. Plus, as we don’t have a TV it gives us more topics to talk about…

4) That song from Guys and Dolls is wrong, you can’t “marry a man today and change his ways tomorrow”. Thankfully I figured this out pre-wedding. The fundamentals of a person cannot and will not change. You marry them and their inability to navigate (me) or their need to hit an inanimate object which has some how wronged them, e.g. the chair they stubbed their toe on (A).

It is far, far better to try to find these quirks endearing or, in a pinch, ignore them all together. But seriously folks, you picked the strawberry, if you really wanted the apple, pick the apple because flambé, bake or liquidise – that strawberry ain’t never going to be an apple. You and your fruit will end up rotten, and mouldy probably with incredibly low self-esteem, for reasons of poor fruit choice. (I’m writing this on a fast day and clearly have food on the brain)

5) There’s a scene in When Harry met Sally where Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby’s characters have been listening to the angst of their dating friends. Carrie turns to Bruno and says “promise me, I never have to be out there again”. The best bit about marriage thus far? Being legally bound to my best friend, who also happens to be really rather yummy. It’s awesome. I recommend it to anyone. While I don’t think it has entirely changed our relationship or how we feel about each other. The safety of never having to be “out there” – be that dating or job-hunting or a hospital waiting room – alone is liberating. But please pick someone as opposed to anyone.

Now A. is nearly home from work and I’m going to have to put all of the above into action because I nearly burnt down the flat today (electric stove vs. plastic chopping board). So perhaps number 6 on the list will be that you can’t divorce someone for being scatty. A is a subscriber to little blog so I’m hoping he’ll read this, shake his head and thank his lucky stars he loves a scatty woman or shake his head and realise that he loves me despite of my culinary pyrotechnics.