pollygosh

A Few of My Favorite Things

So on Friday I have my last Chemo! I also get my PICC Line removed, no more Robo-Arm. I know, right? I’m bound to go into detail, at some point, about how this is blowing my mind but for now I thought I’d offer up something far more practical and hopefully, useful.

Chemo is harsh. It’s harsh on all the cells in your body. They in turn start to freak out in many new and exciting(!) ways. Mainly by falling out (hello hair) and generally dying or getting really, really dry and sore. I’ve complied a list of all the things that I’ve tried that actually work, at least they work for me.

I’m a skin care and beauty junky so it’s pretty extensive and some are pricier than the average Pharmacy product. Sorry about that, I am who I am. The way I figure it, going through Chemo is a pretty good time to roll out some serious TLC. I try, no matter how rubbish I’m feeling, to look after my skin. Not only does it soothe the soles it soothes the soul (boom boom). At a time when I’m subjecting my body to a battery of hideous chemicals and I can’t protect it from the consequences; what gives me more feeling of control so doing what I can to make it feel better.

Also (and this sounds dumb), I’ve sometimes blamed my body for all of this and hated it. Instead of punishing it, I try to do some thing kind instead. It reminds me it’s not our fault, it’s just some rogue cells.

The TLC List:

coconut oil

I don’t know what I’d do without coconut oil, it is a staple, click above for more info on the benefits and multiple uses. I started of using it on my scars and my love blossomed from there. It’s great to cleanse your face with, sounds weird but it removes all sorts of grime and make-up while not stripping your face. The fact that it has antibacterial properties makes me feel like it’s helping with my weird post-chemo rashes. I use it on my scalp too (not if I’ve going bald in the sun obviously!) as it’s meant to strength hair and help with dandruff – I’m getting a head start! Use it on your body too and in your cooking. It’s brill.

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Pai Rosehip Oil

Great for scars and great for your face. At night and presently during the day too (my skin hates me at the moment), I mix this is coconut oil and smother my face in a bid to appease it. It helps a great deal.

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ByTerry Rose Baume De Rose

Ok, you are all going to choke if you click below and see the price of this. For a lip balm? I know appalling BUT severely chapped and bleeding lips are so sore and, trust me, you are going to be sore enough. Best treat the things you can. Incidentally, lip balms have always held a corner of my heart – I have tried a lot, a lot a lot. The greasy, petroleum jelly based ones DO NOT work on really chapped lips. Cheaper ones mostly slide off pretty quickly too. This one sticks around and offers sweet, sweet relief. I have had my pot since Summer 2013 (stress induced skin freak out) and have used it every evening before bed and I’ve still not finished it up. So, cost per wear is pretty low, that’s what I say!

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Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask

If you are State side or have a friend who is, this is a slightly cheaper alternative to the above, it’s equally (or perhaps more) amazing.

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Bodyshop Hemp Hand Cream

A very, very long time ago I used to work in The Bodyshop and this was a newish product. We used to sell out, have waiting lists and a constant stream of customers after this. These people had the sorest looking hands I have ever seen; eczema covered, chapped and bleeding hands. They swore this soothed them like nothing else. I now use it on my hands and feet.

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Shea Butter

When I’m not using the Hemp Hand Cream, I use Shea Butter. Click the link above for all the good properties. I like to use it to give my feet a good massage and my oddly scaly legs too. I’ve got an old tin from goodness knows where that I started using just to use darn thing up. Now I really hope it lasts until after chemo. It smells super yummy too.

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Lush Dream Cream

Soothing, soothing body lotion that doesn’t offend my delicate sense of smell. It helps a lot with any itching but I do also use the coconut oil or shea butter as well – my skin is Sahara dry.

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This Works Sleep Range
The pillow spray is amazing if pain or fears are keeping me awake.

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Sensodyne Gentle Mouthrinse
I’ve not had any mouth worries, ulcers and the like, for which I am incredible grateful. This is the only thing I’ve been using constantly, so I included it here.

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Soap and Glory Exfoliating Scrub Glove
This is going to seem like the last thing you want to do to grumpy skin but I think a light scrub has really helped. These are the softest and most cushioned ones I could find. I also thing it has helped to occasionally use them on my scalp, weirdly I have had some ingrown hairs up there! Who knew? This helps free them and prevent more. Just go gently and wash the gloves often, to prevent nasties breeding.

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Philip Kinsley No Scent No Colour

Prior to all this, my scalp hated me. I was using this shampoo before I got sick, as it was the only thing that soothed me. I didn’t actually know it was formulated for chemo hair until later. I use it to clean my scalp now, an important step.

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Laura Mercier Sheer Lip Colour

Sadly, steroids and Chemo have taken their toll and wearing make-up leaves me looking a lot like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. My lovely Cousin S. sent me this lipstick in Baby Lips, it matches my (healthy and long gone) lip colour perfectly and is the only make-up I wear at the moment. It’s a sad time.

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Dr Bronner’s liquid soap

This stuff as a tonne of uses and is mild enough for my weirdo skin.

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I’ve stopped using antiperspirants daily, I figure my body has enough chemicals in it and it probably wants to expel them. Who am I to try to stop it? The deodorants below are very effective alternatives.

Soapwalla Deoderant

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Lavanila

Think this one is an America only one, I’m afraid.

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Glad Press and Seal food wrap
This is going to seem like an odd one but bear with. You need to keep your PICC line dry and away from infection, the hospital will suggest baths and cling film. I hate cling film; it never seemed to work, is a pain to try to wrap around your self and seems to slip off at a moments notice. Mum used to bring this stuff back from the states by the suitcase full and distribute it around the family. I have finally found its ultimate purpose. As it’s highly sticky and forms a tighter seal than cling, it is perfect for PICC line care. Just try not to think of the environment, Cancer is really bad for our planet. The link below is a similar product for those in the UK, I think you can get the GLAD version in ASDA and for silly money on Amazon.

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DryPro Waterproof PICC Line Protector
I prefer showers and I love to swim, I was heart broken when I was told the PICC line would hinder me in this. I was told a big fat ‘NO’ to swimming, infections abound. I managed to find 1 nurse willing to hear me out. She was a PICC line expert who said, as I swim outdoors and provided I didn’t swim while my bloods were low, I could try it. I just needed to find a way of keeping the line protected. A’s mum found this and it has been a god-send. It does require help getting into, so if A or Dad are not around, it’s a no go. It really keeps everything dry while showering, it’s reasonable while swimming. The packaging suggests you can water ski but I’d contest that. It’s worth a look at but check with your medical professionals before taking the plunge (so to speak).

buy here

You’ve probably noticed that I’m using a number of natural products, mainly because I’ve adverse to adding more chemicals to my system. I think these are gentle and equally, if not more effective than their chemically laidened cousins.

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10 Things I Sometimes Contemplate May Have Given Me Cancer But Probably Didn’t…Vol 2

I’ve been contemplating what led me here again. Think I’ve nailed it this time.

1) When I was small, I used to really like chewing paper, I don’t recall why, mainly because I was one weird little chick. I seem to remember after-supper mandatory mouth searches and lumps of Kitchen Roll being fished out…. I’m glad I grew out of this.

2) Karma – we’ve all done things we’re not proud of, perhaps mine were a whole lot worse than I thought. I’ve never killed anyone though; I once got accused of poisoning an actress (by the actress who was not, it turns out, poisoned) but I didn’t and that’s another story. I was told (while my mum was sick the first time) by a deeply religious person, that the cancer was her sins manifesting themselves. I was too young and too shocked (this person was a friend) to give this its proper response. I do so now “FUCK OFF”. Or it could be a Voodoo Doll thing. Any enemies out there willing to negoicate a pin removal, I’ve got poison cookies?

3) While small, my brother and I had a sick fascination with licking AA batteries. I seem to remember we did this while bored on long car journeys. We’d have to be stealthy, parents for some odd reason aren’t supportive of such things (go figure). We’d pop the batteries from the back of our Philips Walkmen (mine was yellow, shaped like a triangle and was constantly playing Bonnie Tyler’s Lost in France, the only tape I owned -it was the 80′s) and silently giggle as we buzzed our tongues…. again super glad I grew out of this, though the siren call of the battery is sometimes tempting.

4) The fact that until I was really far too old, I refused to wear a bra or even a crop. I had no desire to grow up. It was a change in P.E kit that forced the situation; air-tex is unforgiving. I got a crop-top from Tescos, I think it had a rainbow on the front and synthetic lacy round the bottom. It itched. Its first outing was to a Roller Disco. Nice.

5) Louise Hay (I’m loath to give lots of info about her here because I have complex feelings about her, google her if you’re intrigued but take it all with a massive pinch of salt) says that breast cancer in the left breast is caused by “Feeling unloved, refusal to nourish oneself. Putting everyone else first.” Well then, I’m surprised that there’s not a huge glut of insecure twenty and thirty something women with left breast cancer, or teens. I’m also a Stage Manager, so I was doomed, doomed I say. But never fear, this affirmation will help : I am loved and nourished by all around me So that’s sorted then.

6) I have sometimes, occasionally and never, ever on purpose swallowed gum. I know, I know.

7) I’m a complete straight-laced, geek who has never smoked or experimented with any drugs. ever. I’m not just saying it because my Dad reads little Blog either, I’m really just that dull.* You’d think that might act in my favour right? However, once, while making a ‘Hippy’ costume – actually it was a Hippopus Costume (it’s a type of clam) for an Invertebrate Ball (total geek), we dressed as Hippies and carried pictures of Opus the Penguin (geeeeeek) – I digress. Anyway, the hippy costumes needed a joint, obviously, so we made some out of paper. We then, for authencity of burn marks took a drag. NEVER do this, the hit of chemicals from the paper, I swear my lungs felt shredded. I imagine that did some damage. We didn’t even win a prize.

8) I am almost totally deaf in my left ear (it was dodgy when I was small, I had several operations), my left eye has astigmatism, my left foot is slightly bigger than my right….maybe my left side is faulty. Then again, I’ve had my appendix removed (it burst as it was being taken out) and broken my right arm twice. Maybe I’m faulty full stop? Seriously, maybe I am.

9) Guilt. Do you think guilt causes cancer? Gotta lot of Guilt. Please see Karma at number 2.

10) I am STILL using my laptop while lying down with it on my belly / chest. I’m going it now. I REALLY should stop……

So there we go, more reasons I may have got cancer…. feel like it was inevitable really.

NB: This blog post is almost entirely tongue in cheek.

*Also, I have a caffeine allergy, when I partake – I imagine the results are similar to a high of another kind. It rarely ends well. Legal drugs, any legal drugs make me sleepy, I’m not even joking. The steroids I take at the moment? Meant to make me manic, I nap. Hardcore.

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Dear Future Polly

Dear Future Polly,

Lest you forget you are writing this back in the swirling mists of post Chemo 5, (1 more to go!). Last night you ate a dinner that consisted of 95% home-made, home-grown produce and it was gooooood. This morning, though it was early, you were left with words of love, a spattering of kisses AND pastries made by A’s own fair hand. Sure, you’re taking a lot of pills to feel ‘normal’, sure, your super low levels of haemoglobin mean that before too long you may need a blood transfusion; but Future Polly, there are small moments of greatness too. Moments, you will have a hard time recalling during your dramatic retellings of this period of your life. The above is just a little snapshot of your everyday.

Last week you were in a car with Dad, on route to the Doctors (again) for a Hormone Injection (again). It was a sunny, September afternoon and you felt fascinated by the strangers on the streets, walking and talking, waiting for buses, for coffee, for friends, looking worried, or stressed, shouting into phones. Just people living their lives, their totally normal lives. Some noticed you, and pity was registered.

You look sick now, or like the bald, boy cabbage patch kid you had as a child, or a turtle – steroids, steroids have made your cheeks get puffed and swollen – does this happen to weight lifters too? There’s a pallor too, a greyness. A. makes a good point; at least you’re unambiguous now, people don’t struggle or feel uncomfortable looking at a healthy-seeming, bald women. Yup, most definitely sick NOT challenging femininity… Lets all breath a sign of relief, and then pity her. It’s OK, well it’s not, but you’re judging them too, so it sort of is. These busy/non-busy livers of lives are Aliens to you. You judge them because they don’t all seem to be living life at 110% and if they aren’t doing that? You don’t know what they’re doing. They seem distracted by the whole rigmarole of First-World life, mole hills becoming mountains, wherever you look.

The truth is you lived that way too, distractedly, Future Polly, you may well be living that way now. Don’t get me wrong, I hope you’ve moved through this, that it is a facet of you, not a diamond you’re polishing and refusing to let go. I hope there are days, when you forget entirely but be mindful of just what you’re forgetting.

and now I’m getting to the point of this letter! We’ve been bitten on the butt by writing before, we know this. There’s a post written pre-chemo Reality Check that you’d merrily delete. It’s about remembering why you’re doing the Chemo, to LIVE….. eventually. You’d delete it, not least because A. only needs to raise an eyebrow when, after each new round you swear you’re not doing it again. This list below though, take it out occasionally, remember how lucky you are to feel well.

1) I hope you remember when you wake-up each morning to make your first thought a great one, preferably about how nice it is to be healthy. Don’t wake up to a worry. Also, isn’t it great not to have to scan yourself and figure out the aches, pains and fatigue or struggle out of sleep from a pill induced semi-coma? Jump out of bed or snuggle back in but saviour waking up!

2) Isn’t it amazing not to have a lot of bodily functions, pain levels, your very life being regulated by a thousand and one different pills, chemicals and supplements? You no longer shake, macaca stylee, while you walk!

3) You REALLY missed swimming, running, dancing, skipping and walking – in short everything that whirled and whipped your body around. You couldn’t physically do it back then, you can now – sure you want to sit on your ass right now?

4) Remember when we took baths to help try to take the constant ache away? You don’t have to do that now! How awesome is that – go have a bath for fun!

5) You lived for most of a year with a significant amount of tubing between your arm and your heart cavity. It was sore, unsightly, you had to wrap it in plastic to wash and it really hindered your swimming. You can actually just jump in the shower or pool now – yay!

6) You’ve been bald, puffy faced, invisible or pitied. It’s time to dial down the vain. Work on the insides of you, you silly thing. But oh, when you do get a chance to dress up – have the BEST time!

7) OK tough love time – DON’T be too thin or too fat, be honest and be healthy. Don’t pretend to be comfortable if you’re not for society or anyones sake. Don’t lie to your self. Don’t starve yourself (even if you’re heartbroken), don’t over-eat either, even cake. You have an honest-to-god, happy weight. Be sensible enough to maintain it – actually you don’t have a choice because of lymphoma risks etc… You know what you need to do, just do it.

8) Your hands and feet used to be numb and tingly, Your mouth was often grey and dead looking (you’re taste buds stopped working too), Your nose would drip, Your eyes would be dry – the secret life of cells when they are being bleached by Chemo. Be kind to your cells now – Get enough Sleep.

9) Remember how tough it was when you’re brain was lobotomized? You longed to read but couldn’t? How about you turn off youtube, Facebook and the weird website you’re looking at and lose yourself in a book.

10) So you’ve caught a cold/bug/stomach flu – I bet you feel rotten, I am sorry for you but you know what? You’re not actually going to die, Chemo didn’t kill you, so this probably isn’t either. Drink a lot of fluids, sleep and it’ll end in a few days. People don’t need to hear you complain.

11) You no longer have to go through an often embarrassing list of side-effects on a 3 weekly cycle. Your bodily functions are your own business. Plus you no longer have to factor in where Bathrooms are – Hurrah!

12) It has been an awful long time since you’ve had to jam a needle into your own stomach. You did this on and off for approx. 6 months, you NEVER got used to it. Aren’t you lucky you don’t have to do it every day, forever?

13) A lot of people have worked really hard, for a long while, to put you back together again. It’s been tough handing over to them, to feel so out of control; well, you’re back in the driver’s seat now – take responsibility for you.

Future Polly, I hope you’re enjoying life. I’ll write again.

Love,

You. Me. Us.

 

pollygosh_gratitude

Gratitudes, platitudes and the lack there of.

I’m writing this on the evening of Chemo 5, the new treatment option has a perk – vegetable brain kicks in a little slower. I thought I’d take advantage and write while the goings good. The only other perk I’ve noticed with chemo and I have been desperately trying to find one – no more cellulite, it actually has reversed. I’m wondering if I should write to the beauty magazines about it. Grasping at straws here….

I have been reading my old posts, which actually aren’t that old (but a lot can happen in only a few short months, as we’ve learnt), I read the earlier posts and I think to myself “gosh, how lovely and naive”.

There’s a photo I look at too (I think the last one to be taken pre diagnoses) I stare at this photo and my heart aches for that Polly, a women I liked a great deal but don’t feel I know anymore. She’s happy waiting for her mexican food, thinking of churros and hot chocolate to follow. Happy to be with the chap taking her photo.

I think it’s fair to say PollyGosh has hit a darker time. Inevitable really, I so wished to  be a sunny, funny positive light through all of this. I know it makes for a more reassuring read. I’d of loved to be a role model and a guide. Turns out I’m just someone kinda young, going through something hard and I’ve no idea how to handle it any better than anyone else.

I know the posts of late are difficult and unsettling. I’ve debated on occasion making Pollygosh a private and  truly personal space, but people are still reading, so I guess that time hasn’t come yet.

Though you wouldn’t know it at the moment, I’m a big advocate in practicing gratitude; talking to a neutral person, exercise and practising gratitude, are the 3 things I tried, that worked (in that order) to help bump me out of my depression last year.

I read, that to list of 3 things, each night, that you were grateful for could bring about the most positive change in your life. I’m not sure if that isn’t a little simplistic but it certainly helps. To acknowledge your luck etc is a fine way of ascertaining that not everything is as bleak as it could be.

I’ve found this hard of late. Which is hard for me to even admit to. When I wrote about grief, I wrote that simply because you are feeling it gives that feeling legitimacy. Sometimes it’s difficult to marry this view with what I’m feeling at the moment and with finding the gratitude.

The truth I’ve been afraid to write about is I’m not sure I’m even going to like myself very much after all this. It’s a little like being forced into a cocoon hoping for a butterfly but being equally sure a flesh-eating blow fly could emerge instead. A blow fly? What on earth am I meant to do with a blow fly?

I have lost my infinite patience, I have become bratty, bitchy and more forceful in my opinions. I get exasperated by other people’s inability to see how delicate life is, to cut through the petty problems, to look at the bigger picture and realise what they have. I’m not always as scared to voice my views either.

It’s funny the less inclined I am to practice gratitude the more evangelical I am that others should. I want to shake people. As my body is able to do less, I want others to do more. This summer, the worst feeling has been the idea that life is passing me by, things are moving on and I am simply unable to keep up.

Last year, while I was in the depths of despair, my father left an article by Caitlin Moran on my pillow. I believe it was called “advice to my 13-year-old daughter in the case of my death” or something like that. It’s brilliant. I still have it tattered and battered and folded away.

My favourite piece of advice “Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run.”

Pat your legs occasionally. I love that. Totally forgot to do it but I love it.

So I thought to try to maintain some semblance of the person I liked, to hope for a butterfly, I’d finish with the list below.

My hard-fought, gratitude list:

1) That while I’m going through this intensely scary and tough treatment, I am safe in my bed; no coups, no bombs dropping, not worries about how the medicine I need with get to me.

2) That this is happening to me, not a loved one or a child of mine.

3) That prior to my death (which maybe the only, too late time it happens) I have witnessed an out pouring of love and support, the likes of which I’ve never known. It is humbling and precious.

4) My men, they carry the weight of all this. They do it without complaint, without an awful lot of help or recognition. That is love, I am most grateful for it.

5) The friends and family who email, ring and visit. The out of the blue flowers and care packages. I am always touched. It always lifts the mood to know that I am thought of.

6) The thought deep down, I don’t even know what yet, that something good must come out of all this.

7) My medical team, though presently what they tell me is deeply frustrating, I have always felt listened to and my feelings taken into consideration.

8) That my bounce back after Chemo 1 and 2 were sufficient that I could hold on to normalcy for longer.

9) That one night, 5 months ago when I wrote and published a blog post.

10) That this too will pass, maybe not as quickly as I hoped but sometime and the rebuilding of Polly 2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 or whatever version we are on will commence.

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Just Can’t Get it Out of My Head

I can’t decide if I want to be cremated or buried. Hmmmm I have a feeling I need to walk this one back a bit.

If you can believe it, this all started in a totally un-cancer related way. It did start in a waiting room however. I have a dodgy ear, had it for years, it needed checking out and as I love a good waiting room (especially on a day when I’m feeling well), – here we are again.

We can blame this all on Kylie and the lack of a good crossword puzzle. Dad and I completed the puzzle in record time, which led to me discovering  Kylie on the front of Good House Keeping. Good House Keeping? Damn, didn’t it used to be Elle? or Cosmo at least? Now she seemed to be ‘guest editing’ the home decor section. Kylie had cancer once, this was not looking good for the home team.

I digress. While mooching about Good House Keeping, the page falls open on to a ‘Cancer Special’ – I’m not sure if this is just an every month thing; has the age range of GHK gotten really old (again poor Kylie, or do I mean poor me, she was a childhood hero)? or if I just got very, very lucky but anyway….

I’m normally well trained to flip on by this kind of thing. I don’t find it helpful; ’10 things to say to your cancer riddled friend’, ‘I found a lump under my Breast Implant, it wasn’t serious but it could of been – my breasts were fine before but I’m a Z list celebrity and my self-esteem seems inexplicably linked to column inches and my breasts (plus I can cry on cue)”

The photos these sorts of articles use, I mean really, Two young women hugging in a relieved way – all black and white, all vasaline lensed. It was a stock photo of two people who had never had cancer. The cancer surviours were on another page. You could tell because they looked entirely too made up and were not shot in soft focused. These were ‘real’ women.

I digress, again! This was not a good article, the way you could tell that, aside from the above, was the use of attention grabbing ‘Cancer Odds’ in font sizes bigger than anything else on the page. ‘Cancer Odds’ are only comforting to people who’ve never had cancer. I don’t think they’re even comforting then. Does anyone ever look at Odds about their ‘estimated’ life span and feel anything other than unsettled?

I hate cancer ‘Odds’. I must of said this before somewhere on here. Cancer ‘Odds’ are my pet peeve. Mainly because my Grandma was given 6 months to live, she took to her bed (quite literally) and 18 months later she was still there. They can be very wrong. Also, this is life, not a Derby.

There are ‘Odds’ on everything. The act of living is a very risky strategy. ‘Odds’ after lumps though. It’s a bit more personal, a bit more lived in. I tend to avoid these ‘Odds’.

Only this day, I didn’t. It isn’t really a secret that I’ve been *cough* having a tougher, less ‘Pollyanna’ time of things of late. A slight maudlin attitude has been pervading little blog.

I’m not going to recount these Odds here or ever. Dad has done a stellar task putting it in context. I have excellent and reassuring Doctors but it makes a girl think.

Well, the whole having cancer makes a girl think. I’d decided to put off this kind of thinking until after Chemo, one hurdle at a time. However, as we’ve learnt I get a lot of time for thinking and mortality makes it into the top-five more often than not.

So, I’ve been researching Wills, Power of Attorney, and planning my funeral. The sorts if things every 34 year old is doing, right? right?  A. loves coming home from a long day at work to discuss such things. He doesn’t find it depressing at all.

On my best days I see these things as empowering; everyone should communicate their wishes to their loved ones. Especially, while they still have all their marbles; though arguably, as I spend an inordinate amount of time wandering from room to room or staring into the fridge for hours – with no idea what I’m looking for, my ship has sailed….

I’m truly am an advocate, an evangelical even of pre-planning, I believe I spent most of the funeral telling people to get their ducks in line, so to speak.  Mum had very clear instructions which were useful at a very difficult time. It helped us feel we were honouring her as she wished, a final act of love. Did I do it myself? No, I was 31 and grieving.

It took a lump and surgery and Chemo and ‘Odds’.

Only, on my worst day, it’s scary, defeatist AND I can’t decide whether I want to be buried or cremated. There are pros and cons to both. Ideally I’d like a Viking type arrangement but I’m not sure that’s even legal.

Anyone got a compelling argument either way, answers on a postcard please. Oh and I’m contemplating a Kylie track, in honour of a great lady.

 

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Riding In A Car With A Boy

It’s been all quiet on little blog, I have many drafts, of many different types of posts but I’m finding it hard to find the words these days or the concentration span.

So in my come back post (as I am melodramatically thinking of it) I am choosing to write on a subject that I find so intoxicatingly, happy inducing I can’t possibly allow my inner gremlins to sabotage it.

Yes, friends I speak of my love of Country Music.

I know, I know, people will sneer and roll their eyes but as I rock around town as a baldy; sunglasses on and Headphones securely in place. It’s my Country Playlist that makes things OK, through the stares and the nudges and the pity.

Hell, it doesn’t just make things OK it makes me want to DANCE.

I discovered Country Music on a road trip, driving around the US of A. I think the sentence says it all, in fact I defy anyone not to fall for the down-home charms of Country under similar circumstances.

This was my first big trip. It was the first big trip I’d taken with a boy. A boy, I’d only been dating for 9 months, a long distance boy. A boy who I’d only spent time with in small doses – 4 days max.

So we did the only sensible thing and planned a month-long road trip to see how well we really got on. It was our ‘put up or shut up’ moment.

At the time, I’d say I was not the most alluring of travel buddies; I hate planes, I couldn’t drive and I’m THE worst map reader ever. Seriously I have no sense of direction.

I had serious nerves on the eve of our trip. I worried that we didn’t know each other that well, that my carefully cultivated cool (ha!) would be shattered, that we’d be eaten by bears in Yosemite, that we’d somehow, inevitably end up becoming drug mules and spend our lives in jail or worst of all that we’d have nothing to talk about for the long hours of driving. It could have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

It didn’t. We saw amazing sights, ate amazing food, talked an amazing amount, had amazing fights, got amazingly lost – all the good things you’re meant to do on a road trip.

Then we discovered Country Music. More specifically we discovered Kickin’ Country Radio and life got even better.

If you’ve never driven between the pinky, hazy, dusty wonderlands of Arizona, Utah and Nevada on pretty much deserted highways – blasting songs about trucks, beer and girls- well then I’m not sure you’ve really lived.

Same goes for the epic vistas of the California Coast highway, accompanied by songs that remind you just how good life can be, especially if you have a truck, a beer, a good woman and probably an old guitar.

I loved singing loudly and off-key, wind in my hair (back when I had hair) and leading this smiling boy completely the wrong way to a motel that wouldn’t have any rooms free anyway.

The smiling Boy was A. and one month after the trip we moved in together and the Sunday morning Country Music Dance Parties started.

That first trip seems a lifetime ago now but the music remains a touchstone to a life that, for the time being, feels paused. Perhaps the lyrics and the sentiment are a little hokey but I’ll cling to anything that reminds me what it’s like to feel human instead of this sick person. That reminds me to be grateful when I don’t feel inclined. It’s simple but I’m a bit simple at the moment.

Also, if all else fails you can play some excellent drinking games with Country Music – take a drink every time truck, beer, whiskey, hating work, liking fishin’, cheatin’, prayin’, small towns – well you get the picture……You’ll get pretty buzzed.

Top Ten Tracks gracing the Pollygosh Country Playlist:

1) Rain Is A Good Thing – Luke Bryan
Mr Bryan is a lyrical genius, it was not quite believing the lyrics of this tune that first started my love affair.

Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey
Whiskey makes my baby, feel a little frisky
Back roads are boggin’ up, my buddies pile up in my truck
We hunt our hunnies down, we take ‘em into town
Start washin’ all our worries down the drain
Rain is a good thing

2) Country Girls (shake it for me) – Luke Bryan
Mr Bryan again, watching A. crack up every single time he sings “squirrel” with a southern drawl. It kills me. It also makes me “Shake it”.

Shake it for the young bucks sittin’ in the honky-tonks
For the rednecks rockin’ ’til the break of dawn
For the DJ spinnin’ that country song
Come on, come on, come on
Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees
Shake it for the catfish swimming down deep in the creek
For the crickets and the critters and the squirrels
Shake it to the moon, shake it for me girl, aww

3) I’m a Little More Country Than That – Easton Corbin
The Dude is more Country than that and his name is Easton Corbin!

Imagine a dirt road full of potholes
With a creek bank and some cane poles catchin channel cat
I’m a little more country than that

Picture a small town with an old hound
Layin’ out front of the courthouse
While the ol men chew the fat
I’m a little more country than that

4) Here – Darius Rucker
One of my favourites.

I don’t really know how I got here
But I’m sure glad that I did
And it’s crazy to think that one little thing
Could’ve changed all of it

Maybe it didn’t turn out like I planned
Maybe that’s why I’m such, such a lucky man

For every stoplight I didn’t make
Every chance I did or I didn’t take
All the nights I went too far
All the girls that broke my heart
All the doors that I had to close
All the things I knew but I didn’t know
Thank God for all I missed
Cause it led me here to
This

5) Better Get Livin’ – Dolly Parton
It’s Dolly and we know how I feel about Dolly.

I said you’d better get to livin’, givin’
Be willing and forgivin’
Cause all healing has to start with you
You better stop whining, pining
Get your dreams in line
And then just shine, design, refine
Until they come true
And you better get to livin’.

Your life’s a wreck, your house is mess
And your wardrobe way outdated
All your plans just keep on falling through
Overweight and under paid, under appreciated
I’m no guru, but I’ll tell you
This I know is true.

You better get to livin’, givin’
A little more thought about bein’
A little more willin’ to make a better way
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Keep your chin up
Just hang tough
And if it gets too rough
Fall on your knees and pray
And do that everyday
Then you’ll get to livin’.

6) Look It Up – Ashton Shepherd
It makes me smile – revenge country if you will.

The word is faithful, look it up
It don’t mean sneakin’ around
Behind my back like you ain’t gettin’ enough
How ’bout forever, just look it up
It means through thick and thin and
Pitchin’ in even when the times get tough
The word is easy, look it up
And you’ll see a picture of that piece of trash
Ridin’ ’round in your pickup truck

7) Drink In My Hand – Eric Church
If the above is classic female country, this is classic male. Though I’m not convinced I understand a lot of the lyrics…..

Yeah the parking lot is muddy can’t get to the door,
I take my jacked up drop er down in 4×4
Chill down a long neck, warm up the band,
All you got to do is put a drink in my hand

8) Love Like Crazy – Lee Brice
It’s just good life lessons, I don’t even mind the praying reference – cos it rhymes.

Be a best friend, tell the truth
And overuse I love you
Go to work, do your best
Don’t outsmart your commonsense
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy
And love like crazy

9) Country Strong – Gwyneth Paltrow (!)
I’m pretty sure Ms Paltrow didn’t write it but it was one of my favourite songs to run to. Now it just makes me feel a bit tougher.

I have weathered colder winters
Longer summers without a drop of rain
Push me in a corner and I’ll come out fighting
I may lose but I’ll always keep my faith

‘Cause I’m country strong
Hard to break
Like the ground I grew up on
You may fool me and I’ll fall
But I won’t stay down long
‘Cause I’m country strong

10) Gimme that Girl – Dallas Davidson
Just because.

Gimme a girl that’s beautiful
Without a trace of makeup on
Barefoot in the kitchen
Singing her favorite song
Dancing aroun’ like a fool
Staring in her own little show
Gimme the girl that the rest of the world
Ain’t lucky enough to know

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The Brain Vanishes aka Chemo Brain

I pretty sure I wasn’t told about Chemo Brain prior to starting Chemo. I forget.

With that one sentence, I’ve probably covered all you really need to know about the topic of Chemo Brain.

It’s an actual thing. It’s recognised. There’s a knowing nod you get from fellow Chemo people and medical professionals when you’re grappling to remember times, dates, symptoms or your name.

‘Chemo Brain’ is a common refrain around these parts. Mostly when the hob is left on or the radio has been paused for 3 days…. I guess it’s like Baby Brain or Getting older but with no Baby and still this side of 35, it’s all slightly perplexing.

In fact perplexed is probably my fall back facial expression at the moment. For a long time my fall back facial expression, I’m reliably informed, was worried. So I guess perplexed is better? Both lead to furrow lines in my forehead which, due to lack of hair, are more prominent. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again cancer; it’s fun at every turn.

It’s not as bad as the lobotomised feeling I get directly after Chemo but it’s eery, like constantly being wrong footed.

I forget. I forget to send emails, texts. I forget to return calls or I convince myself that I have already done so. Either way it makes me look rude, which I can’t stand.

It makes reading a challenge too. I was a good third of a way through a book, prior to my last Chemo. I’m unable to read for a week after Chemo. Seriously, a short article in a newspaper or magazine takes about 4 sessions to complete. Books are my Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, returning to said book, I can’t remember a darn thing about it. It’s a crime drama. Re-reading it, I get a weird deja vu feeling. Like perhaps I read it in another life.

You know when you are indignantly arguing with someone; say you thought you’d told them about an appointment and they swear blind you didn’t? (not based on actual events) There you are all insistent and self-righteous and then you get the creeping realisation that actually perhaps you didn’t tell them?

I don’t get that anymore. I have total memory lapses. There’s no foggy half memories, it is blank, utter blank. I don’t even get to do the climb down apology. I kinda miss them.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all the time, I’m not a Goldfish…….

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all the time, I’m not a Goldfish.

Although, that somehow makes it worse. I don’t even know when it’s going to strike. Then there is the reliance on others, to trust exactly what they are saying. It’s Hitchcockian, this reliance that they are not trying to send me mad. It’s all very The Lady Vanishes. I could be getting paranoid.

I carry little note books everywhere and I write a lot of lists. Which is all well and good but you have to remember to read the darn things in order for them to work.

The worst is forgetting words. It can be any word. I’ve always been something of a – see it’s just happened, I can’t remember. I’m now going to have to google: Character from a play who mixes up words, possibly beginning with ‘M’……..

Malaprop! That’s it! I’ve always been something of a Malaprop. These days it’s even harder to find the word I want. This makes it difficult to write and that breaks my heart because writing has been my saviour.

Finding or remembering the topics and sharing them in an amusing or useful manner is getting harder and harder. This is why I have 7 draft Blog posts and no new posts on the site.

I’m contemplating a Momento-esque tattooing spree of my ‘truths’, though I’m pretty sure Tattoos and Chemo don’t mix.

Now I know a had an articulate, thoughtful and witty way of finishing this post but as it’s now stuck in the vortex; can you all smile wryly, give a slight head shake and say to yourself “Ah Polly, nailed it again”.

I thank you.

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This post isn’t funny, interesting or informative

I feel like I’m trying to cello-tape my thought processes back together; in a rainstorm, using cheap, non-branded tape.

I have three draft posts, Three. None of which are post-able because if viewed by another human they would read as one long deep, anguished howl of frustration, terror and pain. Aimed at, (in no particular order):

People who write cryptic and/or negative statuses on Facebook. Don’t just don’t. Goading people into caring doesn’t work, as you are proving, as NOBODY has asked you to illuminate on the subject.

A Government who is monetarily pushing the development of self-driving cars. Really? That’s really what this world needs? This, the same time it approves Fracking because “we are fast running out of natural resources”. A. says I know the world doesn’t correlate so neatly…..

Humanity in General because frankly, it looked like as a species, we lost ours prettily spectacularly last week. I promised Dad I wouldn’t write on the subject.

It’s car-crash city over here people, it ain’t pretty and more upsettingly not one draft is funny.

So what happened? I got my ass handed to me by Chemo Round 3. I’ve spent the last 10 days as close to lobotomised as I ever hope to get. Not that I’ve ever hoped for that to be fair; perhaps an Eternal Spotless situation but never an actual Lobotomy. Though if actually lobotomised, I’d hope you could knock out the nerves too. Dumbness and Pain. That’s what happened.

I’ve stared off into space a lot. I’ve watched a lot of kitten videos – on purpose. That is what a lobotomy feels like.

Turns out Chemo is the Silverback and this Beta needs to remember that. It’s like King Kong vs well, anything. It would be awe-inspiring if you weren’t left feeling so crippled.

You can’t fight Chemo, Chemo doesn’t fight fair. Case in point – it’s the hottest week of the year, I have had to surgically attach myself to a hot water bottle AND endure Hot-flashes. Chemo doesn’t fight fair. It also has a thousand resources you don’t have.

It is more like a mugging. Chemo mugged me; of my health, mental capacity and well-being – gave me quite the kicking too. So I’m licking my wounds and feeling sorry for myself.

Turns out like any other wounded animal, scared and in pain, I lash out. I’ve become bitter and bitchy. Hence my soon to-be-deleted rant drafts.

I’ve had to ban myself from Facebook, I’ve been itching to write troll-like comments all week. These self enforced restrictions hearten me somewhat, I guess good Polly is still in here somewhere.

On PollyGosh, I aim to be either; funny, interesting or informative and above all truthful.

But I get to choose the aspects I write about and sometimes I should choose differently. Nobody polices me, if I don’t want to think about something, I don’t write about it. However, like with grief, I’m not sure that’s going to work out that well.

I forget that this all started simply as a documentation of my Cancer, treatment AND MY FEELINGS ABOUT THAT, all my feelings.

I thought by choosing to not write about Chemo, I was being in some way noble. Protecting others but I think I was protecting myself.

This post isn’t funny, interesting or informative but it is truthful.

I’m struggling at the moment. Stuck in a prison of my own thoughts, I strayed away from the path I normally set myself and got scared. I don’t think I’ve been scared before.

I also don’t know how I am going to submit myself, in less than 2 weeks, to do it again.

Also, when you’re sick and bald. You look sick and bald. Which isn’t strong or beautiful. It sucks. It sucks when you can’t recognise what’s staring back at you and you’re too weak to put your mental armour on.

This post has a defeatist tone that I’m not going to apologise for. This is the truth of all this. For this moment in the process, this is the truth and to not write it would be a massive disservice to the me now and the future me.

Luckily I have 2 Goliaths on my side, they keep me in check.

Dad has possibly transcended Sainthood. Songs and epic poems written about the depths of his wonderfulness.

A is still the only person to make me laugh and he maintains that I look gorgeous. Which is the sweetest lie you can tell someone who looks like a Sphinx Kitten (cat video obsessive). He’s the tough cop, truth-teller, backbone and I think he’s the best.

Normal services will, no doubt, continue again shortly.

pollygosh_102

Baldness 101

aka A Practical Guide to Baldness

So I’m Bald now and it’s too hot to hide my head under a bushel (or a hat, scarf or wig).

Here we have baldness 101, based on my whole two days worth of experience. I have been trailing baldness is London and Bristol, this is what I’ve observed in handy dandy bite sized chunks. NB: This post contains generalisations.

Basic advice:

  • You need a bit of chip on your shoulder to pull it off. Not to much mind. In London recently, a rather yucky Chanel wearing twenty something charged past me bashing her huge leather bag into me – she turned back and gave me such a look that I just told her to “f-off”. That is not me. That is too much chip.
  • When stared at, smile in an open and friendly way. If they stare longer than is necessary even though you are bald; just neutrally hold eye contact and then raise your brows. If you’re not in the mood bust out this next point.
  • I like to protect myself – Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no Evil; headphones on, rocking an amazing playlist. See no Evil; invest in a kick-ass pair of shades. Speak no Evil; please see above. I guess you could also call this technique “I can’t see you so you can’t see me”. It honestly helps.

Common Reactions:

  • Young mothers look worried and heart broken.
  • People of my own age are intrigued/horrified in equal measure.
  • The flippy hair lot, simply can’t fathom why I’ve not taken to my bed.
  • Many people just find the floor / sky incredibly engaging.
  • The right on brigade REALLY want me to know they are totally cool with a) my fashion choice or b) my illness; cue maniacal smiling.
  • The elderly out and out stare.
  • I heart bald men. They just give me a nod.

Practical advice:

  • Sunscreen is important, really important. You scalp has not seen the light of day before.
  • Women (and Men), a kick-ass lipstick does, in fact help. Also eyeliner is pretty effective too.
  • Don’t forget to wash your head – I know, I know but the nurse said that to me, so I am assuming that some people don’t.
  • You are going to need to moisturise too, I had a very scaly head to start with.
  • I made a public service announcement about my new look. Best to tackle it head on (tee hee) and contain/own the shock factor.

The answers to the Questions People Really want to ask:

  • No, it didn’t really hurt when my hair was falling out.
  • Yes, in the end we clippered me, I then washed my head 4 times to get rid of most of the remaining loose hair.
  • No, there was no way of knowing that I have my dads skull shape.
  • No, you can’t touch my head unless I can put my finger in your ear.
  • Yes, people stare; No, people haven’t commented yet.
  • No, it would not make me feel better if you shaved your head. If you need a wakeup call about what constitutes beauty or how much society values ‘normal’ beauty, do it. But don’t do it for me.
  • No, I have’t cried over my hair. I don’t know why.

Surprising Perks:

  • Showers are awesome! I love the feeling of droplets on my head.
  • Restaurant staff are really, really polite and service is amazing.
  • You get a hugely wide berth when swimming, which is most excellent.
  • I am 100% sure I am cooler than the flippy hair girls – in every single way.
  • It really is quicker to get ready in the morning.
  • I’d never have chosen to do it or have had the balls; but Gosh it’s liberating.

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Tales from the Sauna…

A has demanded a ‘funnier’ post, after my triple whammy on Grief. As A demands very little of me at the moment, I feel I must oblige.

Although, saying that, he did demand I stop eating at the weekend – this was while wrestling his portion of lunch out of my vice-like grip.

To explain, I have about a 4 very hungry days during Chemo Week 2. I mean like, REALLY hungry days; 2 huge bowls of pasta hungry. I’ve never known the like, and I can EAT. Basically, A. Wanted to be able to leave food around the flat without fear it would be snaffled; by the time he was sitting down to eat, I would be on seconds or thirds.

It’s under control again now. Phew.

Anyway, his demand for ‘funny’ has prompted a new series on little blog. Vignettes, if you will.

This first one goes way back to when I was newly (ha! autocorrect preferred ‘nearly’ – me too, autocorrect, me too) diagnosed.

I like to swim and pre all this, I liked to sauna too. I like them, not so much because I enjoy sweating in a small box but because people talk in saunas. They talk freely and I am nosey.

At my pool, people talk high brow, and business, and family, and love.

The BBC people talk in their BBC way. I have noticed, NorthFace would make a killing if they produced swim wear.

The Uni Students talk like mostly about “Cassandra’s major party” and how difficult Sociology is.

The yummy mummy’s, they talk about school fees, teachers and holidays in Cornwall.

Then there is a weird sub-section of posh hippy, who talk a lot about kale and powdered stuff. All posh hippies have painted toe nails.

Everyone talks about outdoor swimming and biking. Everyone, really nicely, feels lucky to be there. Nobody talks to people they don’t know.

pollygosh_feet2Apart from Sunday nights. For a while I was a member of the Sunday club. I felt super elite. This weird mix of familiar faces piled in on a Sunday. It was standing room only and everyone chatted.

I liked it best because the Bee Man would be there. He has a massive beard, is about 80; he swims a few lengths, sits in the sauna for 10 minutes and then vanishes. He keeps Bees apparently and knows everyone. I like the Bee Man.

This particular evening, I’d known I had cancer for a 5.5 days. I was still in the “getting my head around it”, novelty phase.

One of the older BBC men got the ball rolling “everyone had a nice weekend?” It had been a super sunny spring weekend. People murmured consent. Apart from an older Yummy Mummy who bravely said “No”.

Turns out she had had her wing mirror smashed clean off. “It was in a very narrow street in Clifton, but I think it was deliberate.” Apparently it was a huge hassle and really spoiled her day; meant to be spent with daughter and a friend, at a party. People murmured their condolences – we murmur a lot in sauna, something to do with low-level lighting.

There was a lull in things, possibly we were thinking of other first world problems, until Old BBC piped up “Well my dog died”.

That floored everyone.

People started awkwardly asking questions but BBC man laughed and said it wasn’t true. He was trying to provoke a debate, about what actually was a bad day. I think he was trying to make a point and being a little mean to older yummy mummy.

Then people started to talk about bad days. And there I was, sitting there smiling to myself. I had the biggest Ace in my back pocket. I had a C bomb. I could blow this corner of Clifton straight out the clear blue sky. I was angry enough to do it too.

I waited, listening. Everyone’s bad days were pretty lame. Well, lame, when you’ve just been told you have breast cancer at 34. I wanted maximum exposure. The more I waited, the more pissed off I was, at everyone’s little problems. The more pissed off I became. The more I wanted drama. I wanted awkward silence. I wanted everyone in Sunday Sauna club to feel bad.

So I opened my mouth, took a deep breath and closed it again. I stood up and walked out towards the cold bucket. As the icy water rained down, as I literally rained on my own C bomb parade, I realised I might be becoming a grown up.

I’m not a saint. Later today I have every intention of using the C-card in my battle against a high street shop…..

I’m now wondering if this is funny enough for A. I hope so, because I sure do love the chap.

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