Today would have been my Mama’s Birthday. It’s horrid to admit it but for the first time in 3 years this wasn’t my first thought when I woke up today.
I wanted to mark it though. My Mum’s advice filled letters punctuated my life until she died. I miss them. I’ve been realising how bossy Little Blog can get and this note, from my early Uni days, sheds light on where that tendency comes from….. Often I didn’t realise it, especially in my youth and when the advice ran contrary to what I wanted to hear, but my Mum’s advice, as mine does now, came from a place of love – whether you want it or not.
Well, we arrived home at 10.30 having stopped at a supermarket nearish Bath to shop! Felt very virtuous. It was lovely to see you, but hard to leave. I’m so very glad S. came when he did – what an easy – going chap! I’m sorry to ‘get’ at you to introduce us but it should start to be a habit now that you are moving in your own circles – there has to be a moment of just saying who everyone is to make everyone fell included and comfortable. You can have all sorts of different ways of saying it but “hey everybody – this is E. ” isn’t actually very comfortable making for E. E. will need to know ‘everybody’ too – you can make a joke of the big group loads of names thing but you really must do it or it leads to people feeling not quite sure and lonely and isolated or not good enough. It’s very simple. costs you nothing (in fact it makes you feel good to bring people together – and in control) and really, truly makes a HUGE difference. Believe your old Ma. Oh yes, and if anybody forgets to introduce you to a new person or group (or whatever) you can just say “hello I’m Polly…I didn’t quite catch your name…” or (after a while) – “oh, by the way, I’m Polly – how do you do!” (joke, joke – cos now you are half way to the cinema)
OK lecture on introductions over.
When I was a girl…. there used to be a comic called Girl (like Eagle) and on the back pages it used to have a drawn comic strip about social skills and things like that – it was really good. I guess there are somethings that don’t change- or that it would be silly to drop without replacing them with equally comfortable -making devices. That’s what social skills and good manners are about, making other people feel included, acknowledged (if they invite you somewhere or send a present etc) and appreciated. Social skills go a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g w-a-y and actually make the biggest difference to first impressions. a lot of this you know about, of course, and a lot comes naturally to you (and that’s a blessing to count) but there are still many/much that we all have to learn and continually learn. When people go to work in Japan they have to go to special classes because social intercourse is so different there – a;; the signals are entirely different and sometimes opposite – and they are very complex and super important. Americans find it especially hard because they have fewer ‘rules’ than the English and can’t quite get to grips with all the bowing and self effacement! Did you ever see “Shall We Dance?”
Well – I’ve rambled on and not said anything yet about how impressed we were at how incredibly well you’re settling in – I know you still feel terribly torn ( and believe me, so do I darling) but I think you are doing a brilliant job of making friends and being a friend – and also hand washing you smalls and signing up for getting involved! All these are achievements for you Polly and should make you feel really good about yourself! You really do seem to be setting out on a very positive road to adulthood and independence – or rather inter-dependence. I really feel that is the right word – more co-operative sounding and it also make me think you aren’t cutting yourself off from us just because you spend important time away in your own sphere.
And it was brave to let us go last night. The door is always open, you know that and it is your choice, but I hope you begin to see now why we encouraged you to take the opportunity to go to College this year. Next year, you’d be miserable going away after a year at home but at 19 going on 20 you’d have had fewer people to share your sadness with – you’d have to be horribly brave. Of course, I hope that the courses cheer up for you – that’s a BIG part of it. Can you hear OK in lectures? Have you told them about your ear? Can you get a seat close to the “teacher” and on the right side? I forgot to ask all these questions.
Well M’s just returned (1pm) so I’d better get going and get lunch. Dad’s at work – I’m starting when I’ve had lunch – then I have to go to Bath tonight. Yesterday was a lovely treat and a good break for both of us. M will have to start at the White Bear tomorrow 11am – 7pm – 4 days a week. Actually not bad hours but not great money (£3.30/hour!) – but something to get up for and it’ll be pocket money to tide him over.
How did your friends like “….Mary” I’ve heard it is outrageous – but fun. I’d like to see it.
I’ve put a pencil mark in for Oct 26th by the way – we might have to leave early so I can be back for 7.30pm – a dance thing in Bath that I long to see.
I’m really not sure about the logical thought process behind this, it is apparently more common than you might imagine. On being given a pretty scary piece of health news, I obviously took the only natural course of action and became a hypochondriac.
I would have hoped, much as I hoped for enlightenment, that Cancer might have liberated me from all other worries, especially those surrounding health. It seemed only fair, frankly.
To put it in to perspective I was probably a 2-3 on the scale prior to Burt. I have a pretty vivid imagination but generally I worry about other peoples health (sadly a fallout of my Mother’s death) – can you be a hypochondriac by proxy?
In the days after Burt, I would be kept awake at night worrying about every single twitch or ache. I was convinced that I was riddled with cancer, hundreds of little Ernies, if you will. I felt so guilty, how could I have not known something so major was going on inside my own body? What else had I missed?
I became hyper sensitive to every sensation after that. Even after being reassured that we’d caught Burt incredibly early, I still worried it had somehow gone everywhere. This shows my ignorance about my own cancer (even when you are listening, sometimes shock hears something very different)and was probably exacerbated about my ‘knowledge’ of cancer via my Mum and Grandma. A little bit of knowledge, coupled with a hyperactive imagination, is sometimes worse than ignorance.
I’ve always been very jealous of those who seem to have heightened awareness of their own inner ecosystem. A., is one of these, when we first met it used to fascinate me how attune he was to a body clock, that I just couldn’t hear. I assumed it was down to the amount of exercise one does. As I was doing close to none at the time this made sense. I had also had a few brushes with punishing my body, withholding food and the like – I would have been pretty surprised if my body is speaking to me at all.
I am the type, who at the end of the day looks down and realises they are covered in bruises but has no recollection of walking into the wall and then falling down the stairs. I was not careful with my limbs and because of this, I usually had something that ached, so tended to ignore it. I felt sure I was paying for it now.
My Breast Care Nurse recently pointed out that I may have noticed in the run up to finding Burt that, looking back, I had probably felt “a bit run down”.
I’ve been racking my brains over this but 2013 had been a pretty crappy year – I spent quite a bit of it feeling like I’d been hit by a bus anyway. I’d fought back, gaining my mental health and starting to exercise more. I remembered to feel grateful and not to take so much for granted (ha! I realise now there was still a hell of a lot I took for granted). I honestly felt better, much better, than I had in years.
By Christmas, I was incredibly chipper. I don’t think I even got a cold. Any tiredness would have been put down to the Festive Season. I guess, if you’d been feeling ‘run down’ for 3 years and were now feeling a city mile better than you ever have before, you simply wouldn’t notice.
It was also blowing my mind that even after finding Burt – how fine I felt, better than fine really. I had gone to the medical professionals with a lump and no other symptoms. In fact, and i think this is a huge cliche of the Cancer world, it wasn’t until we started the process of ‘getting better’ that I felt anything other than my new normal self, health-wise.
So what cured me of this dabble with Hypochondria? Having spent a few days terrified of my body and being reassured that it was just the one tumour. Dad and I had to spend an afternoon getting used to the idea, of perhaps, another Burt, an actual Ernie, this time in my sternum.
Luckily, more tests put paid to that nightmare scenario but it was one hell of a week. MBCS had pushed on my chest and ask if it was painful.It hadn’t been, it honestly hadn’t,but in that moment it began to ache, a ripping feeling – like being stabbed over and over. It didn’t stop until I officially got given the all clear, when miraculously it went away as quickly as it had started.
Funny how the brain works – MBCS had made it clear that he thought the chance of another tumour was minimal, but Burt had been 98% not a tumour and I’d been told he couldn’t have spread. All of a sudden, I knew, in my bones, that Ernie existed. I would have put money on the fact. My silly, susceptible, little grey cells.
So it was non-existent Ernie, a brush, with even worse news, that caused me to let go of my hypochondria ways. Well Ernie and the fact that, my entire body has been scanned in incredible detail and from every angle imaginable, I do mean every angle.
Conclusion being, I have enough on my plate – I shouldn’t go looking for more.
Side Note: I realise this might be another of my unintentionally scary posts, I don’t want to create an army of hypochondriacs.
Learn from me – act now to be more in tune with yourself, both mentally and physically. What is ‘right’ for you? Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t take good health for granted.
Check your Bits and Bobs and if in doubt don’t be too stubborn to go to the doctor -Dad drives me mad with this one. What’s 15 minutes of embarrassment in the face of a long and healthy life? Embrace being wrong about being ill – what an amazing feeling to be told you’re not sick.
So, as part of my research into all things Chemo, I’ve decided to make my own Ice Pops to take with me, to help keep nasty mouth sores away …. I’m working on a Rhubarb and Ginger one (ginger being good for nausea), and a Raspberry and Mint variety too -ooo my creative juices (gettit?) are flowing. If they work out I’ll post them on here too.
This recipe is one I worked on last summer and is adapted from the above book. I’m going to experiment with less sugar / sugar alternatives. I also remember from mum, that cream didn’t taste wonderful during chemo, I reckon you can remove it without to much faff or change it out for goats yogurt which has a shaper edge……
I’m going back to my wig research now…… deep, deep joy.
First we need to make a simple syrup – simple to make but oh how I love a bit of cardamom. Just pop the ingredients for the syrup in a pan. Let it simmer over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved! Easy peasy.
Next we need to smoosh (yes smoosh) those berries, deeply satisfying and brings a wonderful colour …..
The syrup gets mixed with this berry mash up – don’t forget to remove those cardamom pods!
This mixture needs to be passed through a sieve or muslin. I recommend you do this quickly before you’re tempted to eat it as is. Be careful to catch all the liquid but retain the fleshy remnants in another bowl, we don’t want waste.
Stir the cream briskly into the rich, juicy syrup, you can tell by the colour this will taste like summer (only icy). Now simply pour into moulds, leaving some room at the top for exspanding and freeze!
It might seem unbearable but leave for at least 8 hrs but more likely over night.
The remainder of the berry mess gets added to the lazily beaten remnants of the tub double cream (about Cup would do it) as a truly scrummy syllabub. I found it made waiting for the pops to set slightly more tolerable.
The Recipe (People’s Pops Inspired – go buy the book peeps it’s totes worth it)
This made about 8 for me but really depends on your mould and how much you eat along the way!
It has been all quiet on the Little Blog front lately, sadly there hasn’t been another Cancer Miracle*, just a combination of events that have left me a little preoccupied.
A. returned home from his extended work trip. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have him back. It was weird at first, apart from a very precious, stolen week, prior to my lumpectomy, he’s been away through most of the drama so far. We are now learning to navigate how ‘We’ as a ‘We’ do this. We laugh a lot and we are both being patient.
I am staring down the Barrel of a Gun marked Chemo. I really wasn’t expecting to be. That sounds weird, what with the whole cancer thing. Everyone knows these two go hand in hand, best of friends, thick as thieves. I knew this, I knew this up until the moment it looked like I’d dodged that particular bullet.
You see, all the way through Little Blog, I’ve said I was lucky (except when I’m in grumpy-mode, when lucky can take a running jump), I have been, I am. I shall bore you with the check-list of what has gone my way at another point. For now, trust me, I wasn’t being all Pollyanna-positive entirely due to my plucky tenacity and can-do attitude. I was backed up by science and I never disrespect science.
It came down to one test, one lousy test – all I needed was a low score, which everyone expected (given everything else), I would get. A medium score, would give wiggle room but No, I aced it – too high to argue with really. A very bitter pill, considering I was never really, what one might call an academic -all I needed to do was flunk, it just wasn’t to be.
I should really never forgo my motto “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” I got a bit cocky again, the motto was totally ‘forgun’ for a while there.
When Burt was removed, so was the cancer, everything that follows is to stop the cancer (Burt’s Posse) returning**. Lucky in it’s own way, very lucky considering the alternative but not easy. To carry on the Gun analogy from earlier – where chemo is concerned, I needed to pull the trigger. I needed to decide if this treatment was happening. Ok, I would be going against medical advice if I didn’t go a head but where once that would have seemed unthinkable, it was to my mind, a real possibility.
Just as I am learning that, at first, pushing a needle into you abdomen feels counter-intuitive***, saying ‘Yes’ to four and a bit months of preventative chemo, which might not actually be preventative / might not actually be necessary – depending on the way that unknown deck of cards is stacked is, well, counter-intuitive is the very least it is…
As MO points out, you have to be physically and psychologically ready – I have until early June and a to-do list of epic proportions.
As Queen Dolly Parton croons “You better get Livin’”, and I have a lotta living to do, people to see, research to do, Chemo Chic to develop, and hopefully holidays to take.
I do still love writing Little Blog, I will still write Little Blog but forgive me if I go be a bit ‘everyday’. I’ve not forgotten about all the things I want to write about for future me, for friends and maybe to help someone else. I just need to live ‘in the moment’ for a while – and now I shall roll my eyes because I just finished a blog post with that…..
*The first Cancer Miracle involved managing to extract a tiny acknowledgement from a some-time adversary. I think that’s when I knew this Cancer thing was serious…
I’m really vain, really vain. Not the easiest thing to admit to, I didn’t really realise it until I got diagnosed. Overnight I became a Vain Hypochondriac*, no mean feat.
What was the first thing I did post diagnoses? It was not jump on Google and find support groups, healthy eating plans (hello, cake), I did not read up on everything ‘Breast Cancer’, I most certainly did not look at survival / reoccurrence percentages. Apart from the last one – truly a waste of energy – I have started to now, I promise.
No, what I did, almost straight away was to start Pinteresting cool short haircuts. Though, I suspect you may also need the face of Michelle Williams, Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence to actually pull these off. A point, I’m studiously trying to avoid, especially as I may well be bald soon anyway.
I am yet to find out about my “treatment package” – I think this term sounds suitably ‘Spa’. Some radiotherapy with your pedicure? If you insist, which you do. As I’m so young (yawn), Chemo is a very real possibility – in fact I’m very lucky that there is a slither of hope that, I may not have to have it. Oh, Cancer Roller-Coaster, you are just so fun.
I once managed to get two different types of infection on my nose at the same time (it’s a talent), my snout was basically a big ol’ puss filled mess. I cannot tell you how self-conscious this made me. My confidence plummeted and a became a grump, I hid behind a turquoise and pink tartan baker-boy hat (there really was no excuse for making the situation worse…) for nearly 2 weeks.
I know how changing from the ‘norm’ can effect me.
I’m concerned about the bald thing too, we are shuttling along towards Summer and there is no way I can wear a cool, slouchy beanie hat in July without boiling – which may be worth it.
This leaves scarves, I’m not sure if you get given scarves when you start treatment but some of the ones out there are a little too out there, if you catch my drift. I’m wondering if the budget will stretch to a little vintage Hermes (or at least something that looks like it). However, the truth is, bald head under a scarf screams “I’m Having Chemo but look how well I can hide it”.
I hope I will be brave enough just to rock a Bald (heavily SPF’ed) head; I worry about how cute my skull shape is though. I have a feeling due to my clumsy nature and a particularly hurtful incident, riding my tricycle on a frozen duck pond (that was not a smart plan, 5 year old self) - it may well be lumpy.
After fretting about all of these things, I very swiftly rang my friend Miss L -1) She is a brilliant human and we are the founder members of the Motherless Duckling Club, meaning we’ve gone through some stuff together. 2) She is one awesome photographer, she’s seriously great. I wanted to document ‘me’ before this ‘me’ was changed.
I know some of these changes may well be fleeting but some are more permanent. I just wanted a record, for my future self.
Miss L happily agreed and soon she, her sunny personality and her wonder camera came for a visit. Not long after lunch and cake (which possibly wasn’t the smartest move, but cake is cake), I found myself *almost* starkers posing for photos. Which is not something I thought I’d ever, ever do. My training with medical professionals came in quite handy and I wasn’t as awkward as I thought…. Miss L is also very good at her job and that really helped. We laughed mostly, and realised I’d never make it as a topless model – which I’m not that unhappy about.
Miss L has actually Blog about this shoot on her site, link below, don’t worry all pictures are of the of the tasteful, non-explicit variety.
I have battle scars already, I’ll be proud of them too, eventually I hope. I find out about the rest soon. really soon. I think, with Miss L behind the camera I’ll want to document this ‘me’ too because this is the ‘me’ of now, she may be battered and not as she was but life is too unpredictable (and hopefully long) not to try to be comfortable in this ‘me’ too.
I would have expected, put money on it even, that when given the worst kind of news, I’d become a ‘Life is too Short” Earth Mother type.
I honesty woke up the morning after, expecting that the Meaning of Life had been whispered in my ear overnight and hoping for enlightenment. This did not happen. Not even close.
Apart from from my views on cake making more sense than no cake, red toe nails at all times and a stubborn refusal to waste calories on bad food – I’m as in the dark as ever.
In actual fact, what happened was, I created a black list and shoved a Breast Cancer Nurse to the top position. I am a rubbish human being.
Apparently enlightenment may come after I am ‘through the experience”. This Cancer thing, always dangling the carrot a bit further off (point).
Once you realised the bargaining hasn’t worked, once you’ve tried to take in the facts, had some tests, been booked for a few more tests, received your first samplings worth of pamphlets – you are deposited, some what unceremoniously, by the filing cabinets opposite the fake boob display (the bra insert ones).
The gel triangles are housed, rather whimsically, in sateen drawstring pouches. These pouches, in red, pink, white or black look like highly flammable, Ann Summers cast offs. I’m not sure if this is meant to make them more sexy but I’m putting it out there – it doesn’t work.
But I digress, Dad and I are waiting for another meeting; I don’t know what Dad was thinking but after staring at the little pouches for a while, I was just wanting to get the Hell out of Dodge.
Once we are finally ushered into the office and placed on the ‘comfy’ seats – you know you are meant to spill your guts if you’re sat on the ‘good’ seats in Hospital. The NHS seem to think that only Bad News deserve comfort, which is fair enough really. The seats remind me of Old People Homes, they are probably wipe clean, this offends my ‘delicate’ design sensibilities.
I am already on edge, I know this, the seats haven’t helped. I am in Shock. I just want to leave – to be out in the sunshine, breathing in fresh air. I do not want to be here. I want to be anywhere but here.
This is not the best way to meet a new person.
I thought nurses were all strong, capable, warm and practical – they smelt of lavender and TCP (I think I’ve been watching too many Foyle’s Wars). What I was faced with was a nervous, twitchy, bird of a human. I did wonder why MBS had been keen to stress why this was not his usual BCN.
We are waiting, it is the weirdest Mexican Stand Off I’ve ever been involved in and nobody is taking charge, this exasperates my Stage Management instincts.
As I’m being stared at beadily, head to one side, sad eyes and concerned frown, it dawns on my that this is a ‘pastoral care meeting’. That we are waiting for me to fall apart, to start howling. I feel like laughing. I seem to be asked over and over if I am OK, if I want to ask ANYTHING at all.
I want to say “Look lady, I’m cracking jokes here, I’m asking practical questions, I even stepped up and asked the ‘delicate’ questions about fertility – the ones you were stuttering over. I am aware I look stricken but I am holding it together. Stop looking at me with sad eyes, stop saying ‘this must be a shock’. I think we can all agree it probably is. Just give me another saplings worth of paperwork, laugh at my jokes and let me get the hell out.”
I felt unreasonable. During one of the horrendous silences, I gave myself a pep talk; “you are probably angry in a wider sense, this person is just doing her job, calm down and don’t take this out on her”.
I hated this women, I hated her slight frame- she didn’t look up for the job, her faltering speech patterns, the stupid faux sympathetic voice. She wasn’t picking up on any of the signs I was giving her. I didn’t want sympathy, I wanted kindly delivered, cold hard facts – dispatched promptly and succinctly, not this hesitating hell.
We all got through it, with a lot of tongue biting and jaw tensing on my part. Finally out in the fresh air and still seething, I had to ask Dad if I was over-reacting. I couldn’t get my head round, still can’t, who might find this kind of ‘kid glove handling’ useful and not just entirely unhelpful. I suppose someone must. I just found it highly irritating.
Thus the Black List was formed. It is a list I have created for anyone who tries to ‘handle’ me.
I tell people about the Black List just in case they try and be too sympathetic. If people stop seeing me and just see “a sad situation”. If people make me feel too sick. In short if you look like you might cry and don’t laugh at my funny, funny cancer jokes – I’m gonna Black List you.
There are very, very few people on the Black List. My nearest and dearest are all amazing and roll with the emotional waves that come their way. I’m at heart a people pleaser, I doubt anyone will ever know if they are on the list. It’s just a list in my head that helps me to handle all the weirdness that people throw at me, when they try to handle me. To handle this.
We may have hit a new low, I am railing against colours now…
I hate Pink. Hate may be overstating it. I am just not a huge fan – unless it’s neon, anything works when neon. Fact.
This sometimes surprises people, I don’t know if there is something innately ‘pink’ about my personality, if that is the case, I am not sure what I feel about it. Pink always feels so fluffy.
I am aware I am shooting myself in the foot here, disparaging a hue for being ‘weak’, I might be seen to be stoking the flames of sexism via the medium of colour. To which I can really only say “I didn’t start it” in a rather petulant tone.
Pink as the chosen colour for Breast Cancer though, well its just so blooming predictable isn’t it?
It’s like they didn’t even try. Is it just me or does anybody else think the meeting to decide on this was probably incredibly short?
Can you imagine the one person who bowled in there and said “call me crazy but I think a tasteful Dove Grey is what this charity needs, a Sunny Yellow or how about a really Poppy Orange. Who’s with me? Wait, what’s all this Pink around for…..Oh”.
If you look it up on Wikipedia (I’m recuperating, I have the time), you can discover which colour goes with which charity. It turns out you’re nobody unless you have a colour. Which somehow makes this whole Pink business even worse.
Of course all the other colours have been taken, Charities are now having to share colours. Oh yes, for every hue you can think of, there are a remarkable number of charities living under it. I’m not begrudging all these wonderful causes, I applaud their good sense.
My favourite discovery is that Brain Cancer and Boarder-line Multiple Personality Disorder use Grey, which is really cool if you think about it. I salute the marketing behind these pairings.
Do you know how many other charities have chosen Pink? Just Breast Cancer and possibly “Acute Acquired Cephalgia Minor Awareness” which is basically migraines. That Pink sure gives me a headache too.
The only other use of Pink on the whole chart is a Baby Blue / Baby Pink twist that has a number of charities attached including Pro-Life (which I shall swiftly pass over, given my mood) and Male Breast Cancer. Which are an odd set of bed fellows.
I love how Male Breast Cancer is trying to butch it up a bit, not sure if Baby Blue is really working for you but hey…. But why does Male Breast Cancer need to have a different ribbon – what’s wrong with Pink for all? And here we are, off to the sexist colour-coding races again….
It seems that charities are making up colours rather than using Pink. Black has more charities using it.
Which then got me thinking, perhaps the Breast Cancer awareness Brigade have some sort of mafioso-like hold on Pink. Maybe many charities wanted it, but broken legs and bricks through windows ensued, until everyone else fell in line…. Makes me wonder what the “Acute Acquired Cephalgia Minor” gang have had to do. The mind boggles at the back room antics that have probably gone on. I fear for those Migraine sufferers, I really do.
Or what is more likely is, everyone looked at Pink, looked at Breast Cancer Awareness and thought “how obvious, we can’t top that”
To which I want to cry out “WHY, WHY is it obvious? Why is it not a kick-ass Orange or a ballsy Purple.”
Thus, we have be burdened with Pink. I could probably take it on the chin, if it wasn’t such an insipid, kitten-licking, flooffy, powder Pink. This Pink has no gumption. I don’t look at it and think “Yes, under the banner of this colour, I shall march with my head held high. This Colour inspires me to fight a great battle.”
No one I know would wear this shade on days they need to feel brave. I doubt if it even inspires anyone to self-examine, except in an odd Pavlovian response, after years of Pink abuse….
It is not the Pink of a self-respecting, grown woman. It is the colour of Barbie, and now through no fault of my own I am linked to it*.
So I’m trying to come up with a plan, a plan I have no heart for really, for who really wants to try and save such a preposterous sub-colour?
Yet, even after a lot of brain-storming and late night meetings, I’ve only been able to come up with a two word plan : Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy is possibly the only one who can save this Pink, Save Breast Cancer Awareness – Hell, save the world!
Unfortunately, I can’t even get her agent to return my call, so I fear our cause is lost.
Once again I apologise in advance I am pretty much guaranteed to cause offence. Someone once gave me a magnet with the catchy phrase “Remember you will never be given more than you can bear” or words to that affect. I used to throw it across the room at quite regular intervals. I’d have cut it up and fed it merrily to the sharks this week – had I not thrown it away years ago.
I don’t know what has happened.
I don’t know if writing shook loose some emotions I wasn’t expecting.
Or if the meeting with My Oncologist (MO) reminded me that my lumpectomy was but the first step on a rather arduous climb.
Or if it’s just that the healing process has reached a particularly sore and itchy point in proceedings.
Or undergoing treatment for cancer is just not all it’s cracked up to be.
I think it may be all of the above, it is a hundred different things or nothing at all.
Maybe everyone just has to go through this phase and try not to lose all their dignity and humour (I’ve failed spectacularly at the grace I have hoped to maintain).
I was Angry this week, I am angry.
Angry isn’t descriptive enough, angry doesn’t even come close. It is more like a cocktail of grieving, sulking, impatience, and confusion with a healthy pinch of moroseness stuck in for good measure.
I have not been good-hearted, I have been no fun at all, I would have nothing to do with the me this week, to those of you who’ve tried, the tiny sliver of human that is still in me, thanks you, for you are kind and wonderful people.
This Molotov of emotions has simmered away at a fevered pitch and even now threatens to boil up at a moments notice;
When people seem too concerned, when they don’t seem concerned enough. The people who you thought might be in touch and haven’t been.
The worst seems to be when I know someone knows but they are simply ignoring the entire situation.
These people always seem to be the same ones who now, intently stare at my chest while they are talking to me. I know this is an age old problem for women but I have always been gloriously flat chested (more so now I can wear nothing but sports tops) and have never had to deal with this before.
I want to say “Even if you had X-ray vision, which you don’t – you can’t see the lump because it is gone. If you’d like to see the scars, the swelling, the stitches, the bruises and the hole left behind, Ask. It’s really not all that thrilling either but anything would be better than you not meeting my eyes.”
When people ask me how I feel and then put their own words in my mouth, or try to explain to me how I feel. When people try to use magnet quotes in a bid to comfort me, when I am not asking for comfort.
I want to say “I shall be whatever emotion bubbles up in me today. I will handle this however I choose. This may be different from minute to minute because at the moment I am just that contrary. Don’t ask me to choose between positivity and negativity. Unless you’ve been here and done this, at my age, I’d shut up if I were you. Just let me feel.”
When people have said they are praying for me -
I want to say “That’s great for you but please, please take a look at my last five years, when you are done with that, take a look at the world – then bake me a cake instead or learn to cure cancer. I don’t know what I believe, I honestly don’t. I know I don’t believe in the integrity of organised religion. I want to point out that, if I were to believe in God or a higher power, I sure as hell wouldn’t be speaking to them at the moment.”
When people have told me to be strong or hang tough, I have wanted to say “Shit, let me write that down, I thought weak wasn’t working out for me so well.”
When people write on Facebook that life is hard because they’ve mislaid something or they have to work and the sun is out, or complained how unfair the world is for some pitiful and trivial reason. Oh, the things I have felt like writing.
When older men, and it does seem to be older men at the moment, have the right to prescribe what happens next to my younger and female body.
I want to say “you have no idea what your decisions feel like to me, the choices you are giving me are not choices at all. How dare you sit and decided this for my body and then move on to lunch.”
I have silently railed against individuals. I have silently railed against groups. All ages, races, friends and foes have felt my inaudible wrath this week.
I think the kindest thing I can say about myself, is at least I have been an equal opportunity Anger Ball and at least I have bitten my tongue.
I was on the brink of writing a post called “ All my previous Posts have been Bullshit – it isn’t fair and I am not grateful for anything”
These are cruel, snide and hurtful things to think.
They have been Black and White things to think.
In short I’ve been an ungrateful cow, which then makes me more angry.
Still, these emotions have felt very true but they have not felt just. Emotions against my will.
The anger comes because I am lucky and loved and privileged and yet still I am angry.
Around and around it goes.
I don’t have anything tangible to be angry at. There isn’t a useful syphon for these emotions. I am a wounded animal. A baby. A mute. I cannot find the words for what I need, they do not yet exist.
It is made all the worse because of the sea of people trying to help, being so wonderfully kind but I am still lonely because really I am alone in all this and that makes me scared.
Today at 12.30 I found out I had cancer. Oh how I wish it could be yesterday again. As my friend TCP says “Well that’s a bit shit.”
Practical things leap into my head. It’s the state of fight mode I went into after mum died. That’s how it feels.
I keep thinking how much I’d prefer it not to be this way.
Life can change on the roll of a dice, the flip of a coin – we all know this, all think we know this.
Then it actually goes and does.
You find yourself thinking “If it could only be an hour ago, two hours, a day ago, a week, a month, back when my biggest concerns were the regular, every day, garden variety worries of before. If only I’d missed the call, not responded to the text – I’d have had an another few hours of blissful ignorance. If I could just unlearn this piece of shit news. I would take more notice of what life felt like prior. Maybe I wouldn’t take timeout to smell the roses, maybe it would just be a work day morning like all those that came before, but I could try and capture how it felt, the not knowing”
You will think this on the drive to the hospital, where your brain is desperately trying to convince you that you misheard, or misremembered the news.
You will think this as you look out of the window, while MBS is explaining that sorry but you did hear correctly. Burt is not benign (MBS will not call him Burt), that he is a 17mm malignant tumour, Grade 3 of 3*. That tests will need to begin now.
You will mostly certainly be thinking it when you meet Breast Care Nurse 1 (BCN1) and subsequently create the black list**. You will think this as she fumbles her way through an explanation of treatments and fertility.
As you drive home.
As you begin to tell people.
There will be relief, numb relief, as Liam Neeson smashes his way through a middle of the road movie.
You will go to work the next day, where everything is different but nothing has changed.
You will wake up each morning, the sky won’t have fallen down and you will get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other. You will still worry about the little worries of life, be happy, be angry because this is now your new normal and slowly you will forget how it felt before.
The human brain is phenomenally good at rewiring, at surviving – at fight mode.
But then, when you least expect it, you will crash.
Please bare with me reader because just at the moment, just for a little bit, I have spectacularly lost my sense of humour. I think ! walked out of the room marked ‘Shock’ and in to the Red Painted Room of Anger and Pain. You had better believe I slammed that door shut too.
* Burt is quite small and he got down graded to 2 (champagne all round) ** Explanation to follow.
I feel really strongly about this Elephant (it also has a Baby Elephant along it), incase anyone has stumbled on to this blog and is worried about coping with cancer or anything actually. Can I state for the Little Blog Record:
I am not always brave, happy and accepting of all this.
Just ask Dad or A. In fact, just yesterday I had a proper sulk and a whinge because the production that I should be working on, got an amazing review (huge whoop whoops, jazz hands and confetti cannon to the HF crew) but I am not working on it because I am here, dealing with crappy cancer.
There was also last week, when I nearly lost my favourite scarf / security blanket, or the day before that when it was my hand cream – I almost lose a lot of things, so let’s just say this happens daily.
Or the really two large spots that have erupted on my face (which, Dad, has nothing to do with the chocolate I’ve been eating and everything to do with the anaesthetic I had. Fact.)
When these sorts of things happen, what inevitably runs through my mind is;
“I have cancer and now I must endure this? Why universe Why?!?”
There is something, each day that causes me to pause or stumble.
I hope I’ve dropped some clues about my lack of bravery in enough other posts.
I started PollyGosh! to write an honest account of all this, so I will be braver and write about fear and sadness, at some point. Which we can all look forward to. I shall try and remember to sign post this with as much neon as possible, for those not willing to drink during the day (sorry Dad I know you prefer the lighter posts)
>Also, there is a time delay on Little Blog of about a month and a half . To repeat, the writings of PollyGosh! are not in real, real time. I am not insane enough to try and write this fresh, fresh. With a little bit of time comes a lot more humour.
Following on from above, Baby Elephant:
The first few posts of PollyGosh! were almost step-by-step in the timeline of my life with Burt. I seem to have moved off topic, I’ll wind my way back eventually. In the long run, this will be easier, as it spares everyone the roller coaster ride and debates over treatment options…. which is what is going on in real time (yay, I love waiting for the axe to fall).
Please be reassured that I am doing well. In the grand scheme, of all things cancer, I am super lucky – another reason why I can write Little Blog.
Current Red Nail Polish: Butter London’s Chancer (like crushed Ruby Slippers)