I've never felt further from healthy than I did last night. The nausea may have subsided, but the aches haven't. I was – and still am – in a lot of pain. Not pain like the time I sliced through my finger or the day I broke my wrist at Rollerworld. Chemo aches are in a pain league of their own. They get into every bit of bone and cartilage and gum and tooth and hair and nail, and they piss you off to the point where you just cannot get comfy, no matter how many pillows/blankets/stuffed toys you cushion yourself with. It really bloody hurts.
After a troubled night of the chemo-pains, I awoke this morning to a different painful sight on TV: a ludicrous Olympic sport in which about 20 tightly-packed competitors swim (and fight) their way around a fresh-water course for what feels like three weeks. And sheesh, that looked painful. But still not as painful as this. (I appreciate how ludicrous that might sound, by the way. And I'm not for a second comparing myself to Olympic athletes. Far from it. I may love sport, but sporty I ain't. Hell, my PE report once praised my ability to pack away the equipment at the end of the lesson.) But back to my point. Despite that restless night of crying and whingeing (P's a lucky lad, ain't he?), today's waking-up still compared favourably to the depressed 5am-er I mentioned in my last post. This morning there was a glimmer of hope in the form of another wig-fitting appointment – and not the NHS kind.
Next week it's my birthday, and the one thing I wanted was to still have fabulous hair by that point. (I wanted a gift-wrapped Dave Grohl too, but apparently you can't always get what you want.) Next best on the birthday wish-list, then, was to have a fabulous wig instead. And, ta-dah! I've got exactly what I asked for. But I hate it.
There's nothing wrong with the wig I bought today. It's a damn good wig. As good a wig as I'm going to get, that's for sure. It's just that the whole experience was so... oh, I don't know. Just not what I was expecting. And what the hell was I expecting? It's not like this was my first time trying on wigs. It was, however, my first time trying on wigs knowing for certain that I'd need one of them. Last time around I was clinging onto the hope that the hair underneath the wigs would stick around. This time there was barely any hair left to cover. Don't get me wrong, it was a whole lot better than the stationery-cupboard NHS experience. Wig Man was replaced by Wig Girl who had a far better understanding of what would suit me and how it should be worn. And this time, I didn't just have the moral support of P, but also my fantastic friend Tills. Even by the time P and I arrived, Tills had got the measure of Wig Girl and the designs she had to offer, and had even picked out the mops that would suit me most. Everything was in its right place, and going as well as it could. But this time it was real, and not just pissing about in front of a mirror with Crap FM on the radio. (Actually, that's a bit of a fib – apparently all wig places listen to Crap FM.)
But mind over matter and all that. Trying my best to be a cool customer and perfectly at ease, I slapped on my brave face and even played along with a few of the usual losing-your-hair lines. 'Just think of all the money I'll save on highlights!' and 'Blimey, P, I'll be able to get ready so quickly!' Ha ha ha! Well, no, actually. Not ha ha. Because, I realised, this is fucking rubbish. Here I am, at 28, trying on wigs. Not for fun, but because I've got breast cancer. Not so funny now, eh? And it was about that point at which I lost my sense of humour, got really bloody angry and burst into tears. I quickly asked Tills to tell me about something else that was happening in the world. She recalled a brilliant story about our friends' little girl, who recently threw a tantrum when her mum gave her a biscuit, and nobody could understand why. Much questioning revealed that the issue with the biscuit was that it was slightly broken, so it was quickly replaced with another one from the same pack. But that brought on an even bigger tantrum because, in fact, what the (frankly, genius) little lass wanted was the very first biscuit she was handed, just without the broken bit. She wanted the perfect version of her original biscuit. Just like I wanted the perfect version of my original hair. I was having the same tantrum.
In my tantrum, I may not have thrown myself on the floor and screamed and kicked. (I wanted to, mind.) Instead, I sobbed and had a go at two of my favourite people for telling me how great I looked, when what we were really looking at was a cancer patient in a wig. 'The reason I've got you two here,' I spluttered, 'Is not so you can tell me what you think I want to hear. Stop fucking telling me I look good. I look like I'm wearing a wig.' And then I felt worse for yelling at them, in just the same way I did after yelling at Dad last week.
I know I keep talking a lot about what I want (and, believe me, you're not even hearing the half of what I want) but at these angry, shouting-at-people-I-love moments, what I want is someone to take it all out on. Someone to really kick the crap out of. (Just where is Sting when you need him?) But, because I'm lucky enough to only ever be surrounded by lovely people, there's never anyone to kick the crap out of. So instead, my most incredible, supportive, wonderful friend gets it in the neck, after giving up her morning to be with me for this ridiculous wig-buying trip. I don't just want to do all this crap-kicking because I got breast cancer in the first place, or because I feel so ill or because I've lost my hair. I want to do it in retaliation for turning my time with Tills from cava-drinking, tapas-eating loveliness into shitty, cancer-focused experiences like this. At least with P I can still have those fantastic, normal moments I value so much. We can cuddle in bed and dance in the kitchen and snog in the bath. But I'm not getting those normal moments with Tills and my friends, and I'm really crap-kickingly pissed off about it. (Not that I want to snog you lot in the bath too.)
I know those times will come back. And then some. But I really miss my mates, dammit. I'm sick of being the cancer patient on the sofa, talking about myself and skirting around the truth of how very, very shit all of this is, in case people don't want to hear it. I want my mates to see me in normal circumstances with a brew, a load of gossip and a bloody lovely head of hair. I want them to say, 'Wow, L, I honestly can't believe it's a wig! It's exactly like your old hair!' And I want them to mean it. But again, that's one more thing I can't have. Because if anyone does say that, they're lying.
So let's get this straight now. I am wearing a wig. It's a good wig. The colour is nice, the cut's not bad and it's pretty bloody comfortable, if truth be known. But it's a wig. It's not like my old hair, it doesn't move like my old hair and it doesn't feel like my old hair. But how do I look in it? Well that's what I can't tell you. Because what I see in the mirror is me... in a wig. Which makes it difficult to judge. P says I look lovely. Tills says I look lovely. Mum and Dad have seen a picture and they say I look lovely. Lovely. Right.
But what I really want to know – and what I can never know – is what the average person on the street thinks I look like. I want to stand on the corner of my road and survey every person who goes past. ('Good morning, madam, I'm from Market Research For The Borderline Insane, and I'd like to ask you a few questions about the way I look.') Will people I don't know realise I'm wearing a wig? Or will they not think anything of it and walk right past? That, by the way, is the preferred option – being completely ignored is very appealing at the moment. That said, on the drive back from the wig place earlier, we passed a bunch of builders on a tea break (yeah, I know – a tea break!) and, as our car pulled up alongside them, I stared intently to see whether any of them clocked me, and what their reaction was. One of them looked straight at me, but didn't flinch. Did his blank stare say, 'By 'eck, this is a good cuppa,' or 'Stop staring at me you wiggy weirdo'? Is it good that he didn't do anything? Or should I take it as a sign and ditch the wig for good? Or should I just stop worrying about beer-bellied builders and be happy that my husband still fancies me? There's way too much going on in my head right now. Thank god the wig is stretchy enough to keep it all in.