So I took my chirpy self out for a walk up the road to buy a frappuccino, wearing my look-at-me Mickey Mouse-emblazoned hoodie and no bra (apparently I've not just accepted my new chest, but am actively flaunting it). Even the banality of walking along my street felt better than it ever has. Here I was, going to the cafe like a normal person, having seen off chemo number one and looking ahead to the next cycle knowing exactly what's in store. (I believe this is what my mate Jonze calls the Raymond K Hessel Moment: a brilliant Fight Club analogy that I wish I'd thought of myself but (a) I'm not sharp enough and (b) even I haven't got the time to watch Fight Club as often as Jonze.) I must have looked like the local crazy, thinking about it. Your average Londoner isn't that comfortable with the sight of a wonky-boobed, grinning idiot with a spring in her step, as one woman demonstrated by looking me up and down in horror as we passed each other. 'What you don't realise, love,' I thought, 'is that the fool you've just walked past is actually an amazing woman.' And then I quickly chastised myself for being so damn cocky and empowered. Next thing you know I'll have Independent Women blasting out over the top of Amplified Aussie's Mr Brightside. Yeesh.
But anyway. The shitty thing about cancer (not the only shitty thing, like, but it's pretty shitty nonetheless) is that it'll sneak up on you and piss all over your chips the moment you think you're in control of it all. And so, later on the same day, I found myself lying in bed with an embarrassingly musical arse and nagging constipation pains (a problem I've since resolved by breaking the World Prune Eating record), and wondering just how long it would be before I felt sexy again. And then I went to the toilet and (cue chip-pissing) looked down to discover that a handful of pubes had come out on the loo roll.
And so it begins.
I've read that pubes are often the first hairs to go and, let's be honest, their falling out is hardly an unwelcome side effect. It's just what the pube-shedding symbolises: next, it'll be my head hair, and I'm guessing that part won't be quite so welcome. (Thankfully my wig appointment was lined up for the following morning.) I dragged myself back to bed and told P the news. 'Why do these things have to happen?' I whinged, and promptly burst into tears. And so did he. Because this isn't just happening to me; it's happening to us. P may not be wired up to the drugs or experiencing the side effects or seeing his pubes come out in clumps (although our bathroom floor says otherwise), but I can assure you that he is feeling every bit of it. Arguably more so. Having to watch the person you love go through this stuff must be a horrible, helpless position to be in. But being married to a man who not only understands The Bullshit but feels it all too and, better still, doesn't treat you any differently because of it, beats the crap out of any Raymond K Hessel Moment. (And you can pack it in with the finger-down-throat gestures right now – if you can handle the constipation stories, you can handle the soppy bits, too.)
Speaking of the not-treating-me-any-differently stuff, by the way, I've got to say that my brother has been equally skilled on that level. He delights in teasing me for being a hypochondriac, calls me 'tit face' and says that the breast cancer is just another one of my attention-seeking tactics. It's a wonderfully welcome piss-taking precedent that was set right back on Mastectomy Day, when I managed to open my eyes long enough to give him the middle finger on my way out of the operating theatre, and he duly returned the gesture.