Anyway, I'm through the worst of it again now. Not that it's made me feel any chirpier, mind. I'm three chemos down, which means I've got three to go. And while everyone keeps going on about how brilliant it is that I'm half way through, what I can't believe is that I'm ONLY half way through, dammit. And by being 'through the worst of it', what I mean is that I feel a tiny, tiny fraction better than I did a couple of days ago. I don't feel as sick now, I've stopped hallucinating (this time, as well as the now-standard feeling that my feet and hands are expanding, I was convinced I had a lump growing beneath my left nostril) and I'm definitely standing up straighter whenever I have to move anywhere (not that the being-accompanied-to-the-loo days have passed yet; I'm hoping that's a treat I can look forward to tomorrow – that and a nice, private number two once my course of constipation-inducing pills is over). But boy, they're right about the tiredness symptoms being accumulative. I feel like a frail old woman. P ran me a lovely bath yesterday with posh Molton Brown bubbles and candles all around the tub, but all I found myself craving was one of those old-person baths with a door in the side that fills up around you and saves you collapsing on your husband when you climb out of it. Sheesh, it's a good job we live in a ground-floor flat, or I'd be scouring the tabloid Sunday supplements for a Stannah stairlift too. (That and a porcelain dog statuette, a poorly painted commemorative Charles and Camilla wall plate and a pair of those sensible, tapered-to-the-ankle cream trousers with an elasticated waistband that sits just beneath your sagging bust – man, I love those crappy adverts.)
The best thing about getting past the first four days, though, is not having to sink a handful of pills every few hours. The pills do their job, don't get me wrong, but they end up starving you of any decent sleep at a time when you've never needed it more. For me, that means lying awake and thinking far too much than is healthy. And wowzers – sod the smack. Looking back on my train of thought, I'm starting to think that my brain is all kinds of screwed up as it is, ta very much. So smackheads, let's compare notes. Because here's a taster of the stuff that's been occupying my mind over the last few days.
1. The Ivy. Now here's an analogy I'll bet you haven't heard before, but I've been starting to think that the waiting room in chemo is a bit like the dining room in The Ivy: each time the door opens, everyone in the room looks up to see who's walked in. The only difference being that in The Ivy, everyone's looking see whether it's a celeb who's waltzed through the door, and in chemo they're nosily craning their necks to see how different each patient looks since the last time they were in there (I noticed that my hospital wig debut turned a few heads, as did Glamazon's break from tradition in wearing trainers instead of her usual slingbacks). By saying 'the only difference' back there I am, of course, lying. The soggy tuna and cucumber sarnies in chemo have got nothing on an Ivy Burger. But the service is still pretty darned good. (I feel I ought to clarify that I've been to The Ivy but twice: once on a press freebie, the other time as a birthday lunch treat for P. So I hardly make a habit of it. Though I might do once all of this is over – besides, I'll need somewhere swanky to take my Louboutins.)
2. My hair. Strange things are afoot on my barnet: it's growing. Not in a lovely-long-Jessica-Rabbit-locks kind of way, sadly. But I reckon that I'm now looking less Steve McClaren, more Kenickie (and that's got to be heading in the right direction, no?). Don't read too much into the hair-growth – I'm still a long way off being able to ditch the wigs thanks to a bothersome bald patch behind my '50s quiff, and I don't expect the T-Birds 'do to hang around long, having taken the decision to ditch the twat hat for a shorter stay in chemo last week. But it's still nice to know that my hair is capable of growing back quickly.
3. Sex. I miss my left nipple. I miss seeing it and I miss feeling it. It had a function, dammit, and I want it back. Not that there's an awful lot going on in the sex stakes at the moment, but being one nipple down definitely limits your options: in short, the right one is still sensitive in all the right ways (admittedly not on the super-sensitive front I'd originally imagined), while I'd never know if you were touching the left one – any feeling in it has been completely deadened. (Which I guess would make me a prime target in the game of 'nipple tennis' the lads invented at uni to pass a few hours in the students' union. Simple rules: brush a part of your arm past as many nipples as you can get away with over the course of one evening without being caught. Five points for brushing past one nipple, 10 points for both. Get caught, and lose all your points. Correct me if I'm wrong, lads. Either that or shut up altogether for fear of a sexual harassment lawsuit.) P says he's not bothered about the lack of boob options but, hell, he has to say that. He's stuck with them (I mean it). And I'm not daft enough to think that looking amorously at one perfectly formed nip and one Quality Street Toffee Penny is every man's dream of the perfect pair. (But then, I bet P never thought he'd be getting it on with Kenickie either, so I guess the nipple stuff is small fry compared to that.) Still, at least the nipple imbalance can be rectified (if only in part) because, as the icing on the cake once my treatment is over, I'm going to become the proud owner of a shiny, new surgery-constructed nipple, complete with perfect pink tattooing to match the other side. And I can't stop thinking about it. (Actually, forget the icing – that'll be more like the cherry on the cake, right?)
4. Death. Sorry to raise this but, come on, don't tell me you wouldn't let this thought slip into your mind occasionally if you were in my situation. I really do mean it when I say occasionally, too. It's just something that tends to happen on the Sunday after chemo, when I invariably hit my mental low. And it's not all as dark as it sounds. It's not like I lie awake planning my funeral (mainly for two reasons: (a) I haven't got a clue what I want, and (b) there's no bloody way you're going to find me planning a party I can't go to). It's more that I'm keen to tie up any loose ends before I go. I'm not normally one to repent – and, frankly, I blame all the Sopranos I've been watching for this paragraph – but I have been thinking about the people I ought to say sorry to before I do bugger off. (Not that I plan to for a LONG time yet, right?) And anyway, they're not even major apologies: I'd like to say sorry to the kids at school I used to take the piss out of for wearing white socks with black shoes and trousers. And to a woman I once had a go at on a pedestrian crossing for mumbling under her breath when I accidentally knocked her with my bag – I fear I overreacted a tad vociferously and may have frightened her a bit. To the very decent bloke I had long-distance contact with for years following a couple of very fun dates in our home town, then gave the brush-off when he travelled miles to visit me in London (not because I didn't like him, but because I'd had my heart broken in the meantime and was petrified of getting close to another boy again). And to my friend Weeza, who I lost touch with for years – to the point where she missed out on my wedding. It upsets me, because we've been back in contact again this year and she's been a bloody brilliant buddy throughout all this rubbish, and I know she'll continue to be after it. But most of all (and I can't help this one, but I'm apologising all the same), I'm gutted that I got The Bullshit at a point where it threatened to rain on the parade of my kid brother J and his amazing fiancee L. Trust the big sis to swoop in with her cancer news right in the middle of their engagement, eh? My left boob deserved to go for trying that on. Anyway, despite all those seemingly ridiculous apologies (this'd make for a much better post if I were able to say sorry for shaving off someone's eyebrows or running over Amy Winehouse's foot – not that I'd necessarily feel bad about that), I still like to think that I'll have plenty more time to make a few more (blog-worthy) mistakes that I can happily regret later.
5. Tattoos (again). A few days ago, I received a referral letter to see the radiotherapy department about the course of pain-in-the-arse sunburn (actually, make that pain-in-the-arm-and-tit sunburn) that I'll be starting in December once the chemo's done with. And along with the letter came an information sheet telling me what radiotherapy's all about. It all seemed pretty standard – daily visits for six or so weeks, lying on another futuristic bed like the one in Kanye's Stronger video, burned skin, feeling tired, yadda yadda – but there was one thing I hadn't bargained for: the tattoos. (Now there's a thing I hadn't realised you could get on the NHS.) Apparently, they give you three small tattoos (blue dots) to ensure the radiotherapy is beamed at exactly the same area each time, and to guarantee they don't administer rays to the same place again in future, should The Bullshit come back. And, granted, I'm hardly set to become the Amy Winehouse of breast cancer (though heaven help her if she ever needs radiotherapy; they'll have a job locating the blue dots amidst her Etch-A-Sketch chest). But even so, I'm miffed. Because if I'm having tattoos, don't you think I should be getting them out of choice, rather than stupid cancer-dictated necessity? So, despite the fact that I've barely considered having one before, I've now started thinking I might get one done to celebrate getting through my treatment. (Don't panic just yet, Dad, that's still a might.) And, to be fair, now's not the time to be making these kind of decisions. But, who knows, perhaps after I'm through with The Bullshit, I might go mental and get a topless girl drawn onto my upper arm. Or join up the blue dots into a pocket-style tattoo, a la Winehouse. Because if The Bullshit is ballsy enough to make a recurrence in the future, the radiographers can damn well work around my new body art. (And, for the record, if it ever does come back again, I'm going all out and having 'oh for fuck's sake' tattooed across my forehead.)