People keep telling me that having cancer entitles me to a whinge whenever I want one so – more fool them – I've taken advantage of their obliged kindness and cranked up the moanometer to a level that'd make you want to check yourself in for chemo rather than listen to any more of my constant complaining. Last night I ruined what should have been a perfectly lovely dinner with my folks by grumbling all the way through the meal, then crying over dessert. I'm actually starting to piss myself off. And, much as I'd take a vicious swipe at anyone who tried it, I think what I secretly want is for someone to finally have enough of it, kick me up the arse and say, 'Oh for fuck's sake, stop your whining, will you?' Don't go trying it, mind. These kind of things are best tested on P. (I knew very early on that he was the man for me when it became clear that he wasn't afraid to tell me to shut the hell up whenever I tried to pick a pre-menstrual fight. That and the fact that he punctuated his text messages. What can I say? I'm a sucker for good grammar.)
My incessant moaning is undoubtedly thanks to the painful, debilitating side-effects of this new chemo, and all the enforced sitting around it involves. (Oh you've been in the house too long, she said. And I, naturally... stayed there a bit longer and whinged about it to anyone in a half-mile radius.) It's no fun, all this having to lie still with nothing else to do but watch crap TV and think about the reason you're lying still and watching crap TV in the first place. I'm just so bloody bored of it all. Bored of cancer. Bored of whingeing. The novelty has well and truly worn off.
The thing is, despite The Bullshit having been around for months now (sheesh, is it only months?), I still c-a-n-n-o-t b-e-l-i-e-v-e I've got cancer. You'd think all the boob-and-hair-loss fun would have made damn sure the reality had sunk in by now, but apparently not. It's just such a fucking ridiculous idea: me with breast cancer. Yeah right! I want to laugh, it's that ludicrous. I'm still half expecting to find out that this is all some kind of huge, Truman Show-style experiment that Channel 4 are secretly filming. And no amount of me actually saying the word 'cancer' is making the truth any more believable. And it really should, considering the fact that I say it all the sodding time. Aside from anything else, it's the Top Trumps of excuses.
'No, I've not been to the gym in ages – well, I can't really, I've got cancer.'
'Stick the kettle on, eh?' 'No, you do it, I've got cancer.'
'Sorry your birthday card didn't arrive on time; I've been really busy with cancer stuff.'
'Christ, I'm putting on weight. Damn cancer.'
(My favourite excuse by far, though, is still this: 'You coming to the pub on Friday?' 'Nah sorry, I can't. I'm washing my hair.')
But regardless of all that, it still comes as a shock to hear other people say 'cancer' with reference to me. (Not that anyone's gone 'hey, cancer!' yet, but you know what I mean.) The other night, in another of my pathetic, long-faced, sympathy-seeking moments, P pulled a blanket over me as I lay on the sofa, and I looked up at him with those pity-me eyes that even I'm annoyed by and whinged, 'P, I'm pooooorly.' (Those extra ooos don't even come close to describing how whiny I sounded, by the way. Screeching toddlers have got nothing on me.) 'Well yes, of course you're poorly,' said P, with the patience of a saint on death row. 'That's because you've got cancer.' I almost slapped him. 'What the fuck are you on about?' I thought, before remembering that yes, actually, I do have cancer. (And apparently it's making me stupider by the day.)
Not everyone is comfortable saying 'cancer', mind. Even the nurses in chemo try not to say it out loud, instead calling it 'it' or purposely missing it out of sentences altogether. ('Yeah, it's different with each day in here. All the women here today have got breast. Mondays is ovarian. And on Thursdays everyone's prostate.') The other day I caught Mum mouthing the word 'cancer' mid-sentence, in that over-enunciated, speaking-through-glass way that some people still revert to when saying 'lesbian' or 'black'. Which makes me think that cancer must be a different kind of c-word. Hearing people say 'cancer' is equally as surprising to me as hearing them say the other c-word. Excuse the censoring there. It's not that I'm completely against using those four letters but, y'know, my folks read this and it's hard enough for them at the moment having to listen to their daughter's expletive-ridden ranting, without me upping the ante in the swearing stakes. Cunt might just push them over the edge. Oh.