Wednesday, 30 July 2008

What are you doing right now?

Advice, please. How should you update your Facebook status at times like this? It's been bothering me for a while now, and I'm still not certain which way to go. 

As uncool as it is to admit this, I actually like Facebook. I'm good at it, too (and not in a way that bombards you with Super Wall posts or high-fives). I reply to messages, I make all the right comments about people's holiday photos, I ignore the ads and I never join those 'I'll-change-my-name-to-nobhead-if-10,000-people-sign-up' groups. But, above all of that, I always update my status. Religiously. And I read everyone else's too. I've even been known to drop Facebook friends if they start relying too heavily on the ' glad it's the weekend/...wants to win the lottery/ pleased the sun is out' drivel. (Let that be a warning to you.) 

That said, I have reached a dilemma. Because, really – apart from the obvious – what have I got to say in my status updates at the moment? I've just looked back through my mini-feed, and it's clear I've been using them as little more than a convenient way to keep people posted with the cancer shizzle. Granted, it's saved me sending the same how-I'm-doing email over and over (and been a sneaky method of force-updating the usually-in-touch people who've chosen to ignore my predicament), but are my boobs and side-effects really the kind of thing people want to read about in a status update? I suspect not. On the other hand, I did receive a very infuriating 'oh-it-must-be-lovely-not-having-to-go-to-work' email this morning, and it was all I could do to stop myself updating my status to: 'L would like to remind certain people that chemo recovery does not involve sunbathing, lunching or toenail-paining. Such things are difficult to manage when you can't have a piss without needing a nap, all your joints are numb and it feels like your skin may puncture at the slightest touch.' (I'm not kidding about that email, by the way. It's now right up there with an equally inappropriate one which went something like: 'Blimey, cancer. Hope it's not really awful. Anyway, my life is amazing!' Suffice to say, two less people on my friends list.)

The thing is, I've always worked on the assumption that, whatever it is, it's better to know about it. (The truth may hurt, but it's always preferable to know when your skirt is tucked into your knickers, right?) Which makes the adding-new-friends thing a tricky one at the moment. When making Facebook ties with someone I've not seen in a long time, I normally make an effort to drop them the usual courtesy message or wall-post along the 'Hey you! Long time! How's things?' lines, but lately I've been failing on that front too. Because where exactly, in the expected roll-call of relationship/kids/career updates, should you squeeze in 'oh yeah, and did I mention that I've got breast cancer'? Nobody wants to hear that kind of news when making touch with a long-lost (and probably for good reason) acquaintance who you're really only in contact with to find out whether they've gained weight/got hitched/had kids/come out/moved abroad/lost the dodgy piercings since school.

So perhaps, then, I'll ditch my scheduled Facebook update of 'L has still got cancer, just in case you wanted to know' and instead plump for 'L is having a crisis of status'. It's not smart and it's not funny but, hey, it's better than 'L is looking forward to the weekend.'

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Back from black.

Well it's all go around these parts. Yesterday I walked to the nearest corner, had a bit of chicken with mash and green beans and made a joke (albeit a dreadful Mr T one but hey, cancer was never known for its humorous side effects). Then today I made it to the end of the street, washed my hair (in the chemo-standard Johnsons Baby shampoo, AKA honey), sang a bit of Let's Get Ready To Rhumble with my Mum (let's just call it another weird side effect) and put on some mascara. These, ladies and gentlemen, are big moves in my world. 

Yes, I'm still super-exhausted and yes, I still feel a bit sick after a normal conversation and yes, everything still tastes like cardboard, but stuff all of that. I'm feeling more like myself and it ain't half bad being me again. I'm even back to enjoying the daft things in life like fixture lists and Hollyoaks and laughing at the kid next door on his skateboard and that lovely Heinz Salad Cream advert with the Sesame Street song. I'd be back to my hourly check-ups of the entertainment news, too, if it weren't for Another Winehouse Story dominating things. Hospitalised for a 'reaction to medication' this time eh? Jeez. (You want to try some of these chemo drugs, love. Good shit.) I fear it'll be a while until I can get back to Winehouse-championing ways, actually – did I ever mention that I walked out of hospital from the second stage of my diagnosis to see her standing outside? I didn't know whether to get her to sign my breast cancer leaflets or give her paper cuts with them. She'd probably have preferred the latter.

Anyway, if you'll excuse me this short post, I've got some serious business to attend to. This evening, I've got a chicken and veg wrap to eat, a bunch of emails to reply to now I can focus on the screen long enough, a stack of Friends episodes to watch and a husband to snog the face off. It's good to be back.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

The shape I'm in.

So what does chemo feel like? To be honest, it's completely different for everybody: like childbirth, no two experiences are the same. Want to know what chemo feels like for me? Because, no matter how hard I try, there is no possible way of telling you so that you'll understand. I'll give it a try, mind, but I bet I just can't even get close. And, just like chemo itself, I suspect that reading this post won't be for the faint hearted. Squeamish? Get over it. I've had to learn the hard way that breast cancer isn't all flowers and visitors and cards and simple operations and well-wishes and attention and seahorse-shaped helium balloons, so you can too.

The first night after having the chemo drugs was horrific. Can't-keep-anything-down sickness, shakes and shivers, diarrhoea, wanting to rip out my veins, fainting, aching, heart palpitations, all-over bone pain, sweating, panicking, totally unable to process my own thoughts, watching as my joints swell and itch, being able to do nothing but sway and say 'for fuck's sake, for fuck's sake, for fuck's sake' over and over. Can you imagine how difficult that must have been for P and my parents to witness? (My poor folks have not only had to live with the fact that their daughter has cancer, but that she says 'fuck' a lot.)

The days thereafter, while 1000% better in comparison, have still been cripplingly challenging. Nausea, exhaustion, aching bones, headaches, stomach pains and – worst of all – a complete messing with your head. Chemo (at least the first night after having it) must be like heroin addiction or cold turkey: it mucks up your looks and screws with your mind. It turns you into a different person. It takes away who you are and makes you 24-7 tearful and depressed and confused and paranoid and tetchy and unable to understand anyone around you. It makes you irritable and annoyed with the people closest to you, when all you want to do is tell them that you love them so much, and that they're the only reason you can be arsed to go through all this, and that without them there'd be no point. 

How do so many people do this? Just how have so many people managed it and seen the other side? I'm only a couple of days into my first cycle and already wondering how I can spend the rest of the year handling this shit. For probably the first time since this all began, I'm feeling really bloody blood-boiling angry and very hard done by. (And I'm hoping you'll excuse me this long whinge. And if not then, please, just fuck off out of my blog.) I am twenty-fucking-eight. On the hottest weekend of the year, I should be sitting outside a pub in the glorious sun, drinking lager shandies and talking to my man or my folks or my mates about where to go on holiday, who's doing what for new year, whether there'll be a series three of Gavin and Stacey, if anyone really gives a shit about the Coldplay comeback, or what Derby County's chances are for next season. But no. Instead I'm craving a cold, dark room, a decent few hours' sleep and a way out of this physical and mental... I don't know what... unfairness. Going through chemo has got to be the pinnacle of human endurance. 

Oddly enough I've become pretty addicted to Born Survivor: Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel of late, and even his exploits are beginning to look easy compared to this. Parachuting onto the Patagonian ice? Simple. Staring an angry pack of African elephants in the eye? No problem. Biting the head off a sandfish lizard? Bring it on. Whatever he's done, compared to chemo it's like eating cake. (Not that it's going to stop me watching, like – that guy is mental.)

So, does that explain it? Have I even nearly managed to communicate what this shitty cancer treatment does to a person? There's not a lot more I can say. Chemotherapy is a motherfucker.

Friday, 25 July 2008

From the Ritz to the rubble.

Glossy photoshoot to chemotherapy in less than 24 hours.  My life is as mad as a box of frogs.

But get a load of this blogging-from-chemo lark – talk about dedication to the cause. Yup, here I am in my surprisingly comfy chair, enjoying the 'therapy' on offer. I decided to ditch the jeans today, and instead glammed up a bit for my chemo debut. There's a lot of hanging about in here though, so maybe the comfort option might be best in future. And besides, I've just caught a look at my reflection in my iPhone screen and my floral tiered skirt hardly goes with the pink, skydiver-esque cap I'm wearing right now. Not out of choice, obviously – I'm hardly recommending that you rush out and mug a surfer or coastguard for their headgear (or 'twat hat' as a surf-savvy friend of mine calls them). Mine, however, is for purely medical (read: vanity) reasons, in that it might (and that's a small might, mind you) slow down the loss of hair by freezing my follicles. Go and stick your head in the freezer for a couple of hours and you'll have a good idea what it feels like to wear one. But hey, what's the harm in plastering your hair with conditioner and donning a silly hat in front of a room of cancer patients if it might (again – might) trick my follicles into hanging onto my hair for a bit longer?

Anyway, stuff the dodgy headwear – I have good news (drumroll please). My CT scan was clear! So just the one cancer to deal with, then. And that I can handle. Perhaps I'll have a celebratory prune juice later on. Champagne would be wasted on me right now, my tastebuds are about to be shot to shit. And besides, one of my drugs is called Domperidone, so that doesn't sound too far away from the good stuff.

More good news: I'm one cycle down on the chemo front. I'm conveniently ignoring the next three weeks of probable poorliness here, but as far as the chemo drugs are concerned, I finished my first lot about ten minutes ago (now I'm just hanging around so the cold cap can do its business). And so far so good. Each of the three drugs I'm having feels very different as it's going in: the first is red (my wee is going to be very interesting later) and, despite it being the really serious part that's responsible for all the hair-loss antics, I didn't feel a thing when it was administered. The second part made me feel all hot around my throat and a little bit woozy. And the third made me feel partly like I was underwater and partly like I'd eaten a whole pack of Refreshers in one go. You know, that feeling when your nose goes all fizzy. (No? Right. Just me then.) The weirdest by far, though, was the steroid I had first – when my nurse told me I might feel hot and itchy, I didn't think she was talking about that area. What is it with these drugs and their insistence on messing with your nether regions? Thanks, medical community – like the twat hat isn't embarrassment enough. Now you've got me scratching my bits in front of strangers. So much for being the most glamorous girl in chemo, eh?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Boobs and beer.

Man, cancer keeps you busy; I've barely had time to fart this week (apologies, I fear my Dad's jokes are rubbing off). The hospital visits, the haircut, the pub debut of the haircut, the getting-ready-for-chemo business, and all those daytime property shows I'm supposed to be watching. (I'm pleased to report, however, that I haven't seen a second of The Jeremy Kyle Show since I've been off work. Yet.) As though all of that weren't keeping me occupied enough, my increasingly-parallel-universe life has just stepped up a notch: this afternoon I'm off to be photographed by a women's glossy magazine for a breast cancer awareness feature. Shiiit! I am, of course, in a huge panic about what clothes to take along. What goes with a flat left boob? I've been told to take my favourite pair of jeans, which doesn't narrow it down much since I only have one (I'm a dresses girl) and fear I look like a wannabe cowboy in those. The request to bring a flesh-coloured bra might also be a problem: as you are aware, I am currently limited of lingerie. But hey, at least my hair isn't an issue.

The barnet went down pretty well with my mates in the pub last night actually. By 'pretty well', I mean that I walked out of there with an ego the size of Texas. And by 'walked' I mean stumbled – apparently my two-glass limit was more than enough to see me tipsy. I drunkenly waxed lyrical to P all the way home about what brilliant mates I've got, how I want my normal life back so I can carry on pissing about in pubs with them, how fortunate I am to be going through The Bullshit with such an amazing support network (sheesh, I must have been drunk – I said 'support network'), and how, despite The Bullshit, I still consider myself the luckiest lass in the world. It might have sounded more impressive and heartfelt had I not followed it up with a range of impressions. Apparently I think I'm Ronni Ancona after a couple of Pinot Grigios.

Speaking of which, we had a great sketch-show moment last night. Consider why me and my mates were gathered in the pub in the first place, and picture the scene. We're all sitting around a table, talking about my boobs (as you do) when a charity collector comes over, shaking her tin. 'Money for breast cancer, anyone?' I'm sure the last thing that poor girl was expecting was for 10 people to laugh in her face, spitting out beer in hilarity, so we were understandably met with a stern, breast-cancer-is-no-laughing-matter look. When we explained our reasons for finding her request so funny, she obviously thought it was a further piss-take as she looked at me and said, in an accusatory tone, 'Well you look all right though.' Cue more laughter and beer-spitting. Forget Comic Relief – whichever charity she was collecting for did bloody well out of us lot last night.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Hair today.

Today, for the first time since my diagnosis, I didn't get any mail. I almost accosted the postie on her way past the flat and demanded to double-check her bag, so convinced was I that she'd grown sick of stuffing parcels through my letterbox and instead decided to pocket today's delivery of get-well cards and exciting pressies. Spoiled brat or what? Just call me Veruca Salt. Apparently I've been getting far too used to this constant, celeb-like supply of goodies, so I fear this was a lesson I needed to learn. But not for long, mind – as great gifts go, I was about to get the Golden Ticket.

So – Chemo Cut day. And, by heck, was I a grumpy bitch on the run-up to it. Yesterday morning was okay as I had my CT scan to keep me occupied, and actually it was far more entertaining than it probably should have been. Lying on a moving bed in a futuristic white room while a tunnel-like machine scanned my body made me feel like Kanye West in the Stronger video (but wearing a nasty NHS gown instead of white boxer shorts). I had to stop myself rapping 'n-n-now th-that don't kill me can only make me stronger' when the nurse requested that I hold my breath in order for the scan to work. (Hang on – that had nothing to do with the scan, did it? Damn. First my hen do, now this – just what is it about my rapping that people can't handle? The crapness, probably.) Even the injection during the scan was a giggle, thanks to its unusual consequences: since when has feeling like you've pissed yourself been an acceptable side effect? It was the strangest thing, and pretty bloody embarrassing to boot. Whoever created the drugs for that injection is a bit of a piss-taker if you ask me – or piss-maker, if the sensation between my legs was anything to go by. (Just to clarify, I didn't actually piss myself. It just felt like I had. I'd like to be able to tell you that I've never pissed myself, but there was that little accident I once had in my salopettes, thanks to my snail-paced snowplough.)

Sticking to my guns of taking The Bullshit day by day, once I'd got the scan out of the way, the next thing to worry about was the haircut. So I made like a nine-year-old and did my best to throw strops wherever possible in order to make sure everyone knew just how pissed off I was at having to cut my hair short. First a waiter got it in the neck for putting tomato in my salad (and not the easy-to-pick-out kind, either – the really dribbly, pips-all-over-your-lettuce stuff), then P got a grilling for deliberating over a Cornish pasty. And then, after having to drink the water allowance of a small country as part of my CT scan, I fought my way through M&S shoppers to find that the only loo in Chelsea was about to be held hostage by a woman who – knowing what she was about to do – should really have done the decent thing and let me go first. (I mean really, what can she have possibly laid in there that required 16 flushes, the use of all the loo roll and paper towels, and the necessity to keep the tap and hand-dryer running throughout?) Poor P took even more of the brunt later on for committing the cardinal sin of channel-hopping. And then when I forced him to settle on a station, on came that mind-numbingly stupid DFS advert – the one with that fucking annoying Nickelback song. Breast cancer I can handle, but Rockstar? Pass the pistol.

Anyway, back to the barnet. I've bored you before with tales of how I've always had long hair, and just how important my lengthy locks were to me. I even cried while straightening my hair this morning (and not just because I caught an earlobe in the irons). On the cab ride into town (this wasn't a day for public transport) I studied every passing woman's haircut – just as I did with their boobs before the mastectomy – to see who could carry off what style, and judge whether it was the long-haired or short-haired women who got the most male attention. (Neither, as it goes – but apparently hotpants can do a lot to help.) The rest of this sentence is hardly going to do me any good in the smart stakes (I'm really living up to the long-blonde stereotype here), but I actually had to remind myself that not all short-haired women have cancer. Really! It's true! It's actually a choice for some people! (Duhh. Breast cancer is doubtless my payback for being so fucking stupid.)

Tills, my super-supportive friend (even for the seemingly ridiculous hair stuff) had planned the perfect Chemo Cut day: an antioxidant-filled lunch, shopping and the haircut. I may have allowed my short-hair fears to ruin the first part of the day, though, with my repeated exclaiming of 'oh shit!' between mouthfuls of beetroot. It's a good job the walk to the hairdressers wasn't far, either (actually I suspect that was no coincidence; nice one Tills). It was only thanks to my can't-walk-far wedges that I didn't ditch her right there on the street and head for the hills. Or Topshop.

The lure of a good brew and a glass of champagne (sorry Curly Professor) got me over the threshold, however, and when it became clear that super-stylist Mathew instinctively knew what would suit me (and recognised that I was as nervous as Pete Doherty in a customs bust), the whole experience became damn good fun. My best-ever hairdressers experience, in fact (not that there was much to beat after the undercutting episode, but you get my point). To save me from full-on scary shortness, Mathew recommended a graduated bob (my new-found lingo doesn't just stop at cancer terminology, you know) that's short and funky yet feminine and, frankly, fabulous. (It wasn't until just now when Googling Mathew, by the way, that I realised just how super a stylist he is. Lordy, how did Tills swing that appointment? Seems I owe her an A-list crop. Either that or the Botox we're toying with treating ourselves to.)

And the reaction? Well, I'll be putting my new do to the Mates Jury in the pub tomorrow night, but right now I'm getting the distinct impression that I should stop blogging and instead pay some attention to my husband. He's been staring at me more than the cricket highlights and that's got to be a good thing, right?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The body beautiful.

I'm obviously feeling more comfortable with my body than I thought I was. P & I took our chance to escape to a very lovely country hotel this weekend, and I found myself perfectly happy to wander around our huge room naked – something I'm not used to doing (particularly in full view of a herd of deer). Dare I say I'm edging towards being proud of my body? Again, territory I am definitely not used to. 

I've spent as long as I can remember wishing I looked different. As a kid, I loathed my super-curly, strawberry-blonde (okay, ginger) hair. I was hardly blessed with a good set of gnashers either – that's another huge understatement, so I'll instead use the words of my Dad, who chose his father-of-the-bride speech to announce that I had 'teeth like Ronaldinho'. At 12, I convinced myself that I was the hairiest girl in the second year, and threatened to ring ChildLine when Mum refused to let me shave my legs. Instead, I secretly nabbed a free sample of hair-removal cream from one of her magazines, locked myself in the bathroom and made a point of showing off my pins in the following day's PE class. By 13, I had become quite obsessed with the agonisingly slow rate at which my boobs were growing. (Turns out having tits isn't all it's cracked up to be.) By 14, it was all about the acne. At 15, I swore off short skirts on account of my wonky left knee (so much for the hair removal). By 16, I was more concerned with the size of my arse (no change there). And since, it's been everything from my thighs, arms and belly button (it's oddly T-shaped) to my ankles, fingers and big toenails (some funny bastard once told me they looked like satellite dishes).

So how, then, with visible surgery scars across my back and under my armpit, a deflated left tit and a circle of back-skin where my nipple should be, has my self-confidence suddenly increased? Maybe it's because I'm feeling better than I have done since my op. Maybe it's the antioxidant-tastic diet. Or maybe it's my last hurrah before chemo does its worst and I'm George Dawes-bound. (Apologies, by the way, to Matt Lucas for these constant references. Maybe if you hadn't walked past my hospital window two days after the mastectomy, I'd be referencing some other bald celeb instead.) Whatever the reason, I'd love the chance to go back to my 13/14/15-year-old self, give her a good shake and tell her not to be so bloody self-conscious. (And to ditch the side parting. And find a better way to lose her virginity than on a manky bedspread in a boy's smelly bedroom with Stars In Their Eyes on the telly.)

Anyway, I'm going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts – it's a damn nice change, and P is enjoying it as much as I am (wink wink). Not that I'd recommend a mastectomy as a means of gaining self-confidence, mind, but it's done a lot for mine. And actually, it's done even more than that (she says, leaning into the laptop as if to reveal a secret in the ladies loos). It has confirmed a suspicion I've had for a little while. Look out, Oestrogen Villainess – I have gained a superpower (and an unhealthy obsession with comic-book heroes, apparently). I thought I'd been imagining this since my op, but I can now say with some certainty that I have a super-sensitive right nipple. You heard it right, people. A super-sensitive nipple. It's not sensitive in that way – it's not going to get easily offended or cry at rom-coms. I'm talking about the other kind of sensitive. (Too much information? I'll say it again: Wrong. Blog.) Basically, all the feeling I've lost from my left nipple has somehow been transferred to my right. And how cool is that? Screw invisibility or wall-crawling or X-ray vision. Now this is a superpower. My only fear is that it might be vetoed by the Superpower Accreditation Board, by virtue of it not benefiting anyone other than myself. Ah well, no biggie – I could always use my powers for evil instead (little finger raised to mouth). Just get Smiley Surgeon to fit a gun beneath my new nipple and you can call me a Fembot.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The science bit.

Let the games commence! I've been at the hospital all afternoon and have come out with so much new info that I feel like I've had a crash course in another language. (Parlez vous chemo?) The next time you get a difficult cancer question at the pub quiz, consider me your phone-a-friend.

Aware that today marked the entry point to phase two of The Bullshit, I made the emancipatory move of ditching my mastectomy bra for the first time, and proudly wore my slightly wonky chest in a favourite batwing top and bust-skimming pendant necklace with jeans and my I-can-take-anything-on-provided-it-doesn't-mean-walking-far wedges. Cancer may take my hair, but it'll never take my fashion sense.

I tottered precariously into the hospital and was handed a pristine-looking file with my name on it that had to accompany me up to a different floor. Being a nosy cow, I had a good look through it while waiting for the lift: it was divided into neat, (currently empty) sections like 'histology', 'chemotherapy reports' and 'radiotherapy reports'. As the lift doors opened on my floor, I noticed two things: not everyone's files were so pristine (apparently cancer treatment takes it out on you and your folder), and I was the youngest person in the waiting room by about, ooh, 100 years. My wedges were wasted on this lot.

After the routine up-the-nose MRSA test and 20 minutes spent watching my feet turn blue in a far-too-air-conditioned consultation room, in came The Cavalry, AKA the curly-haired professor and his stunning second-in-command (she'll be a great help when I'm in full George Dawes mode – couldn't they have found me a real troll of a consultant instead?). And they were both brilliant: the perfect mix of straight-talking (without the scariness) and empathetic (without the head-tilting).

The Curly Professor explained that my CT scan would be early next week, as the results would have no bearing on the chemotherapy I'd be having. Whatever the CT shizzle, he's assuming that there will be cancer cells elsewhere in my body (thanks to so many lymph nodes being involved) which, oddly, came as quite a comfort. At least now I know that, whatever the scan reveals, I'll be having the right treatment to zap the arse off it all anyway. All that said, their serious looks made all of this feel more real than it has at any point so far. I wanted to stop them mid-flow and say, 'Hang on, let me get this right. I've got breast cancer? And you're about to give me chemotherapy? That's pretty fucking hardcore, no?' Up to now, all of this has been a comparative blast when you take a look at the months of toxic treatment ahead. What a bastard. (Sorry, Dad, the Tourettes is back.)

So here's the science bit: I'll begin with three sets of three-weekly cycles of one type of chemo, then have the same number of cycles of a different type. The side effects that Curly Professor listed didn't exactly read like a menu of spa treatments, and Glamorous Assistant nodded along sagely throughout (actually, she did offer a conciliatory head-tilt at the hair-loss part – her lovely curly locks rival the professor's). Thankfully they've agreed to fix my chemo cycles so my brother's wedding falls in my good week (the third week of my cycle), so I can return the favour of dancing with him to an indie classic, and look as glamorous as is possible with no eyelashes and a wig. 

I got to have a quick look around the chemo room, too. And, I'll be honest, it was hardly soothing music, essential oils and people in fluffy white dressing gowns. But nor was it a scene from The Exorcist. Some poor sods looked pretty bloody poorly, but others looked like they'd just waltzed out of Selfridges. Ever keen to do things my way (or no way at all), I've decided not to be a cancer patient, but instead a guest who's booked a relaxing day in the Therapy Suite. I'm going to turn up in huge sunglasses, comfy jeans, a kick-ass T-shirt and my sparkly new Converse trainers, with my Marc Jacobs tote in one hand and my iPhone in the other. Breast cancer just got fabulous.

But, until then, it's a mere three more days with long hair and six more days until the fun begins. And, at some point between that time, I've got to squeeze in a date with Dave Grohl. It's going to be a busy week.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Lessons in online shopping.

My NHS-badgering has paid off: I finally have confirmation of my CT scan for tomorrow afternoon. And, as much as I resisted at first, I'm actually pretty good at being an annoying, give-me-an-appointment-now-or-I'll-call-you-every-20-minutes nuisance. I didn't take it to extreme lengths, mind – when one nurse said 'you need to appreciate how busy we are right now', I resisted replying with 'and you need to appreciate how cancerous I am right now'. (That's got to be the cancer equivalent of 'don't you know who I am?'.)

I am, of course, cacking it now I've got the appointment. (And that, by the way, is as close to the World's Biggest Understatement as you're likely to get.) I just CANNOT HANDLE the not knowing. This might sound ridiculous to you, but surely even being told that I've got a huge spread of difficult-to-treat cancer cells must be better than this waiting? At least then I'd know what I'm up against and find a way of reasoning with it. Right now there's nothing to do but think (definitely not recommended), sleep (all afternoon), eat (one chocolate eclair after today's hospital visit, and a double portion of watercress and broccoli for dinner), blog (ta-dah) and shop. And boy can I shop. I've even learned a few things from my mammoth internet binge (cue list...).

1. Good old M&S sell mastectomy bras. And guess what? They're not all huge/patterned/embroidered/reminiscent of B&B bedspreads. Granted, I doubt they'll be putting me on a giant billboard underwear ad outside Macy's anytime soon, but my soon-to-be-delivered new purchases will be a distinct improvement on my current gym-top look. (And to think I got upset when my school nemesis took the piss out of my training bra in the sports hall changing room. That was positively Rigby & Peller compared to my current garb. I bet she's loving this.)

2. Much as I adore them (and I really really adore them), I just can't bring myself to buy French Connection's lovely, pale taupe 'Jolie' shoes. Damn them for naming a pair of gorgeous Mary Janes after The Oestrogen Villainess

3. Dorothy Perkins currently has some truly awful dresses. But you can imagine how tempted I was to buy this T-shirt.

4. I've spent the last few weeks looking for one of those thin, beany-hat-style caps that babies have (see, I told you I was turning into George Dawes) so I can wear it in bed once my hair has fallen out. And, thank you Topshop, I've found one. It's not about keeping my head warm, though – this is purely for the purpose of protecting my husband. I managed the first year of our relationship without P hearing me fart or seeing me with no make-up (I've made up for it since, like) so I reckon that, thanks to the new hat, I can manage a few months of keeping him from seeing my bald head as well.

5. Rant alert. I am totally, utterly, tearing-my-hair-out SICK of seeing green-slogan T-shirts. 'Planet, Sweet Planet', 'Turn Over A New Leaf: Recycle', 'Don't Trash My Planet', 'Imagine A Leafy Future', 'Think About What You Throw Away'... How about 'Get Your Eco Lectures From The Guardian, Not My T-Shirt'? Honestly, shoppers, if you want to be more eco aware, brilliant! Just fucking well go and do it, eh? No need to broadcast it to the whole bloody world (says the girl blogging about her boobs).

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Crop idol.

It's T-minus six days until my pre-chemo haircut, and for the last week I've been wearing my hair up in protest. They say that getting a short hairdo before it all falls out is a way of taking control, so my 24-hour reliance on a hair clip must be bordering on control freakery. Anyway, fuck it. I'm not in control of much at the moment so this is about as close to a guilty pleasure as I'm currently allowed. (Speaking of banned pleasures, have I not mentioned my new antioxidant-filled diet of watercress, beetroot, broccoli, onions and green tea? It's a big fat no to barbecues, red meat, booze and animal fats, too. You'd think they'd say 'poor love, you've got cancer – treat yourself to some cake and a few Mars bars.')

But yeah, the haircut. A genius friend of mine discovered a website where you can try on the hair of various celebs. And what a brilliant, brilliant find. (On a night where I'd planned an early one, there I was at 1am, fiddling with Charlize Theron's highlights.) In need of a second (and third, and fourth) opinion, I elected a carefully chosen judges' panel of girlfriends who can always be relied on to give me the real truth about my arse/arms/thighs in that dress/top/skirt. (If only my Nan were still around to join the panel – she once told me that my headscarf made me look 'like a gypsy', hence my insistence on buying a wig instead.) P joined the panel too; not because he's good at the honest opinions (he's always quick off the mark with a 'no' after a 'does my bum look big in this?'), but because he's the unfortunate sod who's got to look at me the most.

It's a simple concept: upload a photo of yourself, choose the hair colour that most resembles your own, add highlights if necessary and let the hair hilarity begin. (How difficult is it, by the way, to find a straight-on, head-and-shoulder shot of yourself? I ruled out my inebriated-looking, eyes-half-closed passport photo immediately – every hairdo would have had me looking like a blonde Pete Doherty.)

While it's all great fun, the experience is mostly a reminder that, actually, you've probably already got the right haircut to suit your face. Unable to take that assurance right now, however, on I went, trying on blonde versions of the cream of the A-list crops from the Katie Holmes bob (too Anna Wintour) to the Mary J Blige bowl (too Boris Johnson). The Keira Knightley cut almost made it but I fear it might be a snip too far, considering the fact that my split ends have never seen action above my earlobes (plus I secretly fear my long hair has been masking a pair of FA Cup ears all this time). 

In the end, the panel settled on a barnet blend of Cate Blanchett's choppiness and Victoria Beckham's longer-at-the-front-shorter-at-the-back look. Never did I think I'd walk into a hairdressers and ask to look like Posh but hey, I never thought I'd be blogging about my bowel movements either. Funny how life goes.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Down down, you bring me down.

My iPod isn't just your ordinary iPod. I reckon it's got some sort of situation-sensor or mood-manager. Seriously, Steve Jobs got carried away with this baby. My iPod knows me. Whenever I shuffle songs it knows exactly what to play. If I need a lift on a Monday-morning journey to work, it'll offer up Stevie Wonder, Prince and the B52s. When I'm feeling a bit introspective, it'll concede with Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley. If I'm on a long drive and fancy singing loudly to some classics, it comes up with the goods every time thanks to a Beatles/Beach Boys/The Band combo (why, by the way, is all my best music under B?). My iPod is a girl's best friend. But never more so than this week. 

This week I got my kick-ass back. That sentence sounds very strong and empowered, so let me ruin that illusion by telling you that this happened while I was buying Tampax. It's the last purchase of that kind I'll be making in a while (my ovaries are being shut down for a bit so that bitch oestrogen can't do any more damage) which is, of course, an excellent reason to feel kick-ass again. Excuse the 'that bitch oestrogen' comment, by the way. In my twisted, overworked mind, oestrogen has recently taken on the form of a Batman villain. And what a bitch she is, all huge tits and long legs and glossy hair and glowing skin, with a superhuman reproductive capacity. (In the film, however, my outfit will be far superior. And Batman will be played by Dave Grohl.)

Anyway, back to the iPod. At the pinnacle of its shuffling brilliance, it chose a moment shortly after the Last Tampax episode to select what is now my don't-fuck-with-me anthem: I Am The Resurrection. Of course I've always loved it – it's a classic; who hasn't? – but while singing along in the bathroom (and dancing like Bez, for some reason) it took on a new significance, and I suddenly had something (or someone, if you stick with the oestrogen-as-Batman-villainess analogy) to aim those venomous lyrics at. 'You're a no-one nowhere washed up baby who'd look better dead.' 'I couldn't stand another second in your company.' How very satisfying. (Hang on a minute! Long legs, huge tits, glossy hair, superhuman reproductivity... shit! The Oestrogen Villainess is Angelina Jolie, isn't she? Holy hormones, Batman! Well there's another blinding reason to hate oestrogen, then.)

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Analyse this.

Well at least my mini-series of date dreams ended on a high. Now it's all about the nightmares, thanks to my negative mindset of the last couple of days, and the fact that I'm currently on the Isle of Wight and thus not sleeping in my own bedroom.

Am I the only person that happens to? The moment my subconscious recognises that I'm not in my own bed, it kicks into bad-dream overdrive. Our honeymoon was a prime example – I'd regularly wake up to find myself whacking P round the head as retaliation for his part in yet another kidnap plot. Kidnap is something of a recurring dream-theme, actually. When P & I first moved in together (into a poky studio flat, I should add) the poor sod was once woken up at 4am with a punch on his arm and me yelling, 'You KNOW my Grandad isn't allowed to drive!' (I'd been dreaming that P had kidnapped my Grandad, and made him drive around hairy looking, cliff-edge roads at gunpoint. It deserved a punch.)

It's amazing I was asleep long enough to have that nightmare actually. This was back in P's sleep apnoea days, when getting a bit of shut-eye was about as easy as wading upstream through treacle (thankfully I discovered Touche Éclat at around the same time). And, believe me, a serious lack of sleep will have you doing some weird-ass stuff. Once, I was so sick of P's decibel-defying, unrhythmic snoring that I lifted all 6-foot-2 of him out of bed and dragged him into our tiny bathroom for the night. He woke up in the morning, propped awkwardly against the loo, confused yet refreshed after an uninterrupted seven-hour sleep, and I had the most delicious night's rest in a long time. There was also the night when I found myself in a dangerously dazed and sleep-deprived state, reaching for a knife as a means to getting P to JUST SHUT UP. It's not like I'd have done anything serious (honest, m'lord), but at the time it seemed a perfectly reasonable solution to the snoring. (Somebody once made the mistake of telling my mother-in-law that story. If looks could kill...)

My lengthy point, however, is that P & I are perfectly used to such weird bedtime behaviour (not that kind – well not so much at the moment anyway), so it was no surprise to either of us when I woke myself up crying during the previous two nights.

Nightmare one began as another date dream, this time with Almost Boy, who arranged to meet me in a private box for a football match at Wembley (which, by the way, ranks as a bloody good date in my book). But when I got to the box and admired the view of the stadium, I was disturbed by a coldness behind me. I turned around to see a funeral procession walking by, then two men brought a white coffin into my pitch-side box and left me alone with it. As the realisation of my deceased date dawned on me, the coffin opened with a creak (a bit like in those spooky Scooby Doo episodes) and Dead Almost Boy (or should that be Almost Dead Boy?) explained to me that, no worries, we could reschedule our date 'on the other side', as I'd soon be joining him there.

Then last night I dreamt I'd been to the hospital to see Smiley Surgeon, who informed me that my cancer was untreatable and, while I was in no immediate
danger, my days were definitely numbered. Then, very calmly, I made my way back home, picked up my Mac, logged into Facebook and updated my page with the following: 'L has got between 5 and 10 years to live. Bet you weren't expecting to read that in her status update.'

Make of these dreams what you will. But, whatever they mean, I'm torn between two conclusions: (a) I've got one hell of a dark sense of humour, or (b) I'm just well and truly fucked up. Either way, I'm never eating cheese before bed again.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

A gentle reminder.

Less than two weeks til chemo kick-off and still no sign of Dave Grohl.

Sort it out, readers.

Let me get this off my chest.

'It's probably just a cyst.'
'I'm sure it will be completely benign.'
'If it turns out the cancer is invasive.
'In case you require chemotherapy.'
'In the unlikely event that the CT scan shows cancer in other organs...'

Yadda yadda yadda. Will someone give me a straight answer, for fuck's sake? 

At the hospital this afternoon (drainage session two) I backed Smiley Surgeon and Always-Right Cancer Nurse into a corner, and have come away with the news that (a) my stage two breast cancer is at grade three (now Google that and see if you come back as scared as I just did) and (b) that I have about a 70% survival rate. 70%. (I've spent my life getting 70%, as it goes.)

Forgive tonight's bleak outlook, but all I can see at the moment is the 30% chance of, well, not survival. And before you start, don't go telling me that 70% is a very good chance, that time is on my side, that breast cancer is really curable these days, that I'm a fighter... I'm well aware of all those things, thank you very much. And I also know that if you were in my patent pumps, you'd be looking at the smaller percentage too.

People keep telling me that I needn't keep 'being brave' and that I 'don't have to feel positive all the time' (get 'brave' and 'positive' on my Most Hated list IMMEDIATELY). They say that whenever I want to let it all out/get really angry/have a good cry, I can talk to them. And it's good of them to say so.

But let me say this for the record. I am not consciously being anything – brave, positive, strong, whatever. I will never want to have a good cry/rant/whinge. Those things happen spontaneously: when trying on pyjamas in M&S, watering the garden, stirring my tea, blowing out a candle before I go to bed. At the moment, every reaction is spontaneous (hence a poor kid getting both barrels in Dixons recently).

In fact this is the first fucking time in my whole life when I've stopped giving a shit about how I'm being, the way I'm acting or how I'm coming across to other people. Again: I am not trying to be anything, I'm just getting on with it.

None of these words, today or any other day, are for your benefit. I'm not 'being brave' to make you feel better. (Let me say it again: I. Am. Not. Being. Brave.) This blog isn't a vehicle to make you think that I'm breezing through breast cancer. I am not. And I'm not trying to give you the impression that I'm okay, actually, because I'm cracking the odd joke, and thus you needn't be concerned about how I'm coping. There is no 'how' here. I'm just coping. There's no good or bad way to do it. You'd cope too.

That's just something I had to say.

Too few to mention?

I've been having a recurring dream. And, let me tell you, it's a welcome change to my usual one where I have to wait ages in the toilet queue of a busy club, only to find when I get to the front that the only available cubicle has no door, so everyone has to watch me having a wee. But I digress. In the recurring dream of the moment, each night a different boy hears from someone that I've got breast cancer, and so takes me out on a date (so far I've been to the pub with a former date, the football with a former colleague and a swanky restaurant with Marco Pierre White). Then at the end of the night the boy kisses me meaningfully, as if to prove that he's cool with the C-word. Last night was the best yet: Dave Grohl took me to the Hard Rock Cafe in LA to which, inexplicably, he had an adjoining apartment that looked a bit like Al Pacino's office in The Devil's Advocate. I like to think of this particular dream as a dress rehearsal for the real thing (the meeting-and-kissing-Dave-Grohl part, not the questionable date venue or scary apartment), when one of you brilliant buggers organises said meet-up as a pre-chemo treat (so get a wriggle on, eh, we haven't got long). And if you're about to refer me to the 'I've never cheated' part of a previous post, save your breath – Dave Grohl is on my 'list'. At the top, as it goes. Laminated.

Not that I'm into analysing dreams (or pretending know what I'm talking about here), but perhaps this mini-series has got something to do with my fear of becoming completely unfanciable when all the hair-loss and steroid-swelling fun begins. Not that I'm any kind of Beyoncé pretender now, you understand. But it's a concern that's rapidly scaling the worry charts (CT scan still holding its own at number 1).

P jogged home from work yesterday and mentioned when he got back that some girls sitting on a bench had commented on his legs. And of course they did. P's gorgeous. But I'm obviously not the only one to have noticed his charms (go near him and I'll scratch your eyes out, right?), which is something that has come to play on my mind. Let's be honest here – balding, bloated lasses aren't suddenly going to become his thing, are they? And definitely not balding, bloated lasses who are unlikely to give him a child of his own.

At the risk of later kicking myself for worrying about this now (I'm not supposed to be concerning myself with what's around the corner – and if you've met me, you'll know how frustratingly difficult that is), but is the no-kids thing going to become a huge regret for P? Might he one day wish he hadn't got me up at 6 that Thursday morning, with the promise of a wonderful life together and an enticing Tiffany box? He's hardly got what he signed up for, has he? And there's always going to be some bench-bitch with a compliment on his legs, ready to divert his attention from his once-beautiful bride.

I don't really know what it feels like to have major eat-away-at-you regrets; mine are more like loose ends I really wish I'd tied up when I had the chance. I wish, for example, that I'd been tougher on a former flame (let's call him the Almost Boy) and made him explain his mumbled references to love and ships passing in the night, before walking away from me on a kebab-wrapper filled street in the cold for the last time (an exhausting pattern that had lasted for a few years in some form or other). I wish I'd let that woman know exactly what I thought of her, and done something to avoid the trouble she caused for me and my friends. And I wish I'd never shelled out my monthly travel budget on those unfeasibly high shoes in haste before a friend's wedding. Not only were they toe torture, they also gave me pins like Miss Piggy's and were never worn again.

But back to the issue. P & I had, of course, previously been forced to consider a life that includes just us two. For the record, it mostly involves us watching cricket all over the world, lots of four-poster-bed weekends away, buying a second house in Spain, always going to Glastonbury (in a pimped-up camper van, naturally) and owning a ridiculously child-unfriendly zone 1 apartment with a massive roof terrace that's perfect for parties. This isn't a distant-second-place existence – you should know that I LOVE the thought of this life with P. (Jeez, I love the thought of any life with P. Stick us in a hut in Hull and we'd still have a better time than most.) P, of course, says the same about our alternative future, but lately it's been difficult to figure out when people are being honest or avoiding the tricky stuff and instead telling me what they think I want to hear. Whatever it is, it's important for me to know that P isn't later going to regret once taking advantage of a drunken colleague in a Hammersmith pub. (That 'don't-worry-love-I'll-get-you-home-safely' line is a corker, ain't it?)

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Magazine of the year, eh?

I'm really fucking pissed off with Grazia. And I'll tell you for why. (Thanks Bryn.)

1. For assuming that I have £1,095 to spend on Halston boots (not to mention the necessary pencil-like calves).

2. For its lazy celebrity reporting, all of which I can read on Perez Hilton (or hear from my friend Ant) before Grazia hits the newsstands. 

3. For bagging brilliant TV columnist Paul Flynn and homes editor Rachel Loos, thus making me still want to buy the damn mag.

4. For never letting me win the Goodie Bag Giveaway. (Jane Bruton, if you have anything about you, you'll fix it so this week's Marc by Marc Jacobs Groovee bag is mine. It'd be a nice touch for me to win on the week you're raising money for Cancer Research, and I may even be persuaded to retract points 1 and 2.)

5. For ruining my morning with today's gloomy, cancer-themed feature, 'The Day My Children Said Goodbye To Mummy'. Thanks to this not-a-scrap-of-blue-sky story, I am now convinced that my CT scan will reveal an untreatable spread to my bones/lungs/brain, and that I ought to stop saving for Halston boots and instead open a funeral fund.

6. Oh and by the way, Grazia, the Rest Of The World has elected me to inform you that we're all sick of the cutesy celebrity-couple-name-combining schtick as well. Brangelina, Tomkat, Bennifer... and now Agbert. It's so A/W '07, dahhlings.

Sorry, Clinique.

Why has it taken all of this to make me realise that no make up = good skin?

Dammit. That proves it, then: Mum is always right. (Well, apart from the time she tried to convince me that Gok Wan is straight.)

Monday, 7 July 2008

The no-kids clause.

Smiley Surgeon and Always-Right Cancer nurse were on good form today. They're right on my wavelength that, whatever news they have to deliver, it can't be worse than what they told me three weeks ago. Hence, they're always very chipper and matter-of-fact, and keen to talk tennis before cancer.

There was a great moment today when my dressings came off for the first time, and we were all able to admire Smiley Surgeon's handiwork. Man, that guy should set up an alterations business – his stitching is the nuts. For starters, I've got one slightly diagonal scar on my back that's about the length of a Curly Wurly, then one under my armpit that's a bit shorter than a Kit Kat finger. They're both super-neat and healing fast, and they won't be the kind of thing I'm embarrassed about being visible in the future. (Low-back tops are back on the shopping list. Or at least they would be if I could carry them off.)

But – drumroll please – the mother of all wounds is at the front. And what a corker it is. I've never been a tits-out-for-the-lads kind of girl, but now I might just become one. (Jeez, that'd frighten them. 'Ere mate, what's going on with that bird's nipple?')

Anyway, save your imagination. (I could sniff the curiosity from here.) Don't feel bad about it either – if it were you I'd have wanted to know, too. Besides, this is the kind of stuff that'll be left out of Brave Kylie's inevitable coping-with-cancer book, so consider it my duty. Step aside Minogue OBE (pah). My turn now.

So, the New Boob. In my mind, I had envisaged some sort of heinous, purple gash in the shape of an X with bruising all around it and stitches poking out at untidy angles, crusty blood still hanging off. (Enjoying your dinner? Get over it, you're reading the wrong blog.) In reality, my boob looks precisely like it should, considering what it's been through. In short, my nipple has been lopped off and replaced with a graft of skin from my back. Imagine it all as a slightly-vertically-squashed circle with a Quality Street Toffee Penny-sized circle in the middle, and you've got the picture. Not bad eh? No wonder the four of us were cooing over it this morning. Tis a beautiful thing.

I wasn't just being complimentary about it because Smiley Surgeon was in the room, either. You'd think that being polite might be nigh-on impossible if someone had made a mess of your new boob, but I reckon I'd be able to manage it. Hell, I once tipped an Islington hairdresser for giving me a definitely-not-wanted undercut, instead blaming myself for (a) asking her to thin my hair out a bit, (b) not looking up throughout the haircut so she wouldn't think I was checking up on her and (c) giving off all the wrong 'hey-I'm-cool-so-please-experiment-with-my-barnet' vibes by reading a copy of The Face.

Anyway, onto the rest. Consider all of the above 'talking tennis before cancer'. The remainder of today's hospital visit concerned the serious shizzle of histology reports and treatment timelines. And, since all that probably won't be particularly comical/interesting, I'll move swiftly and take the opportunity to write more lists.

First, the good news:

1. Despite the tumour having pushed dangerously close to my skin, that biopsy came back clear. And, let's be honest, I could have done without that as well.

2. I'm healing quickly, in every sense. The dressings are off (apart from a few steri-strips) and the movement in my left arm is coming on. I still shan't be doing the YMCA for a while, but at least now I've got an excuse for being the miserable git who won't participate in a Mexican wave.

3. An obvious one, but the tumour is out. A soon-to-take-place CT scan will determine whether there are any cancer cells elsewhere, but that bulky bitch of a lump that caused all this fuss in the first place is no more. (It's probably in a spot-lit jar in a secret underground lab, looking sulky and lamenting the life of further havoc it could have had inside my lovely left tit, were it not for the pesky professor. Or not. This isn't an episode of Dr Who, after all.)

And the not-so-good news:

1. For a stage two cancer, this is one aggressive motherfucker (Smiley Surgeon may have phrased that differently): it had spread to 24 out of 25 lymph nodes, at a seemingly fast rate. (Bet that 25th node was a right cocky bastard.) The upshot is, we've got to move fast on the chemo.

2. The cancer is more hormone-receptive than we might have thought. On the morning of my surgery, P & I had an appointment with a fertility specialist (I like to think of him as The Eggman) who recommended a quick pre-chemo course of IVF. As that would involve a hefty dose of oestrogen, it's now off the menu, as is any hope of freezing eggs prior to my next phase of treatment. We can't hang around waiting for my ovaries to cough up the good stuff.

3. There's a chance that my getting pregnant in the first place exacerbated the cancer. (See, kids, SEX IS DANGEROUS. I ought to advertise my services to schools – I'd scare the bejeezers out of the little shysters.) There's no definite way of knowing whether or not either pregnancy was to blame for The Bullshit but, either way, it turns out that oestrogen might just be my kryptonite. Has the pregnancy penny dropped yet, then?

Here's the deal: next time I order a coke in the pub, no more raised eyebrows, right?

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Save Ferris.

My postie rang the doorbell again this morning, as she has done every day since people started hearing about The Bullshit. I joked with my surgeon that breast cancer has so far felt like having a Groundhog Day birthday, complete with breakfast in bed, cards, calls, letters, gifts, flowers, vouchers, cakes, visitors, chocolates, drawings from kids and a seahorse-shaped helium balloon. A mate of mine has even posted me the loan of his entire DVD collection. (What, by the way, is 'Forrest Hump'?)

Seriously though, you won't believe the kind of things people are doing for me. Sending huge packages filled with things that might help, flying from abroad to visit, sorting out a car service to take me to and from the hospital, calling Charles Worthington's PA to find out who'd be the best person to do my pre-chemo haircut... ah-may-zing. (Though I still wait in hope of seeing my name on a blimp, in a newspaper or on a scoreboard at the baseball, Ferris Bueller-style. Or getting a visit from a celebrity well-wisher, a la David Soul in Little Britain [but A-list only and pre-baldness, right?].)

It's all so staggeringly lovely – and a massive help to boot – but up to what point should I accept it? I've sometimes felt so overwhelmed that I've been compelled to make it stop, but then people say that, while they can't take some of the treatment off my hands for me, they want to do whatever else they can to help. They say they're doing it because they love me and that, if I weren't so nice in the first place, they wouldn't want to bother.

But I worry that actually they've got it all wrong, and that their spectacular efforts are wasted. I'm really not always that nice. 

It's not like I've ever shot or stabbed or smacked anyone (does hair-pulling count?). And I can honestly tell you that I've never cheated on a fella. (Any of them. Yes, even you – more fool me eh?) All that said, I can be a real grumpy/selfish/bitchy/lazy/stubborn/sensitive/
manipulative/cheeky cow when I want to. I got the right hump when Princess Diana died and ruined my 18th birthday. I once used someone's office for a purpose other than work. I hardly ever make a brew for my colleagues. I'm late for everything. I've taken refunds on clothes that I've worn. I've lied on my CV. I've cadged more fags than I've bought. I bunked more uni lectures than I went to, and made up poor excuses to get my deadlines extended. I once helped a mate steal a carpet from an Indian restaurant. (And a rival team's footy kit from their changing room. And a fridge from someone else's digs. Bloody students.)

I lie as well. Mostly in a situation where it'll later embarrass the arse off someone. Like the time I told P that OutKast were from Pontypridd, then watched as he tried to persuade other people of the same. Or when I called my brother J in a rage, incensed that the New Year Honours list included a knighthood for Vernon Kay, in recognition of his charity work. (Sir Vernon Kay! Apparently the more ludicrous the lie, the better the result.) Or in Freshers Week when I began a rumour that I'd turned down a place in the Spice Girls to get a degree. Or the day I told some kids at school that my Dad was an ex-Derby County player (why I thought that would make me any cooler, I don't know). And then there was that night when J was having a house party, so I got my mate to call him up, pretending to be the police reporting a noise complaint. The result was magnificent: J's mates have never let him forget it, and it still makes me feel fantastic.

See? Not. That. Nice. But a few things you had to hear, nonetheless.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Hello boys.

Nobody ever enjoyed ill health (in particular the attention it brings) quite like my Grandad. After he had a double heart bypass, he spent the subsequent few years sitting in his chair breathing loudly, hand placed purposefully over his heart, just itching for someone to acknowledge it.

After my diagnosis, I joked that perhaps I could attract the same kind of attention by sitting with my hand constantly on my left tit. And ta-dah! Here I am, typing with my right hand while grabbing my prosthetic boob with my left. (There's heavy breathing too, though that part's more to do with this being so effing painful – now I see why they make pregnant women do breathing exercises.) Besides, my left arm remains pretty screwed – to the point of not being able to tie my hair back and needing someone to do up my bra – so holding onto my prosthetic tit is as good a use as any for it, eh? Call it physiotherapy.

But yes, the falsie. Cancer really does get more glamorous by the day, I tells ya. Just as I was enjoying the joyful moment of being unplugged from my various wound drains before being discharged from hospital, in comes my very lovely (and always-bloody-right-about-everything) cancer nurse to fit me for the bra that I must wear, day and night, until someone tells me otherwise (and I doubtless snog them full on the lips from the sheer emancipation of being freed from it). Believe me, this bra is no Agent Provocateur contender. But more of that later.

What the bra does have, however, is a handy little pocket to house the prosthetic boob that I'm currently sporting (keep an eye out for them next Fashion Week). It's round and foamy and stuffed with lambswool, and it feels a bit like a novelty clown's nose (honk honk). And while I'm thankful for it in the meantime so I don't have to look all wonky-chested in my far-from-low-cut clothes, I'll be more enthusiastic when we can eventually get round to the fun of inflating my currently flat saline implant. (That said, it'll be limited fun – it's only got my usual B-cup level to imitate, so we'll hardly be putting it to the Dolly Parton test.)

Speaking of inflation, there's been a weird side effect on that front that I hadn't really bargained for. You've seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, right? (The kinda crap '70s one, not the trippy Johnny Depp one.) Well remember Violet Beauregarde filling with blueberry juice after eating that dodgy chewing gum, and you've got a pretty good idea of how my left side has felt since my aforementioned drains came out. Always-Right Cancer Nurse warned that my skin 'might begin to feel like a filled-up hot-water bottle' and, true to form, she's not wrong. Fortunately my consultant has got the Oompa Loompas on hand to drain me next week. 

And hopefully after that, this damn bra will become a bit more comfortable. Not that my newly deflated left side will make it look any more passable in the fashion stakes, you understand. I can't emphasise this strongly enough: the bra is hideous. I'd post a photo of it if I weren't so bloody embarrassed. (And bear in mind that I can handle the shame of you knowing all about my constipation.)

From a distance (the other side of a football field, let's say) it looks a bit like a training bra, or a cropped gym top (the really show-offy kind that you see those leathery, 50-odd women wearing while jogging over Chelsea Bridge in rush hour). Up close, mind, it looks like something that could have had a previous life on my Nan's washing line. It's white (naturally, it doesn't come in any other colours) with wide straps and nondescript flowers embroidered onto it, the like of which you'd normally see on a naff B&B bedspread. This bra is all the proof you need that the medical world just ain't used to dealing with breast cancer in twentysomethings. It is the anti-sexy. Poor P's already got bollocks like cricket balls and, with this lingerie look, it doesn't look like being remedied any time soon.