Monday, 12 January 2009

When the chips are down.

I think my headscarf just got me off a parking ticket. Today's radiotherapy overran by about, ooh, three weeks, and by the time I got back to the car, there was a traffic warden tapping away on his ticket machine, licking his lips and circling my Astra like a hungry bird of prey. You know how parking attendants always tell you they've already started making out your ticket and can't possibly stop, even though you're back now? Well, THEY LIE. This dude stopped. And scarpered. And I swear it's because of the headscarf. 

It's the second time my headscarf's got me preferential treatment today. This morning, in the packed radiotherapy waiting room, a woman gave up her seat for me. 'Oh here, love,' she smiled. 'You have it – I'm not a patient.' And on the way back from the hospital last week in a minor traffic jam on Chelsea Embankment, I managed to silence a very shouty, road-raged woman who was shrieking abuse at anyone in her path from the windows of her MX5. When our cars aligned, I looked calmly in her direction and said, 'Just what have you got to moan about, lady?' And, by 'eck, it felt good. 

Grateful as I am for such minor cancer upsides, there's a moral question here, no? While I don't think anyone's going to deny a cancer patient taking advantage of some assistance whenever they can, at what point does assistance become milking it? When it comes to playing the cancer card, what are the rules?

This isn't exclusively a cancer game, of course. There's a range of suits in this deck: cancer, health, age, sex... And it's perfectly acceptable, is it not, to play the pregnancy card – whether for a seat on the tube or a free upgrade on the train. So, by that token, is the cancer excuse fair game? (I'll see your stomach cramps and raise you a bald head.)

I'll give up my poker face – breast cancer is an excuse I've been known to use on occasion. But not half as much as I could have done. Or even as much as I'd like to have done. I'm a long way off getting comfy on the moral high ground, here. While I believe that the cancer card should be reserved only for mischief purposes on special occasions, like a pair of red heels you keep for big nights out, I sure as eggs is eggs wouldn't begrudge anyone using it whenever they bloody well wanted. While I'm not suggesting that cancer should be a get-out-of-jail-free card that excuses you from murder, robbery, abuse or buying Sting albums, I reckon the odd dish-washing swerve, tea-making dodge and remote-control hog are more than acceptable, given the circumstances. (A word to the wise, though – cancer cards don't wash with Seetickets. I wasn't well enough to make it to a pre-booked gig last year, but no amount of breast cancer could persuade them to refund my ticket. Bastards.)

On a slightly more serious mischief front, I've often wondered what I'd do if I got pulled over for speeding. There's every chance I will, given the insufficient time I leave myself to get to the hospital every morning (who am I kidding – the insufficient time I leave myself to get anywhere). And there's no doubt about it – with no cleavage card to my disposal, hell yeah, I'd dig deep for the cancer cop-out. And I'd be willing to wager that you'd do the same. (Ooh, this'd be a corking topic for Who Me?, wouldn't it? Anyone remember that programme? It was one of those typically 1980s, made-for-schools shows that made you question your moral integrity while your teacher read the newspaper for half an hour. I can't find it on t'internet though –someone please tell me I haven't dreamt it.)

Think of me what you will, but I reckon I've paid my dues. I've served my time, done the stretch of torturous treatment and got The Bullshit on my permanent record. I've earned it – that card is mine to play. Cancer doesn't exactly come with benefits. Your consultant doesn't set the ball rolling with, 'Well, I'm afraid you've got cancer. But hey, at least the Sainsbury's delivery man will carry your groceries through to the kitchen.' And while nothing about using your illness-induced trump card makes you feel good, isn't it worse to miss the opportunity? I've done nothing but kick myself about KFC-gate and not fronting up to my neighbour on bonfire night and, when reliving those moments in my head, not once do I wuss out like I did at the time. 

P's not so quick to play the cancer card. Not that he hasn't thought about it, mind. Some lass pissed him off last week with vocal, reasonless whingeing about the weather or her waistline or a bad hair day or somesuch, and he told me how much he'd wanted to grab her by the neck and say, 'Shut the fuck up, woman. Do you know what I've been going through?' When something like cancer muscles in on your life, you don't half find yourself low on patience for other people's dubious gripes (especially those on TV – Celebrity Big Brother housemates, this means you). So I'd even go so far as to say that I think it's okay for someone to play the cancer card on your behalf. (Within reason, like – I don't want you to go missing a deadline tomorrow and blaming it on me.) Having cancelled two holidays and countless other days out last year because of me, my folks booked themselves a well-deserved, pre-Christmas long weekend abroad. At check-in, they could see that the flight had been overbooked and the attendant was busy bumping people off the plane. 'What will we do if they try to stop us getting on?,' asked Mum. 'That woman will hear exactly what kind of year I've had,' replied my old man. And good on him.

Don't get me wrong – I and everyone around me will, of course, be mightily relieved when such a time comes that we don't have a cancer card to play. And no amount of headscarf-wearing benefits can trump having my hair back, so I'm hardly going to keep up a cancer pretence just to get off the odd parking fine. I'm perfectly prepared – nay, happy – to go back to the dish-washing, litter-tray-scooping, standing-on-the-tube ways of the healthy public. (And frankly, cancer's in danger of making me an even lazier sod than I am already.)

While it's certainly more black than comedy, I do hope this blog goes to show that alongside The Bullshit's oceans of crap lies a small island of dark humour. And, as long as there are tentative laughs to be had and mischief to be made, I'm happy to lay my cancer cards on the table and get in on the action. Wouldn't you?

45 comments:

Ellie said...

Good on you, you should find the dark humour in whatever you bloody well want to. Too many people whinge about things that mean sweet nothing, if they can whinge about things as petty as not having enough change for a chocolate bar you are definitely entitled to a full on whinge. Anyone who begrudges the odd use of the cancer card by you or your family deserves a good slap round the chops with a stinky fish.

Love the blog : ) El x x x

P.S. How tight-fisted are seetickets? I may boycott them!

65-roses said...

Damn straight. It's only fair to be honest. I'd do it myself only I don't tent to come up on many 'Cystic Fibrosis Card' moments. Although staying in bed all morning with a cuppa (which I didn't make) is perfectly acceptable when I've been coughing all night, in my book. Xx

Super-fan Marsh said...

My dad died when I was fifteen and my family have been playing the funeral card at every opportunity since. It's got us out of bill demands, missed appointments, and even two essay deadlines at university, seven years later ("you see, it was the anniversary of his death the night before it was due in, and I was just too upset to work"). The way I look at it, going through something like that is so utterly, utterly horrible, that ANY benefit you can get from it (so long as it's no harm to someone else) is totally due you. If it were me, I'm sure I'd have tried to get a discount on groceries and an upgrade on the flight.

I say keep it up and then some. You deserve it.

Thanks for more amazing blogs, you are consistantly astonishing.

Kel D said...

Everyone is locked into a shared hallucination that things like Big Brother, driving quickly through traffic and parking regs actually matter.
Cancer is a reality check, you're just providing a much needed reality check.
(though yeah, it'll be nice when you can buy into the shared hallucinations again)

TH said...

I'm getting me one of hem headscarves x

Freudus said...

Yeah, but if we all get one the card will become unplayable, even by those who have earned it... x

Weight Loss said...

I think oprah did this.

Here is a great article i found about
the acai berrys. I didnt know about this
stuff and wish i had along time ago. Hope
this helps.

http://emergevictoriousoverfat.com/2009/01/acai-berries/

Logie Bear said...

Wow, this is the first post of yours I have read and I am in love. You just made the english language your bitch.

Loved, enjoyed, now following

Good evening to you

Logan

Logan said...

Drat. Meant to make the comment with this profile. Same thing applies though :D

gemmak said...

Fab blog, someone with a 'big gob' saying it how it is rocks. I'll be back to read more just as soon as the caffeine kicks in! :o)

mac_kix_windoze said...

Play it baby! I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma last February. I completely understand where you're coming from - how much is too much? And when, for goodness sake will I be able to STOP playing the cancer card? My wife did it when she was running a half-marathon in March last year. She arrived and realised she had left her running number at home. The woman at the desk concerned started to relate how bad her week had been and how my wife would need to pay again to run the race. That was enough for her, "you think YOU'VE had a bad week? don't get me started etc etc etc". Got her a new number for free.

Steven Fry sent me over and I'm glad he did. I'm on day 3 of Radiotherapy and wondering if I'm tired because of it or because I'm actually having to be active again. I was only allowed to drive again on Christmas Eve so after an enforced period of not being able to go anywhere I suppose it's not surprising. I will read up later today on the rest of your story. I've had 6 months of chemo, an operation to replace my right knee (where the primary tumour was) and in November they opened my chest and removed all the secondary tumours they could find from both lungs. Suffice to say, 2008 was as shit as yours sounds from reading a couple of entries. Chin up, I'm right there with ya. If you want to read my blog, be my guest:

http://mackixwindoze.wordpress.com/start-here

Thanks for being there.

Anice said...

I've just found your blog and I wanted to say how much I've enjoyed reading it. I have MS and I know all about playing that card to get me out of stuff!! I think if we have to take the bullshit of illness then there has to be some silver lining no matter how dim.
Anice xx

@lukeaikman said...

You highlight a bigger point with the world here ... So many people spend their time complaining about their situation rather than taking the time to change it.

Cancer patients telling whingers to F Off might start giving those people a level of perspective that would save them from a life of "everything is inadequate" and save us from ear ache.

Play the card whenever you can ... not just for yourself, but for the greater good!

Anonymous said...

Stephen Fry has suggested reading your blog. Hope everything works out for you. Deb.

gemmak said...

Yup..in case you wern't aware it was the inimitable Mr Fry that 'blew you wide open'! ;o)

Anonymous said...

Play that card, good on you! :)

TH said...

I love, love, love Stephen Fry. And he loves L. They're, like, practically pen friends or something. It's all so blooming ace. x

zeb said...

My girlfriend was hit by cervical cancer at 28, but after reading your blog I'm annoyed that we didn't get creative with our distraught-ness and dark humour that we found in the situation, it would have been a great release. She's 3 years clear now thanks to some huge support from Marie Curie and some excellent doctors and nurses. Many have mentioned the level of perspective that it gives. That doesn't leave you, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but I'm looking forward to following your blog.

Anonymous said...

Hiya. Another Stephen Fry fan here... and now a fan of yours too. I have Spina Bifida and get around in a wheelchair, totally different kettle of fish to what you are going through, I know.

I had several back surgeries when I was thirteen/ fourteen and grew extremely ill from infection. It was touch and go whether I was going to make it for a while. Anyway, I only found out just how bad it had got a couple of years ago. Since then, I have certainly not being adverse to the odd, 'You have to, I nearly died!' Thanks for the insights. I think that many, many people who deal with illness and disability will be able to relate very well to what you are saying.

Hoxton said...

Thanks to Mr Fry for pointing me over here, great blog. And I'm a lucky soul with absolutely nothing to complain about right now so you go ahead and play the card anytime.

emordino said...

Not only did Who - Me? exist, but it looks like you can get your hands on a copy here.

More importantly, I have just found out that "Who Me? was a top secret sulfurous stench weapon developed by the American Office of Strategic Services during World War II to be used by the French Resistance against German officers." Day = made.

Anonymous said...

remind me never to get invloved in a high stakes poker game with you again. Bro x

Me, Myself & I said...

Like many Mr Fry pointed me here, but what a gem of a site - wonderful layout, nice imagery and excellent stories - thank you for the grace of sharing them.

I wish you all the best for the future and will be an avid reader, so leep up the good work ;)

bjtp said...

Hi. :)

Just followed the link from Stephen's website and thought I'd say hi. You are unbelievably inspirational, and you should, at no point, feel in any way guilty about being lazy, or in playing any sort of cancer card to anyone over anything. I think its about time the world cut you some bloody slack. x

Alright Tit said...

Well that looks like a ringing endorsement for playing the cancer card, then, you mischievous bunch. Thank you, lovely people, for evaporating the last bit guilt I was carrying around, for your wonderful comments, and for clicking here in the first place – many of you doing so thanks to Stephen Fry's tweet. (Stephen Fry! STEPHEN FRY! Crikey doesn't cover it.)

emordino – big thanks for keeping me safe in my sanity with the Who - Me? find. If truth be told, I was certain I hadn't dreamt it – tragically, I can even remember the theme tune...

auntiegriz said...

I, too, was sent here via Stephen Fry's tweet. Your blog is unbelievably funny and well-written, and you should definitely play the cancer card. I wish you all the best of luck and will continue to read this in anticipation of the next playing of the cancer card. :)

65-roses said...

Christ, Stephen Fry is clearly the number 1 blog pusher and best advertisement you can get! Xx

Alright Tit said...

Ah, 65-roses, but you found it first. ;-)

Illogic said...

This is awesome and you should feel awesome.

I got here via Penny Red myself. Telling this seemed important for some reason. Maybe it's the peer pressure or something?

Anonymous said...

Oh my God. I've just been totally brought up short by your blog. There I was bitching away (albeit to myself as no-one else is home yet) about being tired and having to do the washing up and having another fucking spot even though I'm 30 and I've got a mortgage and I was given to believe that the teenage years were the natural domain for acne... when I was directed, like so many others, by the oracle (Stephen Fry) to this incredibly funny, honest, silly blog that made me well up and giggle at the same time.

You write brilliantly about such a tricky subject- you make it easy to access something I have had no experience of so, thank you.

Only problem is ...we've been able to evaporate your guilt- can you now evaporate mine for still being secretly quite whingey about my spot...?

You rule.

Rosie

Melissa said...

Holy crap, yes. Do NOT feel guilty about playing the C card. That's what it's there for. It's not like you don't actually need it.

GrĂ¡inne said...

Milk it. Definitely. Think you are perfectly right. And, as you said, you're hardly going overboard...just making life a teeny tiny bit easier for yourself. And the universe owes you at least that much.

Anonymous said...

I love you. Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Another tweeter sent by Mr Fry...
Fabulous blog - reading some people's writing is like walking through treacle. Reading yours is like floating on a raft down a gently flowing river - effortless.
I agree with everyone. Milk it, milk it, milk it - cos it's just the universe's way of sheepishly saying 'sorry I put you through this...' xox

Mike said...

Hi, Lisa

Another of Stephen Fry's outriders here. Glad he plugged your blog (or is it blogged your plug?)

I'm a teacher and I started this great work in 1988 ... just at the time that Who? Me? was first broadcats I think.

All those moral dilemmas ... "Lies And Accusations" ... "New Home, New School" ... "Splitting Up" ...

And the theme tune ... more of a chant than a song. Something along the lines of "What would you do say? What would you do? If you were in someone else's shoes. Who? Me? Who? Me?"

And I never read the newspaper while the class were watching it!!!

Sara Priestley Twitter said...

My husband plays the tetraplegia car devery time it is dealt(and he was 28 when he broke his neck).
good on you.

Liam Houghton said...

Thank you so much. You've inspired me tremendously! I'm glad to have discovered your blog and am now looking forward to following your thoughts on twitter. :D

Liam
x

Ra said...

I came over from Stephen Fry too - so glad I did, spent a large part of the evening reading your blog - nothing I can say that you haven't heard before, I'm only two years younger than you and this really hit home, you are officially my new role model.
Thanks for writing this, and lots of good thoughts for you & P

Freudus said...

Bloody hell. All praise you, and all praise the Sainted Lord Fry for pointing half the known universe in your direction. Next up: world domination...
mx

Stacey said...

Also found you through Mr. Fry and am feeling the sisterhood right now. My sister keeps my cancer blog at http://staceyreport.wordpress.com and is almost nearly as funny as you (sorry, Deb!) I cry everytime I read this post:
http://staceyreport.wordpress.com/2006/08/14/august-14-2006-the-power-of-righteous-indignation/
(you'll have to highlight the text of the story to read it because of the effects of some design changes).
Keep kicking!

Yabby said...

Another one here from Mr Fry's direction.

I haven't experienced myself, but was old enough to remember my grandfather battling it. He ended up secumbing as it hadn't been diagnosed until it was in his bones, but was a trooper (most of) the way through.

I remember visiting him in the last days. He was an army man in his youth, but never swore - well, not since he married my grandmother. This day, rather high on morphine, I asked him if there was any updates. His response ... "Fuck the fucking fuckers". Very unlike him to swear at all, least of all in the presence of my grandma and mum. Turns out, they'd been in earlier in the morning saying that they had done all they could, and it was a waiting game now.

So now, on behalf of The Bullshit, I say fuck the fucking fucker!

All my (gentle) hugs from an Aussie over Belgium way.

paulathomas said...

Have you heard of Julia Sweeney? She is an American comedian who recovered from breast cancer and turned her story into a comedy monologue called 'God said Ha!' (it is available from amazon). She is very funny and is sure that her comedy helped her defeat the disease.

billygean.co.uk said...

Hi there

Gosh I relate to so much of what you said. I haven't had cancer - touch wood, thank God etc - but I was ill for all of 2008. I had glandular fever (which has far less of a frisson to it) in January, and it triggered coeliacs disease, which my doctors figured out in, oh, November. I'm almost better now but so much of what you said strikes a chord with me. I, too, used to FANTASISE about going to the supermarket, and used to stare at people who complained about their mundane existance in awe. I, too, blogged the whole sorry experience and I'm so glad I did as I go back now and you know what? It makes that good feeling STAY. I've been well for a couple of months now and going to the bus stop, making a cup of coffee, IT NEVER GETS OLD. :)

Billygean

mike said...

Congratulations on winning our 100th Post of the Week. You are hereby cordially invited to help us judge next week's shortlist. If you'd like to take part, then please follow this link.

Anonymous said...

wow. you are so inspiring...play the cancer card all you want!
x