While contact is not necessarily one of them, lots of things appear to have begun tailing to an end recently, or dropping off altogether (and I'm not just talking about the nupple). Like the soreness of my New Tit, or the number of times per day that I think about The Bullshit. Both of which, let me tell you, are nothing short of glorious. For ten months, I've done nothing but think about The Bullshit. But now, I occasionally catch myself not thinking about it, realising that a whole, say, 20 minutes – or sometimes even an hour – has passed without me worrying about my health, or seeing the word 'cancer' flashing through my head (always in this font, oddly enough). Some smart cookie recently commented that one day I'd turn around to notice that things had become normal again, without even realising they had got that way. And while life is certainly not normal just yet, I do think I've turned around to notice that normality is deliciously close.
In many ways, my email account has become my barometer for normality. And as long as my inbox runneth over, I can't quite say that normal service has resumed. It's not just the emails, of course. It's the staggering level of contact I've had – and have been grateful to have, I might add – since Smiley Surgeon broke the news of my Killer Tit. Don't get me wrong, compared to the phone-ringing-off-the-hook early days of my diagnosis, right now I'm positively Old News. When I came out of hospital post-reconstruction, for example, I had nine cards. Post-mastectomy, I had 49. It's perfectly reasonable, of course, but also quite weird. Because, in many ways, the beginning of The Bullshit is more of an event than the end. There's more of a fanfare around the bad news than there is the good. There are phonecalls to make and news to break, there are flowers every day and a volume of greetings cards that makes the cleaner roll her eyes every time she steps into the living room. But then, as cancer hyperactivity turns into merely cancer activity, there's more to celebrate and yet far less fanfare. But, dwindling as it is, the fact that I received such shitty news in the first place still equates to a hell of a lot more contact than I've ever previously known.
Mid-treatment, I had an excuse. I could get away with turning off my phone and ignoring text messages and failing to log into my email account, because people knew how ill I was. And granted, I'm not exactly fighting fit just yet, but at the moment I'm positively Paula Radcliffe compared with the mid-chemo me, so I dare say the people on the other end of my as-yet-unanswered messages are more impatient than they might have been a couple of months ago. It's like writing thank-you letters as a kid. You're made up with your Christmas gifts, but suddenly it's March and you've still not put a stamp on your gratitude. Except now, my Mum isn't on hand to chain me to the kitchen table and watch over my shoulder as I begrudgingly scribble my way through a handful of half-arsed notecards on the promise of playing out on the pogo ball I'm thanking my auntie for in the first place. Besides, half-arsed replies just aren't going to cut it now. Because, frankly, all the pogo balls in the world can't make up for the thoughtful contact I've had from my friends and family. They deserve more than those awful, apologetic, thank-you-note opening lines. The 'sorry I've not written sooner; I've had lots of homework' of 20 years ago has now become 'apologies for the tardy reply – this cancer lark doesn't half keep you busy'.
The problem isn't just that I'm a lazy sod. It's that I'm as sick of answering questions about my health as I felt six hours after leaving the chemo room. (And yes, I appreciate the irony in choosing to constantly write about my health here. But this stuff is on my terms, and I like to think that the days of describing every puke and constipation pain are long since gone. You are now free to pick up your sandwich.) I long to begin a conversation with something other than the state of my immune system or my scars or my infection or my hot flushes or my boobs (apparently Jordan and I have something in common). I've lost count of the number of people who have opened telephone calls with 'how are you feeling?' instead of 'hello'.
It's overwhelmingly lovely that everyone has so much invested in me getting better, and that they're so interested in what stage I'm at with my recovery and how I'm feeling through it. But the repeated questions about my wellbeing also mean that something must be wrong. And when you're on the cusp of getting used to the novelty of not thinking about cancer for however brief a moment, being asked about your health a-g-a-i-n is a mother of a jolt back to reality. But then, of course, there's the additional worry that, by saying all this, people will stop calling or emailing or writing on my Facebook wall or texting altogether, and I'll feel like a bitch for mentioning it in the first place. (Get me, I'm a cancer diva.) And I don't want that to happen. Of course I don't want that to happen.
So what, then, do I want? In short: normality. And with a more normal existence so tantalisingly close, I'm becoming really bloody impatient about finally getting there. (Sheesh, for a lass with no periods, this is suspiciously close to PMS-like behaviour.) Normality is discussing Coronation Street before cancer. Normality is being sick because I drank too much, and not because my immune system can't handle even the smallest bit of excitement. Normality is 'how's things?' instead of 'how are you feeling today?'.
I once read an interview with Kylie in which she said that she was sick of talking about cancer. And while I'm not sick of talking about cancer per se, I am sick of being a sick person. Of being seen as a sick person; spoken to like a sick person; worried about like a sick person. And, right now, the far-from-normal, panic-inducing, where-do-I-begin situation of 66 unanswered emails just serves as a reminder that all is not – or, at least, has not been – well. Sometimes at university, I had so many exams to revise for and assignments due in that I didn't know what to do first, so I just headed to the student union with my mates and got pissed on a fiver instead. (Which, I guess, makes this post the equivalent of my first pint.) Not that a hangover has ever been a good getting-stuff-done tactic, mind. Just like Mum used to say about the post-Christmas letters, 'they won't write themselves, you know'. Sooner or later, I suppose, you've just got to get stuck in. So, if you'll excuse me, I've got 66 half-arsed emails to write. Either that or one corker of a group mailer. 'Dear friends and family. Thank you for the pogo ball...'