Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The novel.

‘Babe, are you going to get ready soon?’ asked P, sheepishly peering around the doorframe.
‘But I’m not… I need to… oh, sod it,’ I spat, snapping my laptop together with one hand as though I were a ruffled headmistress loudly closing a huge, chalky textbook to shock her class into silence.
‘Well I think–' P almost answered.
‘No, really. Just sod it. I’ll just stop writing right in the middle of a chapter. It’s fine!’ I continued, in a sarcastic manner that suggested that, actually, it was anything but fine.
‘Oh do what the hell you want,’ asserted P, entirely fairly. ‘I came in here to give you a gentle nudge, not start an argument. Just get ready and calm the fuck down, right?’

Now, much as it might appear that way, that exchange wasn’t me having a go at my husband. Oh no. It was method acting. The lass yawping unreasonably at her man wasn’t me me; it was the character me – the girl in my story who was finding any excuse to tear strips off her husband in the hope of it delaying her trip to chemo. I was getting in the zone; immersed in my role; positively Daniel Day Lewis-ing my way to a better book. You might even say I was doing it for you. (No, really, you’re welcome.)

It’s seven months now since I saw Mr Marbles. Given that my therapy was of the cognitive behavioural kind, I knew that there’d be an end point to our sessions, goal-oriented as the approach is. And thus, having seen me through my panic attacks and my health paranoia and my inability to know how to process The Bullshit, we went our separate ways – me in my headscarf, him in his corduroy slacks – with the option to resume our sessions if ever I needed them.

I haven’t been back since. Not because I haven’t needed it – in truth, I did actually make an appointment around this point, but cancelled it soon afterwards, more out of embarrassment at my David Moyes-crop  than having to admit mental defeat. The end of my therapy with Marbles, however, coincided rather neatly with the beginning of a new kind of therapy – writing my book.

Last week, I handed in the first draft of my manuscript. And immediately after pressing ‘send’, I burst into tears. I felt like I’d given birth. (Nine months in the making, with tears, tantrums and several sleepless nights, I guess it’s as close as I’m going to get.) Yanking me out of my self-indulgence, however, was a call from Mrs Marbles – my excellent publisher who I suspect has, in the absence of a hospital therapist, somewhat taken on the mantle these last few months.
‘Eeeee! Well done!’ she shrieked, as we each squealed into our receivers.
‘It’s a massive relief,’ I admitted. ‘It’s been all I’ve thought about.’

It really has, too. And though writing that book has been without doubt the most enjoyable work I’ve ever done, by 'eck, it hasn’t half kicked my arse. (Not to mention my husband’s.) But now, for the most part, it’s done. And, just as therapy with Marbles altered the way I felt about The Bullshit, so has the book-therapy. Now that it’s written, there’s no need for me to re-live the experience any more. Now, it’s just a story; a mere structured plotline with chapters, characters and a full stop at the end. And, whether Marbles would agree with me or not, for now at least, that’s the way I’m going to look at it. It’s like P says whenever I blub about Vera or Ramsay or whoever on Coronation Street. ‘Cheer up, love. It’s only a play.’

- - -

Shameless plug alert! The book wot I wrote – The C-Word (And Other Expletives) – is now available to pre-order here if, y'know, you're the kind of forward-planner who likes to make their purchases six months in advance. Which I very much hope you are. Besides, it was recently confirmed that pre-release book sales are a proven method of keeping previously aggressive tumours at bay. So you could say that my future is in your hands. Hey, don't look at me like that – I don't make the rules...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The whole truth.

While looking after my friends’ gorgeous (and frighteningly well behaved) kids last weekend, I simultaneously managed to traumatise a three-year-old boy and get to the truth of a question I’d never have got an honest answer to otherwise.

It was 5.40am. Ten minutes after Charlie and Felix had woken up in fits of excitement at the imminent trip to Legoland. Now, I’m not one for getting up at 5.30 (hell, I’m not even one for getting up at 8.30), so to say I was bleary eyed may be something of an understatement. With Charlie watching something trippy and brightly coloured on the television, singing along to something I could only pin down as S Club 7 on speed, Felix was taking his opportunity to use me as an adventure playground, dangling from the straps of my nightie as he clambered up his human climbing wall. Which was when he caught sight of the nupple.

‘Oh,’ he said shocked, his tiny bare feet landing back on the wooden floor. Through double vision I spotted the direction of his terrified eyes and hurriedly readjusted my sleepwear so that the egde of my reconstructed nipple was no longer showing. (If this had been my right nipple, of course, I’d have been able to tell immediately that it was revealing itself. But with my mastectomy having left me with zero feeling in my left side, there’s no way of knowing whether it’s safely tucked away or proudly peeping out for the whole world to see. I might be spending my lunchtime strolls flashing my left’un round Soho for all I know. Not that anyone there would bat an eyelid.) ‘Auntie Lisa?’ asked Felix, puzzled. I froze, frantically searching my brain for Fibs You Tell Kids, but stalling at the ice-cream-man-only-plays-a-tune-when-he's-run-out line. ‘Oh fucking fuck,’ I thought to myself, managing at least to keep my expletives under wraps. 

And then came the innocent query: ‘Why is your boobie broken?’ And there it was. After months of staring at it in the mirror and pestering my husband to tell me what he really thinks of my tattooed non-nipple, I finally got my answer. And given that it came from an as-yet-cancer-uneducated little boy, I think we can safely say that it’s as frank a verdict as I’m likely to get.

‘Erm, it was poorly for a while,’ I explained, not wanting to ruin his day any further by bringing The Bullshit into the equation. ‘But now it’s better. And it’ll keep getting better. Nothing to worry about,’ I added.

With Charlie still singing in the next room, Felix ran through to join his big brother. ‘Bloody hell,’ said P, joining me in the bedroom after taking out our equally drained and disturbed cat. ‘5.30! How do Jon and Suze do it?’ I didn't look up from my perched spot on the edge of the bed, despite suddenly being more awake than even the singing kids. ‘Hang on, what’s up?’ asked P. I fixed his gaze. ‘The nupple. Felix saw the nupple,’ I admitted. ‘Fuck,’ he said. ‘Yes, fuck,’ I agreed. ‘And he said it looked broken.’ P tilted his head. ‘Aw,’ he replied. ‘Broken,’ I repeated. ‘Broken. I’m getting a shower.’

And so I left P with the kids while I tearfully stared at my broken nupple in the bathroom mirror. ‘Yep,’ I said to my reflection, thinking back to my post-nipple-tattooing blog post. ‘Like putting lipstick on a pig.’ 

Trouble is, I suspect I’m now not the only one who’s scarred for life…

Friday, 11 September 2009

My Super Sweet Success.

Yes, they're tits. Made of cake. Smiley Surgeon, eat your heart out.

On the morning of my wedding, I was a picture of calm. Despite having sobbed into the arms of my sister-in-law in a curled-up ball in front of the fire when my husband-to-be left for a pre-nuptial night of ‘taking it easy’ with his best man (yeah right), I still managed a decent night’s sleep and held it together perfectly well throughout the madness of bridal preening the following morning.

On the morning of my Super Sweet 30th party, however, I was a bloody mess. Flapping like a goldfish on a kitchen worktop, and with a year’s worth of planning (way more time than we had to arrange the wedding) suddenly coming to a climax, I just didn’t know where to put myself. Even the postman got it in the neck. With Royal Mail strikes having taken one of the raffle prizes (and much of my birthday) hostage, and me needing to drive to the hairdressers to get my barnet turned into a beehive to rival Marge Simpson, I anticipated one of those scrawly, sorry-you-were-out cards that do so little to assuage my vitriol for our national postage service, and decided to write a polite note for our local mailman.

‘Hello postie,’ it began, in as cheery a tone as I could manage with calligraphy more befitting of a hungry Hannibal Lecter. I wanted to persuade him to bend the rules just this once, and leave the parcel I was expecting in our porch rather than at the end of a long, miserable, Monday-morning queue at the local sorting office, and so I continued in what I hoped was a worthy yet effervescent manner of charm that he simply wouldn’t be able to resist. ‘What a delightful young woman,’ he’d think. ‘Of course I’ll leave her raffle prize on the doorstep. In fact, I’ll skip back to the sorting office and fetch all of her undelivered birthday cards too, and arrange a charity whip-round with the lads.’

What I suspect he translated between the lines of my chirpy missive, however, was something resembling: ‘Hello postie. The parcel addressed to me that you’re keeping AGAINST ITS WILL is intended to do good for POOR, TERRIFIED CANCER PATIENTS, you HEARTLESS BASTARD you, so why don’t you put your pay disputes to one side for a nanosecond and LEAVE IT ON THIS DOORSTEP IMMEDIATELY or I WILL KILL YOU. Love and kisses, Lisa Lynch (ground floor flat).’ Suffice to say, that’s one raffle prize that still hasn’t turned up.

I hadn’t quite realised just how much of my brain had been taken up by Super Sweet Stressing. And for so long, too. It was initially conceived mid-chemo on my sofa with my friend Busby (as anyone who read this will remember) as an end-of-twenties/return-to-normality/charity-fundraising type bash at which I could persuade my nearest and dearest to bring not presents, but instead donations for Breast Cancer Care (nothing like a complicated brief, eh?). With some surprisingly well-connected mates giving me a leg-up when sourcing auction and raffle prizes, and a guest list’s worth of family and friends seemingly keen to finally have the opportunity to do something practical in response to my Bullshit diagnosis, I set myself a fundraising target of £6,000 and went on a mission to bombard the invitees with auction-reminder emails, texts and tweets on the run-up to the bash. (Sorry about that, folks.)

And so to the night. Armed with an unusually loud frock and my homage to Marge (actually, with the beehive, the eyeliner and the pink leopard print, I fear it was more a homage to Bet Lynch), I rocked up early with a frozen grin plastered on my face that suggested more terror than thrill, and necked a G&T as soon as the bar opened. Between greeting guests and checking on the silent auction, I granted myself a couple of extended toilet breaks to go over the memorised thank-you speech I’d been reciting in the shower every morning for the last two weeks, and took my chance to give my toes a rest from the 12-centimetre-heel hell they’d been crammed into.

But, once the auctions had closed and the raffle had been drawn, and it was time to say my piece, something completely different came out of my mouth. I didn’t thank Sally and Ivan for the superb styling and the brilliant DVD of embarrassing, me-as-a-ginger-kid photos. I didn’t thank Tills and Si for creating and baking the now-legendary tit cupcakes. I didn’t thank my Mum and mate Weeza for their additional baking, nor Mike and Joss for their efforts in securing several thousand pounds’ worth of auction prizes between them. I didn’t thank Marsha and Phil for their expert DJing, nor Polly for arranging 200 helium balloons. I didn’t thank Cat and the team at The Fly, nor Hayley and the girls from Breast Cancer Care. I didn’t thank my brother Jamie and mate Johnny for their hilarious live-auction double-act (they’re the new Ant & Dec, don’tcha know). And I didn’t thank P for remaining my husband, despite having to listen to me bang on about the event for 12 months. Instead, I saw the collection of familiar faces in front of me and copped out, with a nod of ‘they know who they are’ and more nervously animated hand gestures than a weather presenter with an allergic reaction to their roll-on.

What I did remember to do, however, was thank everyone for their combined efforts in raising such a fantastic amount of money for a charity that means so much to me. On the day I was diagnosed, I had assumed I’d be told that the ‘harmless cyst’ I’d found in my boob could be removed that week. So convinced was I of this fact that, despite the lump and despite the biopsy and despite the specialist, the idea of breast cancer was still not even close to the vicinity of my radar. And so equally as terrifying and heartbreaking as the diagnosis itself was the fact that I knew naff all about it. Which was where Breast Cancer Care stepped in, with their straightforward medical info and offer of advice, all packaged in a way that I could understand it in spite of my brain having turned into scrambled egg.

And so, by getting trollied and waving their credit cards in the air, my incredible friends and family managed to raise over £7,000 for that charity in one night alone. (It’s amazing what you can do when you fill people with beer.) And when you add that to the other assorted donations submitted online (it’s here, if you fancy adding a few quid to the coffers), we’re now pushing close to the even more impressive total of £10,000 raised for Breast Cancer Care. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, makes for a pretty bloody spectacular birthday present – not to mention a helpful contribution in the name of other unfortunate buggers who’ve found themselves clicking on Breast Cancer Care’s website for the first time this year, this month or this week.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog since it began will know that I had a list of things I wanted to achieve by the time I was 30. And thanks to The Bullshit rudely muscling in on my life, the final list looks rather different to the one I compiled as a 27 year old. I didn’t, for example, see the Northern Lights or have a baby or snog Dave Grohl. (I was hoping that, in true MTV Super Sweet style, he’d appear from behind a curtain at my party but alas, it wasn’t to be. Damn you, Grohl. You’re as bad as Royal Mail.) And as for losing a stone – well, pah. I dare say that one will still be accompanying my Grohl-snog on my Things To Do Before I’m 80 list.

But all that said, I don’t think the things that I did manage to cross off my list are any less of an achievement. For starters, I wrote a book. (Okay, I’ve nearly written a book.) And thanks to the book, I finally – drumroll please – bought the aforementioned dangerously high heels from a certain French footwear designer I’m rather fond of. And when you line up those dreams-come-true alongside my wonderful marriage and family and friendships – and, of course, my ever-improving health – the amended list somehow doesn’t look quite so tragic.

And so, what I had intended to say in my speech was this: granted, from some angles it might look like I fell into a huge pile of shit. But, when I stand back and look at the bigger picture of Things I Did Before I Was 30, I can’t help but think that I came out of that shit rather rose-scented, actually.