I find it difficult to understand when people tell me that they ‘feel sorry’ for me. I can appreciate why they say it, of course – shit, I’d probably say the same if I met me (well, that and perhaps it’s time to curb the swearing) – but that doesn’t mean that it sits comfortably with me.
It’s a remark I heard a lot in the immediate time after my diagnosis. But back then, I tended to agree with whoever said it. Hell, I kinda felt sorry for myself, too. Now, though, in the wake of The Gene News, it’s been a sentence I’ve started to hear more frequently again. But this time around, hearing it said just feels plain weird. Because the thing is, I don’t feel sorry for myself at all. Quietly pissed off, maybe, and perhaps a little frightened, but definitely not sorry for myself. Because, meh, it is what it is. And the best thing I can do is just get on with it.
Tomorrow afternoon sees the first of what I’m assuming will be many gene-related appointments, now that I’ve been launched back into the system – albeit this time for cancer prevention (I hope) rather than treatment. And, naïve as it might sound right now, I reckon I’ve got my head around it all as much as I can. See, to my mind, if there’s anything – anything at all – that can be done to reduce my chances of another round with The Bullshit – by however small a percentage – then I’m damn well going to use my powers of kick-ass to ensure that it gets done.
Prior to any preventative surgery, however, will be a series of testing to determine whether or not there is currently any residual cancer twatting about inside of me that we don’t know about. And that, right now, is a far scarier prospect than anything a scalpel can administer. My way of dealing with it thus far has been to assume that there are cancer cells, bobbing about in my body like a lost team of canoeists. Some might call that cynical or defeatist. I call it going equipped.
It’s not everyone’s way, granted, but I like to picture the worst-case scenario. And while I know that a part of me does that because it assumes I will therefore be immune to any further shocks (which of course I won’t), I also think it’s something I tend to do in order to give myself more chance of a happier outcome. Because if I’m prepared to receive news of an impossible-to-treat cancer, then hearing something even a little less terrifying will be a pleasant surprise, no? I know, I know. Blonde Logic.
I explained it to Tills earlier this week.
I explained it to Tills earlier this week.
(That's Tills there, by the way. She'd like me to point out that she's prettier when she's not tired. But frankly I think she knocks Penelope Cruz into a cocked hat even when there's baby-sick on her shoulder.)
‘You did that last time around, didn’t you, expecting the worst?’ she queried.
‘What, before I got my CT scan results? Yeah, I s’pose I did,’ I agreed.
‘Mm, you’re good at it,’ she said, in a statement that anyone other than a best mate would have taken offence to.
‘S’pose,’ I nodded. ‘I just like to be prepared, is all.’
‘There’s a theory about that in therapy,’ said Tills. ‘How uncertainty fucks up people and makes them fantasise terrible things to fill the gap. But you’re priming yourself, really.’ (This is why I love Tills so much. Nobody else could spin my Blonde Logic into deliberate intelligence.)
‘I guess that makes sense,’ I said. ‘I just want to get on with things, y’know? It’s like imagining the most awful thing somehow allows me to get past it so I can, I dunno, just carry on with everything else; carry on with nicer things. Like today,’ I added, in reference to the meeting I’d just left to discuss a possible screen adaptation of The C-Word. (Y
es, you heard that right.)
‘You are good at it though,’ she assured me. ‘You have a great way of planning lovely things to think about in difficult times.’
But smart as Tills undeniably is, I think that last comment was spoken from behind friend-tinted glasses. (Y’know, the same way that true mates never tell you when you’ve made a tit of yourself after too many beers, and always disagree when you whine about your enormous bottom.) Because of all the lovely things I’ve had to think about during my difficult times – and, boy, have there been some lovely things – I don’t think I can really take credit for ‘planning’ any of them. And while my mantra has always been ‘when the chips are down, book a holiday’, what Tills mentioned is different. None of the better things to come out of The Bullshit were premeditated; just the universe’s weird way of paying me back. The blog happened because I just felt like writing. The book happened because a literary agent saw Stephen Fry’s tweet. Those things were happy accidents, coming along at a time when I needed them most, and making me feel even jammier than I already did – despite The Bullshit; despite the Bullshit Gene.
So, you see, there’s no need to feel bad for me. It’s all good. I don’t feel sorry – I feel lucky.
Actually, that’s a bit of a fib. I do feel sorry – sorry for anyone whose life isn’t as wonderful as this.