Last weekend was legendary. It began on Friday (as weekends tend to do) with a day off work and a trip up the motorway to my parents’ place in Derby. It was the first time I’d been back home since The C-Word was released and wherever I went, people were quick to congratulate me on becoming an author and say all manner of lovely things that I won’t allow myself to take in.
On Friday afternoon, Mum and I took ourselves off for a mani-pedi in preparation for my friend Weeza’s wedding the following day, and bumped into the bride outside the salon, squealing like teenagers at a Take That concert when we saw her. ‘It’s going to be THE BEST weekend!’ I told Weez, excitedly shaking her manicured hands as she grinned nervously. And I was right.
That evening saw what my parents like to call ‘a few drinks with friends’, but which I like to call a party. ‘Shit, don’t let your Mum hear you saying that,’ said one family-friend while strutting up and down my folks’ hallway in my Louboutins like a pissed four-year-old trying on her mother’s shoes. ‘It’s a gathering, remember – you said so in your book.’ (Mind you, since I gained enough material from that piss-up to write a whole new book, I think we’re safe to stick with my definition.) But whatever you want to call it, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my Mum and Dad, it’s how to put on a bloody good shindig for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Well, I say ‘no reason’. What I actually mean is that this ‘gathering’ began life as an only-a-mother-could-think-it-up excuse to hold a book-signing session in her living room. But I was having none of it.
‘Mum, I can’t do that; I just can’t,’ I pleaded. ‘I’m going to look like a proper wanker. Can you imagine? It’ll be like “ooh, look at me, I’m home from London and now you have to treat me like a celebrity”. No bloody way. I’m not doing it.’
‘All right, all right,’ she said. ‘But we’re having drinks, whatever. It’s time we did, anyway. There’s a lot of people who haven’t seen you since you’ve been better so we’ll invite a few of them round.’
‘Okay, but no signing sessions, right?’
‘Good,’ I concluded, adopting the kind of I’m-the-boss-now tone that I’d never get away with were it not for The Bullshit. ‘I mean, it’s not on. It’d be like using a Biro as a way of ascertaining who’s bought the book so far.’ (And of course I would never rate my mates on whether or not they’ve bought The C-Word. Nah, I positively JUDGE them. In fact I’m thinking of beginning a Facebook cull this week of all those who’ve not mentioned it.)
And the party didn’t end there. Because not only was Weeza’s wedding the following day, but my mate Ali’s was the day after that. (Again, those of you who’ve read the book won’t need to ask ‘who?’ here. The rest of you I’ve got my eye on.) Miraculously, both nuptials managed to avoid the bank-holiday rain, and were two of the most gloriously celebratory, optimistically springlike and unashamedly romantic weddings I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. Add to the mix that Al’s wedding coincided with P’s birthday, and I don’t think you’ll find it difficult to imagine that our weekend was one of the all-time greats. There was champagne, there were tears, there were jokes, there were shots. There was inappropriate dancing, gin-fuelled rapping, fiendishly good cake and drunken singing to Lionel Richie. It was, quite simply, magic.
But after every party comes a hangover and, with MRI results somewhere on the horizon, mine hit harder than a Mayweather uppercut. To me, May bank-holiday weekend represents a real turning-point in the year: the start of summer fun; the beginning of a brilliant new season. And this year, as ever, there’s lots to look forward to: getting stuck into some new projects, a holiday at the end of the month, another Glastonbury… a world cup, ferfuckssake! All the right ingredients for a memorable summer are laid out in front of me. But I can’t turn on the gas until I know what’s going on with the results of my scan.
Thus, my life remains on frustrated pause. Actually, pause doesn’t even nearly cut it. Pause is nice; pause is a welcome respite; pause is a Bovril at half-time or using the break in Coronation Street to get a cup of tea and a Kit Kat. This isn’t a Kit Kat, it’s a shit-pie. A suffocating, torturous, tormenting, living fucking nightmare. ‘Are we still on for next week?’ folk will ask. ‘Well, it depends on whether or not I’ve got cancer,’ I think, plumping instead for a more gracious ‘yep’. I’m doing my best to repeat Mr Marbles’ mantra (‘it’s not yet, it’s not yet, it’s not yet’) but with what, let’s be honest, could potentially be another Bullshit diagnosis hurtling my way, what’s a girl – a Virgoan girl, no less – to do but anticipate the outcome?
If it’s clear, I’ve got what will most likely be three months of no-holds-barred fun before I’m back in hospital for my prophylactic mastectomy and oophorectomy. (I do wish there was a snappier way to say that. 'Losing my ladybits', perhaps.) But if it isn’t, what does that mean? Will there be more chemo? Will I have lost my hair by my 31st birthday like I had by my 29th? Will it mean that I can never reach the remission I’m aiming for once a few more years of Tamoxifen are out of the way? What will that mean for P and Jamie and my folks and friends? What will it mean for my blog, for my book, for the writing career I’ve just moved up a gear? Do I really want to write about The Bullshit again? What about the prognosis? Will I therefore be living under the guillotine of a grade-four cancer? How does one manage that? Would I still turn up to work next week? Does it mean I won’t have to reapply for the driving licence I lost? What about our new kitchen? What about all the gig tickets I’ve bought? What about Sgt Pepper? I'll say it again: it's a
suffocating, torturous, tormenting, living fucking nightmare.
Granted, these fears are probably multiplied by 1,000 today because I’m stuck indoors with a tummy bug and too much time beneath a duvet to conjure up ‘what ifs’. Or perhaps they’re multiplied because my wonderful weekend has reminded me how much there is to lose. Either way, it all…
What I was about to say then was that it all comes down to this: I don’t want another summer ruined with bad news from a consultant. But, somewhat spookily, at the precise moment I was typing the word ‘way’, my phone rang. (Seriously, the. exact. moment.)
‘Hello, I’m calling from the breast unit,’ said the voice.
I was too stupefied to reply. My stomach hit the floor, as though I’d just swallowed a bowling ball.
‘I work with The Curly Professor, and I’m calling about your MRI scan.’ (Not that she actually said the words ‘Curly Professor’, mind – that would have been weirder even than whatever it was she had to say next.)
‘Oh-kaay,’ I whispered.
‘And I’m pleased to report that gwaku gwaka gwa gwaku gwaka.’ After hearing the words ‘pleased to report’, the rest was an indecipherable muffle, like the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons.
‘Omigod,’ I said. ‘Say that again, please?’
‘Certainly,’ she complied. ‘I’m pleased to be able to tell you that there was no sign of anything suspicious on your scan.’
‘On either side?’ I checked.
‘On either side,’ she confirmed.
‘Omigod,’ I repeated. ‘Icanttakeitin. ThatstheBESTNEWSEVER.’
‘Excellent,’ she said. ‘So we’ll see you at your next appointment?’
‘You sure will,’ I said, hanging up the phone before I’d remembered to say goodbye, like they do on TV.
I slapped both forearms onto the kitchen table and cupped my head in my hands. I have never let out a relieved sigh like it. It took away so much of my breath that, by the time the last lungful of liberated carbon dioxide left my mouth, I’d had to stumble my way into the bathroom to throw up. So it looks like the champagne may have to wait a while. Mind you, after a weekend of partying that would put Lindsay Lohan to shame, I dare say that’s not altogether a bad thing.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to summer.