I don’t think it’s a major revelation to state that the best posts are borne of the latter; those which come from the heart or the gut or an itch to get something said. And while the mantra of blogging ought to be quality over quantity, those of us who blog must occasionally succumb to a pressure to post which is a) entirely of our own making and b) stupid. And Tuesday was just one of those days.
The way I ought to look upon my blog is as a place to write when I’ve got something interesting or important to say; a place to communicate en masse whenever there’s news; a place to deposit some honesty when I’m feeling inspired. And, most days, I do see it that way. Some days, though, I get it all wrong and, rather than looking upon my blog as all of the above, I instead see it as a place to let people know I’m still here; a place to satisfy the folk who are asking where the next update is coming from; a place to fill the awkwardly quiet gaps when, actually, there just isn’t a whole lot going on.
Other days, though, there’s more to it than that and, as well as all of the above, I wind up wasting several hours dancing around a subject, never actually writing what I really want to write for fear of upsetting someone or offending someone or, as was the case on Tuesday, coming across in a way in which I don’t ideally want to be seen.
I shouldn’t have thought about it as much as I have but, given that I’m a sensitive little sod, a comment left on my last post – in which someone mentioned that they thought I had ‘resigned myself to dying in the near future’ – has upset me rather more than I might have let on; both in my response to it and the way I’ve discussed it with my family. Given how completely, unspeakably wrong that person is, I ought to have just brushed off the remark with a ‘pah’ and a ‘don’t be daft’ and a roll of the eyes. Because – as anyone who knows me will tell you as vociferously as I – there isn’t a speck of truth in that observation. I’ve got 2012 holidays booked, a Super Sweet 40th to plan, a soon-to-be-born nephew to lead astray. And yet, erroneous as the comment is, it’s got under my skin… because now it’s affecting the way I write.
All of a sudden, I’m questioning the thoughts I impulsively want to publish; worrying about admitting to perfectly natural signs of weakness; holding back on writing about my utterly reasonable fears of what The Bullshit’s doing… and all because I’m anxious that, if one person has brought themselves to that incorrect conclusion, more of you might think the same, too. Hence Tuesday’s unpublished post wasn’t just crap, but dishonest. It was 1,500 words of me trying to persuade you that I’m constantly bright and breezy; that I’m dealing with the reality of incurable cancer in a way that’d make you proud; that my new diagnosis may be heartbreaking, but it’s not going to get in the way of me having a marvellously carefree time. And it was the most unconvincing thing I’ve ever written.
Anyone who read my last post will no doubt have already noticed how at odds the tone of this is with the tone of that. In the last, I was all bossy and kick-ass, while today I fear I’m coming across more meek and apologetic. And that, in a nutshell, is the biggest problem when blogging about a subject like living with cancer: the way you feel differs wildly – not just from post to post, but hour to hour; text message to text message. (Yesterday I sent one telling someone what a tough week I’ve had, then mere minutes later, sent another to somebody else filled with exclamation marks and in-jokes.) I simply don’t believe those people who purport to be breezing and positive-thinking and carrot-juicing their way through secondary cancer, preaching the holier-than-thou act about being grateful to the universe for giving them the illness-shaped opportunity to realise just how precious life is. Just cock off, will you? Yes, of course it’s perfectly possible to enjoy lovely times despite your shitty predicament and, by ’eck, there are plenty of things in this mess of a situation in which to find laughter – but don’t tell me for one moment that the fear of what incurable cancer really means doesn’t occasionally grab you by the throat and shake the tears out of you to such a point that you collapse dejectedly into a wet pile of peg-ready washing.
Because – and let’s get real here – in actual fact, all of this is a big old hopeless confusion of not quite knowing how you’re going to feel from one minute to the next: of one moment feeling like you’re hanging on by a pathetically frail thread; the next feeling like you could go twelve rounds with the Tyson family and emerge both unbeaten and with perfect nails. Imagine that being your life. Imagine that being how each day feels. In fact, just imagine trying to keep a Twitter account going in the midst of that mess. It’s ruddy impossible. Not to mention downright exhausting.
The perfect metaphor for this multiple-personality existence is every third Wednesday, when P and I head to the hospital for a full day of cancer-related fun: first a consultation and check-up by a senior oncologist (often the Curly Professor), followed by the age-old charade of trying to extract blood from veins which have already had to endure so much that they’ve either carked it or emigrated to Canada, after which there’s a wait for results of platelet counts and white-blood-cell shiz before my next round of chemotherapy can be made up and packed into a take-home box like the world’s most unappetizing chow mein, then finally the administration of my IV drip of zoledronic acid – a treatment designed to strengthen my pitiably fragile bones, rather like a Ronseal for skeletons. This routine generally lasts from around 10.15am to 4.30pm and is both pulse-freezingly boring thanks to all the waiting around and mind-bustingly difficult to negotiate thanks to the ludicrous amount of new, life-altering information to take in.
This Wednesday, for example, we discovered that a) the tumour-marker levels in my blood had raised, when we’d hoped for the opposite, b) the continued manageability of my pain remains a good sign and that c) due to the unusual nature of my headaches and migraines, I’m being sent for a MRI to determine whether I might have metastatic tumours in my brain. And, in the gaps between, P and I were taken out for an amazing tapas lunch by my lovely publishing agents, discovered that some dear friends of ours are going to have a baby girl, and snogged the faces off each other in the waiting room. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what my life looks like.
But, in writing honestly about that, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m being defeatist or pessimistic or alarmist. When I tell you that I’m bitterly disappointed that my tumour marker is up, I don’t want you to conclude that I’m being unhopeful. When I tell you that I’ve looked into the symptoms of secondary brain tumours and worried myself silly about the similarity to my own experience, I don’t want you to suppose that my outlook is fatalistic. And when I tell you that, when I went to my Uncle’s funeral this week it freaked the bejeezus out of me because there’s a chance I might be next, I don’t want you to assume that I’ve resigned myself to dying in the near future.
Because let me say this once and for all: none of this – none. of. this. – means that that’s the way I’m thinking. As difficult and as heartbreaking and as beautiful and as hopeless and as daft and as schizophrenic as all of this is, the very last thing I will do – even if I find myself in a position where there isn’t the slightest shred of hope – is resign myself to dying. Because, jeez, even if I do find out that that is the case, I won’t be resigned, but going down in a blaze of super-extravagant, hilariously-memorable, creatively-sweary, over-hyphenated glory. For now, though, the reality – and the way in which I must impulsively finish this blog post – is to say that, heck no, I haven’t resigned myself to dying in the near future. I’m just really bloody frightened of it. And fuck you if you think I didn’t ought to say so.