Monday, 9 January 2012

Promises.

I’m not the hugest fan of January. It’s not all bad, I s’pose: telly gets better, there’s the FA Cup to rekindle a bit of sporting excitement, plus a crapload of new toiletries to try out… but, those things aside, it’s just never had a lot going for it from my perspective. I have my explanations – the taking-down of everything twinkly and romantic that made Christmas; the tentative peering around the corner of a new year and the hopes and fears of what it might bring; the seasonal-standard added pounds about which seemingly every magazine cover, supermarket promotion and television advert is hell-bent on making you feel shamefully disgusted – but chief of all reasons, I think, is that it’s the time of the year in which it’s hardest not to be hard on yourself.

Perhaps it’s just because, with the disappearance of the Christmas Project, there’s a new and discernible gap in the list of things to occupy our minds. And perhaps the subsequent result is allowing each tiny, put-it-off-til-after-the-decorations-are-packed-away concern to gradually become a disproportionately bigger anxiety, turning the inevitable introspection of the new calendar year into a whole new excuse to analyse and reanalyse and, aw what the heck, go back and analyse some more. And so, for someone for whom self-examination is less hobby than habit, it can turn January – and its accompanying obsession with resolution-making – into the kind of contemplative catastrophe that’ll drive you sobbing into the self-help section.

It’s on more than one occasion, then, that I’ve had a quietly challenging opening week to the new year, but none I can remember has been quite so difficult as the one that’s just passed. It was perfectly predictable, of course, what with a round of chemo mere days in (now altered, thanks to a new schedule, to require two trips to the hospital on consecutive days), and the subsequent shitness that came with it; shitness which, I think, P and I are fast learning to manage on the physical front, but still struggling with on the emotional front. And so, when you foolishly throw into that debilitating (albeit temporary) depression a nutty necessity to make pledges about what you’d like to do differently in the coming year – and then not just find yourself satisfied at having drawn up a list, but actively squirreling away on Resolution #1 beneath a slanket at 5am on January 4th… well, you’re just asking for trouble, ain’tcha?

But what, you might ask, could be such an urgent resolution that it must be completed under such pressing circumstances? Surely it’d have to be something exciting or ambitious or positive or, at the very least, key to the success of the ensuing few months? Well, hm. Not exactly. Not unless you count entitling a document ‘The Last Will and Testament of Lisa Lynch’ as a particularly exhilarating assignment. So, yes. No bloody wonder the first week of 2012 has been something on the tricky side – as much for my husband as it has for me.

All that said, despite the pressure under which we both put ourselves at this time of year, it’s got to be said that, when we’re serious about a resolution, P and I are pretty darn good at getting it done. Hence when last year we vowed to rid ourselves of debt by the end of 2011, we doggedly knuckled down, tightened the purse strings and had it done it by April. Not to be outdone, then, I figured that – with my post-chemo steroids keeping me not just moodily moon-faced and fumingly fluid-retentive but also wide awake at many an unsociable hour – I might as well make the most of my crabby sleeplessness by turning irritability into action, saving P a job and me a nagging session by commencing the document that neither of us wanted to begin.

So yes, I – we – have now made a will. And while I was at it, I also made a living will: an advance directive outlining the ways in which I’d like to be treated (or, y’know, not treated) in the event that my illness causes me to be unable to capably make decisions or experience an acceptable quality of life. Outlined too are my preferences for how and where I’d like to be for The End, as well as my wishes for what happens afterwards. (Hm, and a very happy new year to you too.) But morbid as that may appear (though let’s level with each other here: it’s also morbidly good sense), my defence is that completing these documents was simply the last thing that needed doing on my get-your-house-in-order list. Well, that and swapping our car for something more accessible and with a more wheelchair-friendly boot, but that’s Resolution #2 and already well on the way to being completed.

There’s rather more to all of this, though, than just my penchant for completing a to-do list. Because much as the will-writing, car-changing, instruction-making things must be done, they’re actually just a bit of a means to an end; a way of drawing a line through pressing concerns in order for me to move onto a far bigger resolution altogether… one which must – for the sake of my health, my sanity and my relationships – be dispatched equally as calculatedly and deliberately. Because this year, dear reader, something’s got to change. And fast.

It goes without saying that making up much of my past few months of 2011 were (as I think has now become the accepted technical term) the bollocking motherfucker of cuntshitting days sent from Satan himself. This, however, is a reality I have come to accept. I accept that it is incredibly, insufferably sad that I have terminal cancer. I accept that it is equally devastating for those I love as it is for me. I accept that my world has been forced to change in ways that I’d rather it hadn’t. I accept that the treatment to prolong my life won’t always make me feel especially well, but that it’s what must be done. I accept that I probably won’t be able to make it to another Glastonbury; I accept that I probably won’t reach my 40th birthday; and I accept that you’ll probably be terribly sad when I have gone because I’m just so damn ruddy awesome.

But what I refuse to accept is a reality that – since the news about the secondary spread to my bones and brain – has been becoming not just patently obvious but increasingly fucking difficult to stomach: that simply because the ‘terminal’ label has now been plastered across my poor little cancer-ridden head, I must henceforth be treated as the kind of vulnerably piteous write-off who might cark it right into your lap at any moment. I’d apologise for the crass exaggeration but sometimes, I’m afraid, that really is how it feels… as though each Facebook-wall-posted ‘xoxo’ is more head-tilted than the last; as though nary a sentence can pass without one ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’ or ‘gorgeous’ too many; as though no compliment is valid unless it proclaims how brave or inspiring or remarkable I am; as though each hug or kiss or wave goodbye might be the final one; as though no text message could possibly go by without me being told how much I’m loved/thought about/prayed for.

And yes, yes, I know. It’s lovely. It’s genuinely, genuinely lovely. But you know what else? I don’t need to hear it. And not just because it’s yet another reminder of the shituation as it stands. But also because, more to the sodding point, it a) really doesn’t need to be said, b) really doesn’t make me feel any better and c) really can’t be all we’ve got to talk about… can it?

Much of a whinge as this must be coming across, the fault, I fear, is all mine. After all, you can’t expect to spend your life (hell, even make a living) writing about The Bullshit only for everyone else to shut the fuck up about it. I have, however, begun to worry whether keeping a blog has simply stopped working for me. There’s no arguing about the fact that, during the course of Alright Tit’s life, it’s become rather a different beast from which it was conceived. Where once there were pithy posts, now there is prolonged prose; where once it was a means of keeping focused, now it’s a means of keeping writing; where once it was a compulsion, now it’s more considered. What’s never changed, however, is how enjoyable I’ve found it, what an incredible catharsis it’s proved, or its effectiveness as a method of keeping everyone posted. Or perhaps I’m wrong on the latter point?

See, I’ve always seen my blog as a place in which I can talk about all the cancer stuff to save boring the arse off people about it elsewhere; somewhere I can pour all the answers to all the questions anyone might possibly have in order for us to move onto more worthwhile conversations, like BeyoncĂ©’s baby or Coronation Street or lipstick. But, actually, it doesn’t really work like that any more. Because, demonstrably, with the change in my prognosis (or perhaps with the change in the way I blog, I don’t know) has come a change in the way people now react to me.

Take my Facebook page, for instance. Immediately after posting about the discovery of The Bullshit’s spread to my bones, I received 36 friend requests, all from people who’d read my news, found themselves shocked and, in many cases, wanted to leave a kind word on my wall. Add a brain tumour and that ‘months-and-not-years’ talk into the mix and my daft little corner of the social-media world had never seen so much of a buzz; a buzz about which I was – no, I remain – at once flattered and baffled and overwhelmed. And so what happened next, I suspect, is that I rather fell into the trap of assuming that, given both the seriousness of what had come to pass and the presence of a new and surprisingly concerned audience, all anybody could possibly want to hear from me – be it through tweets or status updates or whatever – were Bullshit bulletins… which, I imagine, did the exact opposite of rescuing people from having their arses bored off.

The resulting outcome, however (understandably, perhaps, during a time when my schedule had never been more cancer-crammed) was that The Bullshit then became king, turning me into its pity-party of a court jester; its foolishly omnipresent, sympathy-garnering voice. But accepting as I am of the privileged position from which I can rat out the realities of cancer, what I flatly refuse to accept is becoming a poster girl for the pitiable.

The thing is, shitty a state of affairs in which I find myself, I don’t recall anyone having called time on my game just yet. And though I appreciate that we’re a little way past me getting what I want, there are still things I want, thank you very much. I want to blog because I love blogging, not to set an example to some imagined cancer community of which I’ve never considered myself a part. I want to be free to tweet or Facebook-post about whatever’s going on in my life without it looking like I’m doing it to harvest concern. I want to get texts and phonecalls and emails filled with gossip instead of worry, and I want to write lists of new-year pledges (#3: finish writing my next book, #4: no, actually finish writing my next book, #5: somehow become Zooey Deschanel) because it’s no different to what I’d normally do – and not because I’m concerned I’m running out of time.

What I want more than all of that, though, is for you to make a resolution for me. See, I don’t believe I’m going anywhere just yet. I don’t believe that every move I make or text I send or kiss I offer might be my last. And nor do I want you to believe it either. So how’s this for a new-year agreement: instead of wasting 2012 mourning a loss that hasn’t yet come to pass, let’s instead just spend it enjoying the loveliness that is the meantime, shall we? And in return, when it comes to the self-scrutiny of January 2013, I’ll go a little easier on myself. Deal?

28 comments:

GASP said...

Deal x

ks said...

*applause*

Seriously Lisa, your nobody's court jester! Writing your will and putting your wishes on paper is the most practical and loving thing you (or any of us can do) for those we will leave behind reeling in grief. In your case you are dealing with a soul-destroying prognosis (and I in no way want to minimise that) but any one of us can die at any moment-sad fact-without saying all those things we would wish to say to those closest to us (and the world!!).

So bravo Lisa for being pragmatic.

Your posts don't leave me feeling sorry for you-in them I hear your writers voice tackling the most valid issues on any given day-love, life and loss. They make me think and analyse my own path.

Rock on girl!

betwixt beauty said...

Deal. So Blue Ivy eh? Maybe they should have called it Green...

Love From Los Angeles said...

I've always thought that Zooey woman was a bit shit myself. I much prefer her sister Emily, the one on 'Bones'.
The 'cark it in your lap' bit made me laugh out loud. Sorry is that a bt shit of me?
Viva Espana. You know what I mean.
Love x

Suze said...

Promise. X

Gráinne said...

Deal. That means I can ask you to please include Corrie updates if possible. So behind!

MBNAD woman said...

It's the quality of your writing that keeps me reading not the desire to suck some vicarious, arm's length pity out of your world. Your blog has changed. Your writing is more complex and demands a lot more thinking from the reader. But it's still beautiful, pellucid prose.
So, yes, I'm on for your deal.
Mad x

Handyman from Kent said...

Reached your Blog, via Twitter. Well it has made my day, forthright to the point, and no self pity. Oh! and bloody funny.

twirlyaitch said...

Ah bloody hell, you always manage to give me a kick up the arse! Cheers for that! Still loving the blog posts. Oh, and it's "you're nobody's...", @ks. xx

LA said...

Hi - important things first - your blog is so well-written - thank you!!!As was your book but that's slightly different because you had an editor etc etc. Your blog, being a blog would have plenty of excuses for typos or grammar mistakes because blogs are spontaneous and off the cuff whereas hard printed copies of things like magazines aren't but no - your blog is perfect! Unlike this month's edition of American Vogue (very photo shopped looking Meryl Streep on the cover) which has an appalling grammar mistake and some of the funkiest gobbledy gook prose masquerading as "interesting" writing that you've ever seen!
I've been reading your blog since November (sort of came in at the deep end there)because I came via your book - I have been wanting to post since then but just couldn't say anything remotely interesting but now I'm starting to feel like a real creeper, just reading and never saying anything back...so here goes.
I'm part of that other group - perky pink charities producing brochures in a Southern European country where I've lived for years but I'm Canadian. Every now and then I trawl Amazon for books in English about breast cancer (my charity has tranlsated two so far) and that is how I ordered up a copy of the The C-Word last fall. I have read an unbelievable amount of dross about personal cancer experience that adds nothing to the world, cathartic though it may have been for the writer, so you can imagine my actual joy at starting to read your book (though i was immediately trying to work out how we'd deal with all the "fucks") anyhoo - the book obviously explains about the blog so off I go to the blog. In November. Cue bursting into tears. Then weirdly I was mad at you and couldn't pick up the book for a while. Once I got over my feeling that "book purchase ought to guarantee happy ending", I read the rest. And glad I did. Our perky pink charity will be changing a few things and will be renewing attempts to get some things working here that aren't yet (Look Good, Feel Better for one).
But the back drop to all this and the selfish reason I hope you never stop the blog is that at the end of October I found out that a friend (really a professional friend rather than a close buddy)but a fantastic, smart and funny young woman just like you - just got a stage 4 diagnosis at the age of 38 out of nowhere. Your blog has been my guide to this shitty new territory.
So...please don't stop.
And one bit of gossip - Zooey D and Death Cab for Cutie hubby are getting a divorce...bummer.

feline9 said...

I love reading your column, and not because of the cancer, despite the cancer. I laugh, and on occasion sob a little, but mostly I just really enjoy your words, in particular the fabulous made up brilliant ones, I keep meaning to take a note of.
Look forward to hearing from you soon xx

Mimly said...

oxoxoxoxoxox

My head is now so firmly tilted that I can see my toes... Did you know that people who send that are really just repeatedly calling you an ox??

I disagree with Betwixt Beauty, I think they should have gone for Gold.

x

Fiona said...

Emily from Bones is Zooey's sister? No way, I never knew that.

Lisa you make a very reasonable request. I can imagine you feel like you're drowning under sympathy/pity/I'm sooo sorry's sometimes. It must make you want to punch people, however well meaning they are.

jenheffa said...

Zooey Deschanel is well annoying.

Other than that, well said.

Sha said...

I have followed your blog for many months because you are a great writer and you are bloody funny. This last week I have been with my friend whose sister died last week and another friend who has a terminal illness, has this been doom & gloom Hell No! We have talked about all kinds of everything, the elephant in the room along with crap on telly and laughed, a lot. My friend and I also were discussing what to do about her sisters facebook page, shut it down or leave as a memorial site, tough call for my friend. See there is the rub....social networking. With every facebook status, tweet and blog we write evokes a sense of intimacy. Anyone with any self awareness realises that unless in your circle they don't really know you on that level. This leaves people unsure what to say, saying the wrong thing or saying nothing at all. Your blog is bound to evolve and change, it is though always damn well written and always bloody funny. My friends words to me last night were "put your house in order" as always you meet everything head on.
Sha X

bionicwoman said...

I have been a passive follower of your blog since I discovered it 2 years ago. Have never commented before.
Have been living with the bullshit for 9 years now(originally diagnosed at 32,primary recurrance at 37 and was diagnosed with both lung and lymphatic secondaries in Feb 08 at 38)
Never knew what to say but just have to say you are so spot on with your blog and I can relate to so much of what you have said particularly in this last blog. It has also helped me to see it through my friends and family's eyes as I read your blog I'm shouting at the screen willing the bad news not to be true and yet like you I am very positive but realistic and just crave gossip and organise exciting things all the time and just want to be treated normally. I am very lucky to have been stable and off chemo since my last 9 month stint in 08 but have umpteen side-effects from the Arimidex and Zoladex keeping me here and know I'll be back on chemo sooner rather than later. My immune system is rubbish and I seem to have had a permanent cold for 3 months but saying that I have been living nearly 4 years with secondaries which I didn't expect and I've packed a heck of a lot into that time and intend to keep on that way. Redoing my will is another on the todo list.
I love your attitude girl. You say it like it is - hope you'll be getting out your Louboutins out again soon!!You're very much helping to bring awareness of the realities of living with this disease but I hope you still primarily write for your personal reasons. Anne xx

gemmak said...

I hear ya! :)

wb said...

Deal.

Oo Lisa controversial! 'the FA cup rekindles an interest in sport'. Only 10 000 (approx) at DCFC cup match on Saturday. Discuss!

xxxx

NealVanMurf said...

Well Lisa I started following you on twitter a few months ago cos you support the Mighty Rams. Naturally I had to check out your blog when you tweeted a link. I adore your style of writing and would probably read the Derby telephone directory if you re-wrote it, although I may have to skip the entries for the letter F due to being a sensitive soul. Talking of sensitive, I have to admit to shedding a few tears reading each of your last few blogs; not out of pity though because that’s not me, more because in stripping away the veneer of modern life you reveal the bits that are truly important to you and show me what I should be appreciating too. That’s enough soppy writing for now ... (manly shout of) COYR!

Clare said...

Deal!

Blue Ivy eh? The only Ivy I can think of is Ivy Tilsley from Corrie. Bet Beyonce hasn't seen that or she might have chosen another name.

Marcella Dantas said...

Hi Lisa! I'm writing from Brazil, I'm 25 years old and your fan! I just finished to read your book, and cried and laughed! I loved how we feel that we know you...seriously I feel like you are my friend! I got one book to my Mom and another one to my niece..I will prob. buy one for my bf as well (perhaps he learns what a Louboutin is! ) Thanks for helping me to see life in a different perspective... =)

Sorry for the English mistakes..

Marcella Dantas

Sophie said...

Hi Lisa,
I have two questions for you. When will you brilliant book be translated in frog language. I really really really need my friends and family to read it. As most good frogs their English is none existent!.
More important is, what are they going to do to you on Friday? Whatever it is, good luck, will be thinking about you. On Friday, I will be back at the very place where four years ago I discovered my lump. The rest is not history.
Take care.

Lisa Lynch said...

Ah, Sophie, how I WISH the French were interested enough in my book for a translation!

As for the surgery I'm having today, it's just to fit a port in my chest now that the veins in my arm have finally given up and taken early retirement. I'm told that having a single 'everything-in, everything-out' place will make life much easier when it comes to treatment and blood tests and all that stuff. (Plus I'm choosing to assume it'll make me feel a bit like I'm being plugged into The Matrix...)

L.x

Jo said...

Yes yes Lisa, you are Awesome! (and not using the word in a colloquial way my countrymen do but in a Boom-Yeah-Concise-Oxford-Dictionary kind of way!) And Final Will & Testaments are too! My Dad wouldn't let me leave the country without one so we did it together 11 years ago (his 10th anniversary/80th birthday is in March and I can't wait for the celebration!) ...did you know it costs nearly £10k to transport a body around the world + the flight of an escort
I made a new years resolution last year with you as part of my inspiration to see the world and stop whining about 'one day'. Now I'm in Singapore about to start the Asia leg of the adventure.
And cos I know you like a giggle its Friday 13th and I had flipflop failure . Its never fun but at least it was in the clean streets of Singapore and not in India!
I promise to make this resolution memorable. Now don't stop making your mark
Big Love from Singas

jules said...

Firstly what a fantastic blog you write!! and i thoroughly look forward to it. I read your book whilst on holiday in Turkey 2 years ago and have been eage.rly waiting for the next ever since so please no pressure but get a move on!!!!
Big love to you and your gorgeous p.
Keep up the good work .
A true inspiration as all my own patients are that are dealing with the "bullshit" BIG love xxx

Amanda2810 said...

Note to self......must make a will. Thanks for reminder.

Might i just say that after 6 months of chemo if one more twat tells me that i'm 'nearly there' when i say im on number 13 of 40 radio sessions I will 'nut' them. u have been warned!!

delaneygang said...

Lisa,
I saw this and thought of you: http://pinterest.com/pin/24699497926104511/
You're a top bird - that's all :D

Alexandra said...

Hi Lisa,

I have commented before, love your blog, love you despite never having met you and think your writing is brilliant. But enough of that. What I really came on to say today is have you seen these? http://www.nikkimcwilliams.bigcartel.com/product/tunnock-s-teacake-screen-printed-cushion
If I knew your address I would buy you one and send it to you! They have custard creams, Nice biscuits etc too.

Lots of love and best wishes,
Alexandra x