Monday 1 December 2008

You won't like me when I'm angry.

A couple of nights ago, P and I were on the way home from our friends' wedding, feeling suitably heartwarmed yet pretty knackered (ie, a definite wig-off moment) and P needed to nip out of the car for something or other (okay, a KFC). So we pulled up on a double yellow line, blocking a driveway (get us; proper badass criminals) and P jumped out for some late-night chicken. While he was in there, a bloke came along and gestured through the car window that he needed us to move back a bit. I opened the door and told him no problem, we'd have done it by the time he got to his car, then sat stunned in the passenger seat as he moved a step closer for a better view of me, looked amused, pointed a finger at my head and said, 'You've got no hair.' And what do you say to that, eh? The man was right; I've got no hair. (Actually, I do have a wee bit of wispy hair now, but it's certainly not enough to see in the dark, nor is it prominent enough to stop me looking like the dying, mask-less Darth Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.) But, hair or no hair, I didn't need him to remind me of my situation, thank you very much, particularly after such a lovely night.

I'm upset about this odd exchange, of course, but for more reasons other than the tactless tit saying what he did. For starters, I missed an open-goal chance to use a retort I've been practising since I first started losing my hair. I'm not proud to admit it, but I've been mentally preparing myself for this perfect play-the-cancer-card moment for months now (or one like it – in my head it normally involves me overhearing someone whispering about my wig). What I should have done outside KFC was stare back very seriously, giving him my best ill-person face, then nod sagely and say, 'That's because I've got cancer.' With careful, drawn-out emphasis on the word cancer. And slightly raised eyebrows. Just to make him feel really bad. But instead I frowned, looked at myself in the wing mirror (I don't know why; it's not like I had to check whether he was lying) and said, 'Er. Yeah.' Talk about a missed opportunity. I might have even got a boneless bucket out of the bastard. 

I'm kicking myself for another reason, too. Because, at the point at which a random bloke on the street chose to point and stare at my chemo-created baldness, I was enjoying a blissful, not-thinking-about-cancer moment. Not that I knew I was enjoying it, mind. To me it was just a moment. I didn't realise how blissful it had been until the words 'you've got no hair' were said. And that's what's got my goat. The dickhead ruined my moment. Granted, there have been thankfully more of these such moments over the past week or so (and I'm hoping there'll be more still, now P and I have escaped up to the Lakes) and that's unquestionably a Good Thing. Or, at least, mostly a Good Thing. Because you can't stay in those moments forever. At some point you inevitably find yourself back in the reality. And it's a tricky see-saw to negotiate: I'm pleased to have some Bullshit-free moments again, but it hits pretty hard when you snap back out of them, and it's difficult to manage when you can't predict when they'll start wringing out your tear ducts like a wet flannel. 

Over the past few months I've got used to having good weeks and bad weeks. And, in neat little units of one week, it's an emotional ride I can handle. But recently I've not known from one moment to the next whether I'm going to feel happy or upset or frustrated or angry or worried or tearful or whatever else. It's a bit like having PMS all the time, only without the periods. And I'm wary of it getting the better of me. I've always had trouble with temperamental people – I like to know how I'm going to find someone. There are a lot of personality traits I can overlook, but that gamble of whether someone's going to be super-chirpy or drag-everyone-else-down miserable is something I'm just not interested in being around. I've always harboured a secret desire to drop valium in the water supply to even out everyone's moods and see if it would make the world a better place. Actually the only thing stopping me resorting to valium is that I'm not sure whether you can take it with Tamoxifen. That's the hormone therapy I started today, by the way. The very same I'll be taking each day for the next five years. (On another point, I'd love to meet the person who added the word 'therapy' to all these cancer treatments. Fluffy robes and essential oils they ain't.) To put it bluntly, Tamoxifen = menopause. And menopause = moody. Along with all kinds of other gorgeous side-effects, of course: weak bones, weight gain, hot flushes and dryness in places you could do without being so desert-like. But each of those things I can do something about (particularly the last one – a couple of months back I had a lube-tip from the unlikeliest of sources, and didn't realise how grateful I was for it until now). The mood-swing stuff, though, is something I'm just going to have to get used to. At the same time as making sure it doesn't impact too much on my nearest and dearest – God knows they've had enough to put up with. (That letting-it-affect-my-family thing started and ended this week, by the way, on the phone to my old man. One second we were talking about London traffic, the next I was having a mini-breakdown about not being able to go to the hospital so often once radiotherapy is over.)

All that said, I'm not going to give myself too much of a hard time about this one (Mr Marbles, if you're reading, consider that a breakthrough). Because, actually, in this situation more than most, emotions just aren't that easy to separate. So I reckon it's okay to feel several conflicting things at one time without staring down the barrel of multiple personality disorder. It's okay to feel angry that you're spending so much time at the hospital, yet worried about one day not seeing your doctors so often. It's okay to appreciate the seriousness of radiotherapy, yet find the YMCA position hilarious. It's okay to want to spend a lifetime in the Lakes with nobody other than your husband, yet feel disappointed that you won't have kids of your own to share it with. It's okay to be completely repulsed by your own appearance, yet still be thankful you don't look like Amy Winehouse. It's okay to feel ecstatic that the worst part of your treatment is over, yet pissed off that there's still more to come. It's okay to forget about having cancer for one wonderful minute, yet find yourself angry when that moment has passed. And it's okay to accept that your hormone therapy might make you a little unpredictable, yet still try hard to keep your mood swings under wraps. That said, if some arsewipe tries smirking at my slaphead again, I can't be held responsible for my angry actions, so help me Tamoxifen.


Megan said...

I know exactly what it feels like to be laughed at by some arsewipe who maks some idiotic response to something that, given a brain cell or two, they'd know to shut their gob rather than say what they're thinking.
I also know what it feels like to have some perfect retort rehersed for just the right moment, but when they make you feel 2 inches tall, you can't seem to say it.

Fuck em! Love Megan, 65-roses.

Alexandra Thomas said...

Not like you angry. That man won't like me when I'm angry if he ever has the misfortune to come across me.

What a fucking wanker (sorry for swearing on your blog)

Love you my Miss Mac xx

Anonymous said...

Here's another "off the cuff" retort for you:

"Well I may have no hair but you're obviously no fucking detective, Kojak."

Then kick him square in the groin, obviously.

Anonymous said...

Just out of interest, exactly which driveway? Can we maybe get a postcode? And what did he look like? I've being doing some rehearsing of my own and it would be a shame if one of us didn't get a chance to destroy the mean-hearted fuckwit.
On another note, you're ability to sit with conflicting feelings is one of the things I really admire about you (that and your impeccable dress sense). When I grow up, I want to be more like you. Now, step away from the blog and enjoy the Lakes with lovely P. xx

Anonymous said...

Damn. 'your' - not 'you're'. Obviously.