Monday 25 January 2010

The alternative.

When I was a kid (who am I kidding – I’m still a kid), we’d occasionally go on holiday to the kind of Costa del Wherever resorts in which my brother Jamie and I would be ushered into a kids club on Day One (putting to the test our pre-holiday pact not to make friends with any other children), in hotels where there’d always be a family-friendly turn performing Sweet Caroline (waa waa waaa) by the pool in the evenings, and where the most complicated Spanish you’d be expected to learn was ‘Fanta Limon’. That’s not a toffee-nosed summary of our foreign vacations, I hasten to add – those memories are recalled with the utmost love and fondness. Jamie and I adored those holidays (almost as much as our annual fortnights in Sutton on Seaand would invariably come back with glorious tans, necklaces made of shells and pen-pal sweethearts we’d spend the next twelve months trying to avoid.

One night, with white-shorted legs dangling from a plastic chair as I chewed the straw in my bottle of Coke, I ducked down into my shoulders as that night’s turn – an ageing hypnotist with a creased suit and wonky bow-tie – scanned the audience for participants.
‘Not me, not me, not me,’ I repeated in my head, assuming that if he was any kind of hypnotic entertainer worth his salt, he’d sense my fuck-off vibes and choose someone else instead.
‘You! You in the white shorts! Give her a round of applause,’ he announced.
‘Wanker,’ I thought, not yet knowing what the put-down meant and glaring at him with my own ‘drop dead’ hypno-stare. ‘I’m gonna get you for this,’ I told him subliminally as he declared to the assembled Brits abroad that he’d be making me weightless by lulling me into a sleepy state in which he’d be able to rest me like a plank of wood across two chairs.
‘I don’t think so, mate,’ I thought while he waved a 25-peseta coin on a long chain before my eyes. ‘Don’t give in to it. Don’t give in to it. Don’t give in to it,’ I chanted to myself, in a method that was demonstrably more successful than his, given that I remained cockily conscious in front of him, weight on one hip, while he burned scorn into my eyes with a glower that said ‘give it up you little shit, you’re embarrassing me here’. But instead he cut his losses and I returned victorious to my Coke, as the audience fidgeted with their beermats and the hypnotist chose an altogether more compliant six-year-old boy to demonstrate his trick.

While there was clearly already a burgeoning sceptic in those white shorts, I still credit that experience with me being a lass who has a pessimistic outlook on anything even remotely unconventional in the eyes of proven science. For me, science is king. I don’t really have a God I believe in, I’m distrustful of anyone who tells me they’ve seen a ghost, and I’ve always been something of a cynic when it comes to alternative medicine. In short: if I can’t see it – or tangibly feel it – then I simply don’t believe it. I suppose I’ve just always been very much a mainstream sort of girl, living life in black and white, simplistically judging books by their covers.

About a year ago, however, Mr Marbles suggested that my black-and-white approach was rather a dangerous, depressive way to live, and that grey areas – whether in moods or beliefs – weren’t just healthy, but crucial to a more balanced life. And it’s a notion that’s since remained lodged at the back of my mind. But it’s only really this week that I’ve actually come to consider that Mr Marbles might have been right.

At the risk of sounding like I’ve been to one too many Glastonburys and attributing some unexplained force to my run-in with The Bullshit, there’s no getting around the reality that something significant and life-changing happened to me that not even my beloved science can fully explain. Because the answer to why I got cancer can’t completely be ascribed to mere statistics, bad cells or my genetic makeup. Not even to the oestrogen that fed the tumour. Nope – the Bullshit byline, disappointingly, must be credited to simple shit luck. And you just can’t reason with that – it’s the very definition of a grey area.

So isn’t it time, then, that I opened myself up to the alternative? Not the alternative that I got cancer because I once left a glass ring on my folks’ coffee table and blamed it on my brother, or because meddling fairies planted a lump beneath my left nipple as I slept. The other kind of alternatives. The potential power of hypnosis; the likely advantages of creative visualisation; the supposed benefit of complementary therapies… the new-age books I’d judged by their non-scientific covers. Because perhaps those methods could turn out to be as good a means of getting me further beyond The Bullshit as those which our glorious NHS provided?

Funnily enough, it was science that led me into this wrestling-match with my previously inflexible beliefs. Because amidst the, ooh, twelve thousand consent forms I signed prior to my treatment was a request for patients to participate in upcoming clinical trials and research studies. To me, signing my name on the line was a no-brainer – clinical trials could mean improved treatment and, at that stage as much as now, I was up for getting as much hospital attention as possible. And so since, I’ve been sent the odd questionnaire and had the odd debrief over the phone. Then just before Christmas arrived a rather more intriguing invitation: an acupuncture study.

Without boring you with the details – mainly because at this stage I don’t know them – as I understand it, there has been some research to suggest that acupuncture could aid the general wellbeing of people who’ve received cancer treatment. And so, mindful of Mr Marbles’ attempt to encourage me into more unbiased, open-minded ways, I jumped on board. More form-filling, questionnaires and phone consultations resulted in my first appointment this week, at the unexpectedly marvellous
Breast Cancer Haven centre. 

‘Ooh heck I’m late,’ I stammered, trying to maintain eye contact with the receptionist despite the impressive architecture around me. ‘Am I 
too late? I’m so sorry. The traffic…’
‘Lisa?’ she queried.
‘Yes, yes, that’s me, yes.’
‘Don’t worry!’ she laughed. ‘You’re fine for time!’
‘Crikey, yes,’ agreed a man beside her. ‘Please don’t ever worry if you’re running a bit behind. I’m always late.’
‘Oh, okay. Cool,’ I said, taken aback by the casual attitude to punctuality that matched my own.
‘I’m your therapist, by the way,’ he said, offering his hand.
‘Ah, right! I’m Lisa.’
‘Are you okay?’ he asked, still gripping the handshake.
‘Yeah. Yeah, fine,’ I confirmed.
‘Well, yeah, a bit.’
‘Nothing to be nervous about,’ he said, still holding on a little too long.
‘Okay,’ I murmured, wondering whether to pull away.
‘Crikey, your shoulders!’ he suddenly cried, dropping my right hand to pinch either side of my neck.
‘Oof, cor. They’re wound so tight.’
‘Oh?’ I said, suddenly remembering an identical exchange with Ms Magic Hands, the massage therapist charged with keeping under control the lymphoedema that developed as a result of the removal of my lymph nodes. ‘How could they both tell that just from looking at me? Perhaps they really 
are magic,’ I thought as Mr Magic Hands led me upstairs to a therapy room. ‘Maybe they can hear my thoughts too,’ I wondered, quickly shaking the paranoid monologue out of my head like a rubbish Etch-A-Sketch drawing, just in case.

‘Do you ever have massage?’ he asked, patting a chair for me to sit on.
‘Just for my lymphoedema,’ I confirmed. ‘Did I ought to do something about my shoulders too?’
‘Don’t worry, you can deal with it at the Haven,’ he said. ‘We’ll do something about that.’
Just like that. Not ‘better get it seen to’, not ‘here’s a list of private practitioners’. Just ‘we’ll do something about that.’
‘So, your treatment ended last year,’ he continued.
‘And you’re on Tamoxifen for…?’
‘Another four years.’
‘And the wellbeing issues that have arisen as a result of your cancer…?’ Again – not ‘are there any’ or ‘what are they’. Just a quiet understanding that it was normal to have them.
‘Coof,’ I said, not knowing where to start. He did it for me.
‘Hot flushes?’
‘Weight gain?’
‘Trouble sleeping?’
And there it was again: ‘We’ll do something about that.’ His confidence was immediately calming. ‘But not until this study is over, I’m afraid,’ he added. ‘We can’t allow anything to conflict with our results here. But after that, we’ll design a programme for you.’
‘Awesome,’ I said, kicking myself for not having discovered the Haven 18 months ago.

‘Most people fall asleep,’ explained Mr Magic Hands as I lay back on the bed, leggings rolled up to my knees.
I wont,’ I thought sceptically, momentarily confusing acupuncture with dodgy poolside hypnosis.
I was right, though. I didn’t. But nor was I really awake. It took a while – what with the continual nattering in my brain proving as loud an interruption as the sirens outside – but I was eventually able to zone everything out. And though by that time there wasn’t an awful lot of my appointment left, I did begin to feel… well… different.

‘Did you have any unusual sensations?’ said MMH after removing the needles – not that I could feel him doing it.
‘I did, actually,’ I confirmed. ‘I felt 
light. And that’s something I’m definitely not used to.’
‘And did you see any colours?’
‘Funny you should mention that,’ I said, as though I were the Christopher Columbus of acupuncture. ‘There were these waves of, I dunno, deep red? Or maybe orange? Is that the right answer?’
‘There is no right answer,’ he said. ‘But that’s… that’s good.’
‘Nice one,’ I said, trying to sit up on the bed but realising that my pace seemed much more leisurely than usual. I wasn’t sluggish or slow so much as relaxed. Properly relaxed. In a way that made me realise that, as much as I might sometimes think I am, I’m never 
really relaxed.
‘The thing is,’ he added. ‘Acupuncture is difficult to quantify. There is no correct way to feel. Which is why medics find it so difficult to understand.’
I nodded, high on tranquillity.

‘You might feel sleepy for a while,’ he warned, leading me back downstairs to reception.
‘Mm, I am.’
‘And you might want to sit quietly for an hour or so.’
‘Mm, I will.’
‘So feel free to do that here. Help yourself to a cup of tea or read a book from the library,’ he said, pointing to a comfy sofa beside a trickling fountain that definitely wasn’t in my imagination. (‘Are you sure it’s not a bit hippy-ish?’ asked Mum later that day.)
‘You may want to leave it a little while before you drive home,’ he suggested.
‘Mm, I might,’ I said, mercifully low enough on energy not to make some dreadful crack about festival security staff changing their stop-and-search tactics to confiscate acupuncture needles instead of hash.

And so I sat quietly and read my Haven leaflet. And when I’d read that, I moved across to the library (a 10-yard distance that doubtless took me about 20 minutes) and a shelf marked ‘cancer memoirs’. If I hadn’t been so acupuncture-doped, I’d probably have felt quite affronted, assuming – as I had – that I wasn’t just the Columbus of acupuncture, but of cancer memoirs, too. So I checked out the competition. 
The Breast Cancer Survivors ClubCutting The Ties That BindLiving ProofThe JourneyNo Less A Woman. Brilliant books they most probably are, but I was sceptical of them. I wasn’t looking for a sobering, heartfelt tome. I wanted something different, something unconventional. And so, of all the books on the shelf, it was only really comic-strip memoir Cancer Vixen that seemed like it might be my cup of Rosie Lee. But then I stopped. And put it back. Because I was doing it again, wasn’t I?

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Keep calm and carry on.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a small design amendment to Alright Tit. Yep, that one up there – the new, pink addition to the banner. Lovely, innit? Lovely and necessary, I think. Because, let’s be honest, while ‘the frustrating, life-altering, sheer bloody pain-in-the-arse inconvenience of getting breast cancer at 28’ is correct in that it’s the reason this blog came about in the first place, it’s also a bit outdated now, since I’m no longer 28 (sniff!) and no longer have breast cancer (huzzah!). And so the ‘…and blogging beyond The Bullshit at 30’ line, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a much-needed clarification. Good. Glad we got that sorted.

Back in the Bullshit days, I had naively assumed that I’d bring this blog to an end at
this point, exactly a year after my diagnosis, all finished and done with and tied up neatly in a bow, as though I were checking breast cancer off some imaginary to-do list. But actually, when it came to it, calling a halt to blogging on 17 June 2009 would have felt like walking out of the match after 45 minutes. It’d have left you with half a story. And a one-all draw at that, without even the beauty of an injury-time fightback and a flick through the programme over a half-time Bovril.

See, as much as I want to move past The Bullshit, there are numerous reasons to keep blogging about it. Chiefly, because it helps me make sense of it all. And since I’ve stopped seeing
Mr MarblesAlright Tit has been my therapy (albeit without the uncomfortable silences). Plus, blogging has become my drug of choice (which kinda makes you my dealers, you stinking heathens), and when I haven’t done it for a week or so, along come the same kind of withdrawal symptoms that I used to get when I hadn’t been to the hospital for a few days.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that, what with 
The C-Word soon to be released in all good book shops [*cheesy thumbs-up*], I can’t exactly stop talking about the very thing I’m trying to promote. (Yeah – sorry, publishers, but I’ve decided that I’m now going to blog about Sgt Pepper instead, so if anyone has any questions about the book, can they please be cat-related. Ta.) And finally because, like it or not, breast cancer just can’t be boxed off into a neat little year. Though I’m no longer required to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy, my treatment continues in the form of daily hormone therapy – and will do for at least another four years.

The nice thing now, though, is that there’s more to talk about than the altogether shittier stuff of having surgery, losing my hair, feeling like crap and upsetting my family. There’s the life beyond The Bullshit: the beauty of normality, the not-so-regular visits with my favourite doctors, the excitement of the book (only £5.99, too… talk about a steal – you can’t even get a chippy tea for that) and the increasingly baffling reality of being menopausal at 30. Thus if I’m going to stick to my self-imposed brief of being honest about this whole shebang, I reckon it would be dishonest to give anyone the impression that my experience of The Bullshit is over. And so doing as I’d planned when I wrote my
first post, and rolling the closing credits on Alright Tit last year – or even now – would have left something of a loose end; the cancer-blogging equivalent of a gold-filled getaway coach balancing precariously on the edge of a cliff. And you thought I was only supposed to blog the bloody breast off…

Hm, on second thought, perhaps I’ll get my coat after all.

Friday 15 January 2010

Let it Bea.

Those of you who’ve been with this blog a while will undoubtedly know Tills. Not personally, perhaps, but you’ll certainly be aware of her as one of the key mates who saw me through The Bullshit. She was the first friend I called after getting my diagnosis. The one who arranged my fabulous pre-chemo haircut. The one who ensured I had fancy pyjamas. The one who I yawped at despite her giving up a morning to help me buy a wig. The one who met me after my final radiotherapy session with a magnum of cava, and discussed nipple shades in the reconstruction clinic. The one who took the piss out of Calum Best when we found ourselves sitting beside him in a tattoo-studio waiting room. The one who stayed calm and caring on New Image Day when I dragged her along to two different colourists in three hours and had a diva strop in Topshop. The one who created the legendary tit-cupcakes for my Super Sweet 30th. And the one who’s regularly to be found being protectively supportive (not to mention pulling me up on my bullshit) in the comments section of these here pages. Lately, though, Tills has had a bit more on her plate than looking after a sick mate or leaving witty responses to blog posts. Because on Christmas Day, at 11.30am, Tills gave birth to a 6lb 8oz bundle of scrumptiousness called Bea. Round of applause, please.

(Actually, while we’re clapping the rites of passage of my lovely girlfriends, do keep up the ovation for Busby, who’s now mum to Eli; Leaks, who’s about to add a boy to the family; Suze, who’s gone for the hat-trick with Oscar; Rose, who’s carrying perhaps the most brilliantly styled baby bump I’ve ever seen; Polls, who’s cemented her place as The Most Successful Person I Know by becoming Whitehall Correspondent for The Guardian; and my soon-to-be-wed pals Weeza, Ali, Kristen and Lil. See what happens when you’re friends with me? Exciting stuff, that’s what. Because, obviously, all of the above is entirely my doing. Obviously.)

Anyway, back to business. Those of you who know of Tills might have been surprised to read her baby news, what with me having posted only a cursory, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mention about her pregnancy. And I don’t quite know what my response to that is. Because, when Tills called to tell me that she and Si would be having a baby, I wasn’t quite sure of my response to that, either. Granted, I squealed and clapped and promised to verse her firstborn in The Beatles, pub-quiz pop trivia, accessorising and the offside rule, but – given The Bullshit’s blow to mine and P’s fertility – my joy for Tills and Si was always going to be ever so slightly muddied by a spoilsport pang of what might’ve been. (Three rings of the phone gave me a window in which to react in the excited manner that Tills so rightfully deserved, mind you. My mates know how much I hate speaking on the phone, so when there’s ringing instead of a text beep, it’s generally time to steel yourself for Big News.)

Immediately after getting that phonecall, I had a confused little sob – perhaps it was at the reminder of the aforementioned muddy spoilsport pang, or the fact that said muddy spoilsport pang was threatening to stop me from being as excited for my dear friend as I wanted to be. Perhaps it was because I didn’t want anything to sully my enthusiasm for the role of Auntie Lisa, or because I hoped Tills' news wouldn’t force other people to jump to ahh-you-must-wish-that-was-you conclusions. Perhaps I was mourning the inevitable change in one of my most-valued friendships. Or perhaps it was simply down to the fear that the only Big News I might ever have to tell my friends in the future would be similar to that which I received when I was 28.

The first time I saw a pregnant Tills was a few days later, when she came with me to the reconstruction clinic to hold my hand prior to phase two of my nipple-tattooing. And, rather ridiculously for a friend I’ve known for over a decade, I was as nervous about seeing her as I was about my hospital appointment, afraid that I’d not look as pleased about her news as I felt, that I’d come across as jealous or bitter, or – worse yet – that my eyes would leak a retraction to my joyful response.

Equally weird was getting the right balance of baby versus cancer. The thing is, once you’ve done the congratulations and the due dates and the scan results and the promises to drink twice as much booze while your friend is out of action, you inevitably have to go back to normal conversation. And when you’re in the waiting room of a cancer clinic, there’s only really one topic on the table – and it's one hell of a buzz-kill. Like rain on your wedding day, or a black fly in your Chardonnay. Or ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. Or something.

The same thing happens whenever there’s any kind of Big News, of course, be it cancer or pregnancy or engagement or wedding or new job or book deal. (See? Any excuse.) You have to constantly censor yourself on it, slamming on the brakes to make sure you’ve not driven headlong over the Big News Bore cliff-edge. And ever since my diagnosis – much like after P put a diamond ring on my finger – my inner voice has had to work overtime to curb the self-obsession. ‘Yep, you’re still going to the hospital regularly. Yep, you’re feeling better than you have in a while. Yep, your hair’s getting long again. Right, Lis, that’s more than enough cancer chat. Now stop talking about yourself and ask about the baby.’

The trouble is, when everything has been All About You for so long, it becomes a hard habit to break. It’s not that you’re pleased that cancer has made things so me-me-me, of course, but I’d be fibbing if I said that the attention it brings was an unwelcome side effect. It’s lovely that people want to call you and visit you and read your blog and send you cards and bake you biscuits. You just wish it were for a different reason.

But – even now – every so often, there’s an unscheduled debrief in which I simply have to talk about The Bullshit, as though I still need convincing that it actually happened. (I may write about it all the time, but it’s a rare occasion when it crops up in dialogue.) And judging by an hour-long cancer-conversation I had with – and initiated by, I should add – Lil earlier this week, it seems my mates still occasionally need convincing of its reality, too. Afraid that I had been secretly rating her levels of upset at my Big News, Lil was at pains to tell me how it had affected her.
‘I made a point of not crying in front of you, you know,’ she assured me. ‘I wanted to keep things as normal as possible.’
‘And you did, love,’ I said. ‘In fact all along you were one of the best at treating me exactly the same way as you always had,’ I added, thrilled at being able to use the past tense.
‘I hope so,’ she said. ‘I just want you to know that I always cried when I left you, okay?’
‘I know, bird,’ I agreed. ‘But it’s not like I was keeping a tally of who cried and who didn’t.’
‘Yeah, whatever,’ she winked, before I switched subjects to her beautiful engagement ring, bombarding her with wedding magazines and guaranteeing her a hen night to remember.

Just as it is for many of my friends, this is an exciting time for Lil. (And ain’t that just where your thirties whoop the ass of your twenties?) Being proposed to on Christmas morning (at the same time that Tills was in labour with Bea, funnily enough) put the icing on a happy month in which she’d also started a new career in PR, working beside a colleague we’d each met in a former job.
‘He was asking about you actually,’ she mentioned.
‘Oh?’ I said.
‘Yeah, he got confused about your name-change. I think he was trying to figure out whether Lisa McFarlane and Lisa Lynch were the same person.’
‘Heh. So am I,’ I thought.
‘So I filled him in on what you’d been up to since,’ said Lil. ‘About the wedding and the new jobs and that.’
‘Cool, cool,’ I hummed, expecting to hear another When You Had Cancer story.
‘And then I stopped myself,’ she said. ‘I was going to tell him about The Bullshit, but then I thought, “No, actually. Leave it there. It’s not important. She’s past it; she’s better.” Is that okay?’
‘That’s better than okay, Lilface,’ I enthused. ‘That’s fucking wonderful. Nice work, bird.’
‘So yeah, I told him about the writing stuff instead.’
‘That’s brilliant,’ I beamed.

And it is. It’s brilliant. And not just because Lil had talked about my career before my cancer. But also because in the course of our conversation it dawned on me that, in the eyes of the people who matter, I’d at long last rejoined the ranks as Just Another Thirtysomething, capable of getting as giddy about the exciting stuff happening in their lives as the exciting stuff happening in mine. Granted, my own Big News may be more book-shaped than bride-shaped or baby-shaped, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. And, better still, being able to slowly edge The Bullshit out of the headlines has created vital space for far more newsworthy stuff, like shopping for gorgeous wedding outfits, eyeing up L-plates for Lil’s hen night and opening an iTunes account for Bea. That’s right, Tills – Auntie Lisa’s Lesson In Pop begins here.

Thursday 7 January 2010

The new-year hangover.

There’s an ongoing joke that my brother Jamie and I have with our parents.
‘…and be careful,’ Mum will say at the end of every phonecall/visit/conversation we have with her.
‘Cor, it’s a good job you said that, Mum,’ I’ll mock, ‘because otherwise I really don’t think I would have been.’
‘Listen, Mum,’ Jamie will add, ‘let’s just make a deal that, until you instruct me otherwise, I’ll be careful, okay?’
‘Piss off,’ she’ll retort. And then we’ll have the exact same conversation all over again the next time we leave the house/cross the road/put keys in the ignition. But that, I’m told, is ‘what parents do’. And it’s cute, ain’t it?

It does make me wonder, though, at what point will it stop? It’s more than twelve years now since I left home, and yet that level of overprotection is no different at 30 to that which it was when I was 13. That’s mostly cancer’s fault, of course. It may be a rose-tinted, hindsight-facing view, but I really do think that pre-Bullshit, the balance was just about getting right. My folks didn’t feel the need to know exactly where I was at any given point despite the 120 miles between us, nor did they freak out if I hadn’t answered the phone within five rings. Throw cancer into the equation, however, and I don’t need powers of telepathy to figure out that my parents’ #1 activity – wholly understandably – is Worrying About Lisa.

It’s not just them, of course. These days, even my closest mates ask how I’m doing without the usual not-really-interested-in-the-answer breeziness that comes with the question, and just today P expressed a worry about me going back into my freezing office tomorrow, given that I ‘have to be more careful than most people about getting ill’. The concern even stretches to GPs, as though having the magic word ‘cancer’ on your record opens up a secret, golden-ticket world of swift appointments, fast referrals and on-tap prescriptions, like some kind of Disneyworld FastPass for ill people. (I might try using it elsewhere actually. ‘Sorry, madam, The Ivy only takes bookings three months in advance.’  ‘But I once had cancer, don’t you know?’  ‘Oh, well in that case, madam, we can get you in at 7.30 this evening. We’ll sit you next to David and Victoria.’)

When, over Christmas, a niggling cold persisted for longer than the turkey lasted, my parents/in-laws/husband/friends nagged me to see a doctor. They were all absolutely right in the end, of course – it wasn’t a cold, but an infection – but I wanted to visit the doctor on my own terms, not because I’d been hassled into it. Because the problem with being told to be careful all the time, of course, is that it makes you want to do the complete opposite (in the same way that being told to tidy your room makes you want to do a Keith Moon). It makes you want to cross Spaghetti Junction blindfolded, run around a rush-hour Victoria station with a pair of scissors or carelessly yank your bread out of a red-hot toaster with a knife.

‘I know I should’ve come sooner,’ I admitted to my overly concerned sixtysomething GP, ‘but I figured this’d be gone by now and I can’t shake it off.’
‘Well you won’t do, darling,’ she said, her head so tilted she could have passed for a contortionist. ‘Not like other people do, not after what you’ve been through.’
‘Meh, I guess not,’ I conceded.
‘I must say, though, you’re looking wonderful,’ she added, in a comment that was about as relevant as telling me how many sugars she takes in her tea. (That’s another thing about having previously had cancer ­– people are crazy-nice. And marvellous as my newly grown hair is when compared to the George Dawes look, since getting it back I’ve had so many unjustified compliments on my appearance that I’m often surprised not to find J-Lo staring back at me in the mirror.)
‘Oh, um, thank you, that’s awfully kind,’ I mumbled.
‘Really, you are,’ she gushed. ‘But you’ve got to remember that you’re more vulnerable now.’
‘Hmm,’ I growled, à la Marge Simpson. ‘Vulnerable. Right.’

And there it is. According to medical science, I have now been moved from the pigeonhole marked ‘cancer’ to the one marked ‘vulnerable’. Which, of course, is fair enough. I know that; my immune system knows that; my doctors know that; my family know that; my husband knows that; and my friends know that. But whether I am vulnerable or not isn’t the point. The point is that – just as I never wanted to be treated like a cancer patient – I don’t now want to be treated like I’m made of porcelain, either. I want to be treated like a normal 30-year-old lass who’s big enough and daft enough to look after herself. (For the record, nobody gets that more spot-on than Jamie. He was as good at treating me like Lisa Lynch when I was bedridden and hairless as he ever was before – and still is today. Piss-taking little shyster.)

See, the beauty of this new year isn’t just having a crapload of exciting stuff to look forward to in 2010 – it’s the distance it puts between me and The Bullshit. It’s no longer having to say that I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. And that’s a sentence I get one helluva kick out of. So, in the wonderful words of the yoof: don’t harsh my mellow, man.