Wednesday 17 February 2010

The mates I’ve never met.

Despite the fact that they make me cry like an X-Factor contestant every time I see them, I keep reading through the acknowledgements in my book. I dare say I could even recite them by heart. (See also: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the entire Beatles back catalogue, series six of Friends.) It’s a daft thing to do – particularly in light of the book being printed this week – yet I still insist on repeatedly poring over those last few pages. I suppose it’s rather like denying yourself a biscuit before you put on your wedding dress – everyone knows it’s way too late to make a difference, but you stubbornly do it anyway.  

If I were still able to make changes to my tributes to those who helped me get the book written (and The Bullshit beaten), I don’t for a moment doubt that I’d be busily scrawling red pen all over those pages. But then I suppose that goes for the whole book, really. Because, much like staring in the mirror, every time you look at it, you’re bound to wish that something was different (unless you’re Kanye West) – which, obviously, is why we have deadlines (and why cosmetic surgery tends to be on the pricey side).

There is something of the wedding guest list about it, though. See, I’ve listed the few folk who played the biggest part in getting me through The Bullshit but, inevitably, as time goes on, that list is going to look rather dated. And where, when you look back at your wedding photos, you might wish you’d invited X instead of Y (ooh, how enigmatic of me), the roll-call of gratitudes after you’ve got through an illness might also begin to look a little lacking (even if it does rock in at four pages).

But – much like I did with my wedding guest list – where my book acknowledgements were concerned, I had to call it as I saw it at the time. And ‘the time’, officially, was July 2009 – the point at which the book ends. Of course, the wider Bullshit story didn’t end there – hell, it still hasn’t ended – but that is the point at which the printed narrative comes to its conclusion. And so there’s no acknowledgement for the likes of Ms and Mr Magic Hands, for example, who’ve done so much for my lymphoedema and fatigue respectively; nor is there a mention of my immediate colleagues who show such animated interest in my writing; nor are there any thanks for the friends who I’ve only seen more of since my active treatment ended. But that’s the way it is.

Every time I read those pages, though, I’m relieved that I’ve said a special thank-you to a more indefinable, web-based collective: you. Yes, you. Because, though I’ve never met a lot of you in person, that’s not to say that I don’t think of you as friends. Yeah, yeah, I know – pass the sick bucket. And you’re right – that is an impossibly wanky thing to say. It makes me sound like some kind of spotty, light-starved, virgin gamer who shuns actual human contact for role-playing online chats about military formations with his Dungeons and Dragons buddies. When obviously I’m way cooler than that. [Frantically deletes Sgt Pepper’s Twitter account.]

And if you thought that was a wanky thing to say, look away now. Because another thing I genuinely believe is that social networking has been as beneficial to my recovery as therapy. [Waves goodbye to remaining credibility.] But I’m serious: Twitter and its ilk have undoubtedly Helped Me Through. Not like a Westlife album played to a coma patient; more like an epidural given to a woman in labour. Yeah, I could have got through it otherwise, but it didn’t half make the ride smoother.

To many people that’s not going to be a popular opinion. Numerous folk with loud media presences (hello, Piers Morgan) make much of the opinion that ‘Twitter is for twits’ or – in the words of my secret husband Dave Grohl – that it’s a ‘waste of time’. (Make that secret ex-husband.) But couldn’t you say that about any form of communication? Some meetings are a waste of time. Some phonecalls are a waste of time. Some emails are a waste of time. So, to me at least, social networking itself isn’t a waste of time. Slagging off social networking is a waste of time… but not half as much as overlooking its potential.

Allow me to explain. When I wrote my first post, I wasn’t consciously starting a blog. I just wrote something because it was cathartic, and because it kept me busy at a time when everyone around me was asking a hundred questions about how I felt. It was honestly never my intention for this blog to become the comparative beast that it has – I had absolutely no idea what blogging might be able to do for me. Sheesh, if you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be bearing my innermost thoughts to strangers on the internet in a way that I’d never be able to manage in conversations with my real-life friends, I’m sure I’d have told you to get knotted. But – again – that’s the way it is. And I don’t regret any of it.

I regularly assert (to blank faces, usually) that there’s something strangely healing about social networking. (A term which I hope you’ll forgive me using in its widest possible sense to also include blogging.) I discovered Facebook while off work following a miscarriage, reconnecting with old friends and nosily losing myself in the stories of ex-classmates at a time when I desperately needed a distraction. And so it followed that I discovered blogging and Twitter when I was diagnosed with cancer; this time distracting myself via communications with people I didn’t know personally, getting my writing out to a wider audience and discovering in an instant what it was that people found interesting or funny or frustrating.

Granted, that isn’t how everyone stumbles across social networking (that would just add fuel to certain tabloid-columnists’ fires that we’re all pyjama-wearing, socially inept saddos looking for a support group), but I don’t doubt that anyone finding themselves in a situation in which they’d rather not be has, at some point, found solace in a blog comment or a wall post or an @ reply.

When I came out of hospital following a successful mastectomy, I broke the news in my Facebook status. Right the way through chemo, I wasn’t just being willed on by the people around my bed, but by an assembly of blog-readers who continually made their presence known with encouraging messages. When my last mammogram came back clear, it wasn’t just my family who celebrated, but the Twitter followers I’d alerted, too.

It’s thanks to social networking that I’m back in touch with my best mate from school. It’s thanks to social networking that I discovered this album. It’s thanks to social networking that I came across some wonderful writers whose words I might not have read otherwise. It’s thanks to social networking that I’m able to see friends’ babies as soon as they’ve been born. It’s thanks to social networking that I learned to employ the rubber-ring trick when I had crippling piles, or found out why my pubes grew back weirdly straight after chemo. And it’s thanks to social networking that I was able to organise a charity auction for my 30th birthday party in which people I did and didn’t know helped me to raise over £10,000 for Breast Cancer Care.

And that’s aside from what social networking has done for me professionally. Were it not for Twitter (and the fortuitous turn of events that led to Stephen Fry saying some hugely flattering things about this blog), right now I’d more than likely still be dragging my manuscript around to nonplussed literary agents – let alone getting excited about being days away from seeing the first copy of my book. A book in which the lead characters are, admittedly, the immediate family and friends who dragged my ample arse kicking and screaming through The Bullshit. But though they’re the ones with the dialogue, I’d be a prize twit(ter) not to admit that I couldn’t have done it without a little help from my virtual friends.


Wardotron said...

Yeah! You owe us!

swisslet said...

....without us you'd be nothing.... But a talented writer with a compelling, heart-warming story to tell.
I'm off before it gets all Gwyneth Paltrow around here.

Unknown said...

Be quiet, Ward.

...actually, he's right. And another bally good post, m'lady. So proud to call you a friend. x

madsadgirl said...

I'm looking forward to the book arriving on my doorstep. It seems so long ago that I ordered it immediately after reading the post with the link to Amazon.

Like you I have found blogging to be really good therapy, although in my case it is severe depression that is the illness that I have to contend with. I have made so many friends through blogging, one or two of whom I have actually had the opportunity to meet in person, and even though I will never meet the majority (especially the ones overseas)I really do consider them to be friends.

Mine is a blog that has a much smaller following than yours, but since my stay in a mental hospital towards the end of last year and the subsequent posts about Tackling the Mental Health Minefield, I have had a larger readership and so much encouragement that I know that I am going to be a blogger for the long haul.

Thank you Lisa for sharing your story with us; we have been through the lows and the highs and I am sure that I speak for many others when I say that I hope that your book is a great success and that you will continue to blog for a long time to come.

Unknown said...


It's me again. just when you thought you had seen the last of me.

I came home tonight; tired, stressed, overflowing with venom and vexation at the way peoples minds seem to work. I sat down at my desk, and flicked my way through the pages, feeds and link lists that keep me reasonably balanced from day to day.

And there you were. Again. Talking sense. Again.

Damn you.

I won't gush, and repeat myself; but i will say this: don't ever stop sharing! because we (the collected internet weirdo types) stumble across you, and find ourselves compelled to linger. You made it ok to cry, ok to scream, and above all, ok to smile about it.

One day, I hope to buy you a G&T.

;) Diz

gemmak said...

I'm not sure I qualify here given my very minimal input but whatever it's a two way street, you insipre us lot and hell, in my case at least, you make me laugh like the proverbial drain which in my crap moments is no mean feat! Go you!
I'm off to order my copy now, despite my current 'DWP income', dammit, some things one just has to have! ;)

SB said...

Oh, how we love you, L.

And, I am pretty sure that despite the fact you and JB were "real friends", I wouldn't be able to consider you such a close pal were it not for the ease of communication that is found from Social Networking. And I consider it a privilege to call you my friend. (Gush gush).

Another great post, as ever. Can't wait for the book.


Helen said...

This post made me cry a little. As so many of yours do.

Mrs Lynch, I can't wait to read your book.

I also blame you for me signing up for Race for Life in June.

So there.


billy said...

wooo hoo I love reading the blog. Really looking forward to the book.

Unknown said...

Okay: Now that you admitted it first: I'm very sure I'll bump into you when I'm next in London! :) Though I've just commented once before - I read every post (and nearly every comment) laughed and cried like all the others and am looking very forward to your book. And I just hope that the day, when you stop blogging will never come
P.S.: I also blame you for a lot of new english vocabulary I didn't learn at school. Thanks for that as well!

Catherine said...

Hi Lisa ...

I stumbled across your blog many many moons ago, have read every word since - and have definitely laughed and cried along the way with you.

I've also recommended my mum's friend read your words of wisdom when diagnosed with the bullshit just two months ago - with 18 month old twins at home and a sense that her life could never be the same again - and thankfully she is looking forward positively.

On a personal note, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis less than a year ago and your blogging encouraged me to do the same. It helps get many issues off my chest, share the good times and let people know how I am without repeating myself a hundred times over - so thanks for that too. You can read my experience if you fancy it at ... ... it's not as fancy as your blog but it has the same effect.

A thousand thank you's for inspiring me to get on with whatever life throws at me

Paula said...

And thanks to social networking WE have you!!


PS didn't know about the pubes ... learn something new everyday! LOL!

Kirsty said...

Having worked with your brother Jamie for a long time, and him introducing me to your blog, I felt compelled to read from the beginning every post, every comment and also to buy the book on amazon from your link.. if I give it to Jamie, perhaps you'd sign it for me? I'd make my year.. and I have to say, even though I've never gone through anything like the bullshit, I find you an inspiration Lisa. Don't stop blogging, please!
Kirsty x

lilianavonk said...

Having waited to make my comment until I had something halfway intelligent and coherent to say, I find that once again I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes, my heart brimming over with so much that can't be easily expressed in mere words.

I semi-resentfully signed up on Twitter at a longtime buddy's behest, little knowing that a year later my life would be forever changed and immeasurably enriched by the astounding friends I would make there...with you, missy, at the very top of that list.

Because of you, I've met la belle Zuhamy and los fabulosos Ward and Jonze.

Because of you, I got a mammogram that much quicker...and remain immensely touched at the relief you expressed when my results came back clear.

Because of you, I now gleefully over-use the word, "twonk."

Because of you, I agreed to go on a 5K Fun Run with my sister next month--despite never having done anything like that before in my life--because although it's for lupus (which is a bit like what I have), my first thought was that if I can do this, the forthcoming Race for the Cure event in May could be next. (Though there's also a, "Sleep In for the Cure," option, which is admittedly much more my style.)

I've already put Zuhamy on notice that when--not if, but when--I meet her, I am quite likely to hug her for five solid minutes without letting go. Please now consider yourself similarly warned, darlin...though I'll try my best not to subsequently yank down my top and ask, "What the hell colour are they, then?!" with regard to my nipples, though you're the one who prompted this line of enquiry in the first place.)

Anonymous said...

It’s was 2 years to the day since I was diagnosed with the bullshit. Having pretty much travelled a similar journey to you I am now ready to re-live it through your book…Hopefully it will arrive soon.

Hooray for cyber buddies..

Craigie-Lee said...

Hi Lisa

After much lurking I am writing to congratulate you on another great post and to let you know that I have ordered the book. I look forward to it arriving. I am one of those who was pointed in your direction by Stephen Fry.


Savant Creative said...

Foolishly I haven't read your blog in a while - where was my head - anyway I just wanted to say that I am VERY relieved that you are well (had a recent scare myself) and I WILL be buying your book. Well done you and yours!