Thursday 29 April 2010

On guard.

Houston, we have a problem. I’ve got cocky. Not in a peacock-feather, thinking-highly-of-myself way, but cocky with cancer. And I can’t believe I’ve let it happen.

Yesterday I wasted an entire day getting wound up about when I was going to wash my hair. It was one of those not-enough-hours days when even having a piss needs to be scheduled, and where you huff about typing angrily, kicking skirting boards and slamming doors like Kevin The Teenager. Not that I need a busy day as an excuse to pout about having to wash my hair, mind you; frankly I sulk like a good’un whenever it needs doing. Which, when you think about my recent hair-history, is beyond ridiculous. Apparently, without realising it, I’ve gone from longing for a head of greasy hair to wash, to wishing I didn’t need to reach for the shampoo. And it’s bloody dangerous ground to tread.

The same happened with my MRI scan recently.
‘It won’t be pleasant,’ warned The Curly Professor.
‘Bah, I’ve known worse,’ I said blithely, more concerned about the MRI information sheet that read: You might want to bring a tape to listen to during the scan. ‘Marvellous,’ I thought. ‘Looks like I’ll be having my scan in 1985.’
Even when I arrived at the reception desk, I was more interested in the playlist on offer than the procedure itself.
‘Perhaps you’d like to choose some music to listen to during the scan,’ suggested the nurse.
‘Ah, yes!’ I chirped. ‘Can I give you my iPod to play, then?’
‘Um, no,’ she said. ‘We don’t have the facilities. But I do have a list of our music if you’d like to pick something?’
She pointed to a laminated card on which I saw the words Wet Wet Wet and Phil Collins.
‘Jeez,’ I thought, squinting at the list, ‘perhaps I was right about 1985.’
‘Tell you what,’ I conceded, handing it back with a wink. ‘I’ll leave the music up to you.’

Aside from the MRI doing nothing to assuage my hatred of ABBA, it should also have served as the first warning of my cancer-cockiness. Much like the time I headed to the hospital to get my initial biopsy results, I yet again showed up more concerned with what I was going to have for my tea than the appointment ahead. I hadn’t even nearly considered the possibility of spending the rest of the day in tears, just like I hadn’t considered the possibility of telling my family that I had breast cancer. When the bloody hell will I learn?

The MRI was like being regressed. (If, indeed, regression is usually done to the sound of Chiquitita.) Because, while the scan itself was new enough to me, the preamble was eerily familiar. ‘This might make you feel a bit fizzy in the nose,’ warned the nurse as she flushed my cannula, finally relaxed after spending 20 minutes coaxing out the same vein that was used to administer my chemo drugs.
‘Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck,’ I chanted to myself, my brain scrambled with ways to stop the inevitable, like trying to stifle a sneeze. But before I could find a solution, there it was: that uncomfortable, detergent-like feeling (I still can’t decide whether it’s a taste, smell or merely a sensation) that marked the beginning of chemo every third Friday. The same feeling that’s left me with a lightning-fast impulse to retch every time I smell even the tiniest hint of bleach, mildew remover or car windscreen cleaner. And the very moment it hit, I damn near puked all over the nurse’s apron. It was a horrible, unwanted reminder of what could potentially be around the corner, like being visited by The Ghost of Chemos Past.

But despite that warning, I dare say I’ve even got a bit cocky about the results. I saw Mr Marbles again recently to talk, among other things, about my inability to wait for test outcomes without stabbing tube commuters/tripping up pensioners/strangling small children, and he sent me off on my way with a few coping strategies to see me through. But so far I’ve only had to use one. 

‘Perhaps I’ve just become so strong from dealing with The Bullshit that not even the anguish of waiting for test results can get to me any more,’ I reasoned to myself. It’s the same kind of logic I used to employ as a child, when I’d regularly convince myself that perhaps I had the ability to predict the future, was able to fly or possessed a superhuman pain threshold. But of course none of those things is true. (Or is it…?) I can’t take to the air any more than I can go twenty minutes without wondering what my MRI results will be. But I still reckon that – so far, at least – I’ve dealt with it better than I had expected.

I’m glad I’ve picked up on the cocky signals, though. Because, glorious as that '80s-playlist-concerned, personal-hygiene-shirking interlude may have been, I don’t want to spend too much time with my guard down. I’d rather remain optimistic of receiving clear scan results but equally prepared for the worst. And I can’t do that while I’m brazenly swaggering through life as though The Bullshit never happened. Hell, I’ve spent long enough evangelising that a cancer diagnosis is a change for life (not just for Christmas) that it’s time I took my own advice.

I suppose it’s just a natural reflex, really; not wanting to be caught unawares by The Bullshit. It’s a defence thing. After all, we each have rehearsed routines when it comes to our insecurities, right? Whether you’re ‘trying to grow an extra layer for the winter’ when you’ve gained weight, ‘still auditioning for the part’ when you remain single, or ‘waiting til Clooney’s off the market’ when your boyfriend won’t propose, we’re all guilty of making excuses for our anxieties. And none more so than the girl who’s spent the last year telling everyone how much she likes having short hair, when in fact she’s only keeping it cropped to avoid tempting fate. And, um, lengthy shampooing.


madsadgirl said...

Abba has to have been preferable listening than the Amazon ad for James Last under this post.

Fletcher of the Day said...

Funny how it leaves it's mark. Every 4 months when Maarten gets his CT scan he starts to get nervous and anxious waiting to hear that it's back (even though the chances of his bullshit returning are pretty low..) the in between times he's's the tests and reminders that bring it back up to the surface. I wonder if that fear will ever go away.

Amazing how far the 4 of us have come in two almost two years....

And I believe it's the lengthy shampooing...:)

x lori

shimacat said...

Actually, having seen pix of you with long and short hair both, the short hair suits you SO much better. You simply look funkier with it short.

CancerCultureChronicles said...

Lisa..I'm now 6 years into The Bullshit as you aptly put it and I don't find the scan thing any easier at all despite the bad 80's music I insist on playing and the reward burger and fries waiting for me at the end of the day (every 3-months now for me) ..... but if I have to hear one more time..."Oh this is just your new normal" I think I am seriously going to puke, and not because of chemo. Living with The Bullshit is at best abnormal despite our best efforts to appear normal and scans are just another part of the bizzarro world we inhabit.