Tuesday 27 September 2011

Virtual insanity.

For the past two nights, I’ve taken part in a ‘writing collaborative’. And, without wanting to toot my own horn too much here, they’ve been pretty big deals. I mean, Jack Black invited me to the first one. In I walked to the pristine white, hangar-like lecture theatre, all pigeon-chested and Smythson-notebook-cocky, ready to blind the likes of Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson, Stephen Fry and Kristen Wiig with my world-changing ideas for – as Jack had so carefully briefed me – ‘A Great New Thing’.

In fact, so great had I considered my Great New Thing ideas – for businesses, for movies, for books – to be, that I’d barely even worn a slick of mascara to the get-together, for fear of my genius concepts being overshadowed by my outfit (jeans and Radiohead t-shirt) or styling (birds-nest hair and wonky glasses). It was only upon finding my Great New Thing game-changers on the receiving end of hundreds of barely stifled titters and pitying eye-rolls, however, that I began to realise my pecking-order in this enormous room of writers: I was barely fit to shine their similes.

So why, then, had I been asked to attend in the first place? I mean, yeah, I make an amazing brew, but was that really it? Perhaps they just needed an easy target to mock, or had some kind of work-experience quota to fill. Whatever the case, my personal invitation was beginning to bother me – just why the hell would Jack Black invite me to something like that? Well, I’ll tell you why Jack Black would invite me to something like that: because I’m on an inordinate amount of morphine.

And also because, the moment my eyes are closed, I appear to be existing in a freakish parallel universe in which all that’s important is leaving behind a serious, high-profile – and seriously high-profile – mark on the world. I mean, sheesh – the other afternoon I interrupted Pete’s nap by nattering away about the necessity for an immediate weapons amnesty, ferfuckssake.

Back to my morphine-induced alternative reality, however, and among its most freakish features is its ability to pick up where it left off – or, at least, vaguely where it left off – several hours between sleeps. Hence last night I found myself at another ‘writing collaborative’, albeit on a much smaller scale, in a library’s basement room with only Jack Black, Sean Lock and that woman who did the judging on Show Me The Funny – who, for the purposes of proper identification, we shall call Kate Copstick.

Kate Copstick’s idea for a Great New Thing was to produce a book called How To Live (I do hope my dreamtime colleagues have better ideas in real life) – a book which wouldn’t just write about all the many ways and means in which one might, as she put it, ‘live well’, but would display them, almost like a magical scrapbook: hence, pleasing textures would be there to feel, gorgeous pictures would be there to see, beautiful noises would be there to hear, and wonderful feelings would be there to, well, feel.

‘Does anyone actually need a book for that, though?’ I’d asked. ‘Isn’t that just, y’know, life?’
‘No. It’s the experience of life,’ was her patronising answer. (I’m very sorry about this fictitious exchange, by the way, Kate Copstick. Why it was you in my dream and not, I don’t know, Meryl Streep or Zac Efron or Wile E Coyote, I have absolutely no idea. I actually happen to think that you’re a rather lovely human being and that, were we to meet in a Jack-Black-arranged ‘writing collaborative’ in the basement of a central London library, we might perhaps get on rather well.)
‘Precisely,’ I’d said, ignoring Jack’s sideways death-stares by continuing to argue back. ‘So nobody needs a book telling them how to live it.’
‘Well I think we’ve already established that your ideas are worth shit,’ said Kate, having a little giggle with Sean Lock about my pitiful performance at last night’s meeting to establish the nature of the Great New Thing.

And then, calm as anything, I allowed my real and virtual worlds to collide. ‘Actually, Kate Copstick,’ I said, hands on hips, ‘I think you’ll find that, on this particular subject, I am the WORLD FUCKING AUTHORITY.’
Kate Copstick looked like she wasn’t normally argued with in such a manner.
‘Because as it happens,’ I continued, ‘in the last few days, I have discovered that, in fact, if ANYONE knows how to live, it’s ME. For I have, at the age of 32, with the revelation of widespread secondary cancer in my bones, discovered that my days of living the glorious life which you are so keen to replicate in book form are, I’m afraid, rather limited.’
Well that sure took the wind out of Kate Copstick’s sails. Sean Lock’s, too: in fact, to such a point that he instantly disappeared. Kate looked to Jack, Jack looked to me, I looked to Kate. And, with a sudden ‘aah’ of realisation, Kate looked right back at me.
‘Ah, okay, I get it,’ she said. ‘I get it!’
Jack nodded.
‘The Great New Thing…’ Kate said to Jack. ‘She’ll be doing it.’

Now, there are a lot of things that these dreams could mean. They might mean that, after three years and three months of writing this blog, I have finally – finally – marched over the do-not-cross line of sanity. They might mean that morphine is a more powerful drug than even this long-time user gave it credit for. They might mean that, proud as I am of my achievements to date, they’re a mere drop in the ocean; they might mean that, however old I get, I’ll never escape feeling like a teenage dork; or they might mean that I’ve developed an unexpected crush on Jack Black. I’m more inclined to conclude, however, that my dreams point to two things: firstly, that – as is perhaps perfectly natural upon being told you have a disease that cannot be cured – I am concerned about the legacy of work I’ll leave behind. But secondly – and more importantly – that no amount of subliminal messages in freaky morphine dreams can tell me How To Live, thank you very much.

But that’s for another time. And so, as is customary, let’s address the first thing first: my legacy. Having written so long about the alternative reality (which, to be perfectly honest, is far more interesting than what’s going on in my pyjamas right now) I ought to spend some time here giving you the real-world picture: the one that, I am afraid, is even more difficult to read than a drug-induced hallucinatory argument with Kate Copstick. My last post revealed to you that for some time I’ve been in a fair bit of pain; pain which was – only naturally – attributed to my back-break of 16 months ago but which has, in fact, revealed itself to be a secondary cancer spread to my bones: one which cannot be cured, but can, as we are now beginning to attempt, to be managed for some time yet.

With my first diagnosis, then, there was an internal dialogue that went: ‘Oh shit I’m going to die’ / ‘Oh get over yourself of course you’re not going to die’. This time, however, was more ‘Oh shit I’m going to die’ / ‘Oh SHIT I really AM going to die’. And so, if you’ll forgive my bluntness, there’s an acceptance that comes with it now; that has to come with it; that I want to come with it. (Hence let’s cull the ‘you’ll beat this thing just like you did before!’ messages, please, lest I be forced to retort with ‘er yeah, but I won’t, will I?’) Thus, where once I was scrapping to stay alive in order to have a long future, now I’m scrapping to stay alive in order to have an immediate future – and, daft as it might seem, a past. Previously I wondered what I was going to do, now I’m wondering what I’m going to have done. And right now, that’s learning to be content with being remembered as ‘the one who wrote about cancer’. If indeed, it’s not cocky to assume that I’ll be remembered at all.

But back to the immediate reality. The time between my last post and this has seen an often frightening schedule of scans and tests and consultations with all manner of different specialists (oncologists, secondary breast cancer nurses, pain consultants, palliative experts, relaxation therapists, you name it) all designed to keep my pain – AKA, the stuff of cruciatus curses – to a level which we’ll be able to manage indefinitely. My course of treatment has since been decided as well, and I am hereby on a three-weekly cycle of chemotherapy designed to keep my cancer at bay, which I’m taking in tablet form (two weeks on, one week off) and which will, I promise you, be nothing like that which I experienced for my primary cancer. As well as that, I’m having a ‘bone juice’ called pamidronate aimed at keeping my bones as strong as possible, administered by IV drip every third Wednesday in the Royal Marsden’s day unit, along with continued morphine and calcium and various other pain killers and gut-protectors and shiz. These things will, as far as anyone is able to say at present, continue forever. To which, of course, Peter and I had to ask the most difficult of questions: ‘what are we to assume by “forever”?’

I’ll preface what comes next with there being no hard-and-fast rules where life expectancy is concerned, and there being no way to predict what might happen in the meantime… but of course you’re not listening to that, are you? So instead I’ll tell you exactly what we were told: that an average prognosis of someone in my position is around the four-and-a-half-year mark. I’ll also tell you that fronting up to my diagnosis in that way (and when I say ‘me’ I of course mean Pete, Mum, Dad, Jamie, Leanne…) hurt us all like hell and that I therefore simply cannot allow us to do that any more. We’re not going to think of it like that. AND NEITHER ARE YOU. We’re just going to carry on as normal, aren’t we, blogging and piss-taking and shopping and holiday-planning and telly-watching and singing and snoring and laughing and loving and being as daft as we are every other normal day. AREN’T WE? Good.

Which brings me, quite neatly, onto my second point, about the ‘living well’ stuff. Because, in first wondering why the morphine-dream Jack Black asked me along to his ‘writing collaborative’, and then in wondering why he agreed with Kate Copstick’s realisation that I’d be responsible for the ‘Great New Thing’, whatever it may be, I can only see one answer. Because I’m the right girl for the role.

See, maybe the Great New Thing isn’t a business or a movie or a book or anything like that: maybe the Great New Thing is, quite simply, the process of looking at your life and realising, with enormous gratitude and stratospheric jamminess, that there’s absolutely nothing you’d change about it – not the way you’ve done it so far; not the way it’s going to be lived from now on; not even the legacy you’ll leave behind. So maybe I’m the girl for the job because I just don’t need the advice of Hollywood writers nor worldwide super-achievers nor multi-millionaires nor bolshy comedy critics. Because, when it comes to that magical business of How To Live, by ’eck, I challenge anyone to do it better than I have.


liljan98 said...

And there you go and make me cry again! I don't want to talk about remembering you but rather about "seeing" you right now and the inspiration you are to me and probably so many other people reading this blog. Always have been inspirational, always will be! You rock! And you are the perfect girl for the New Great Thing: Showing us how to live a wonderful life! *hugs*

Carlie said...

What a fantastic attitude Lisa. I don't really know what else to say, other than I had morphine recently after my reconstruction surgery and was about to ask my nurse if the machine beeped again should I send Twist (my cat!) to let her know! Crazy stuff!

Keep strong, lots of love
Carlie x

marsha said...

Made me laugh. Made me cry. You're amazing.


Fletcher of the Day said...

You Go Lisa. Learning to live with what you have and getting on with it is a big lightbulb moment. One of my BF's husband had cancer for 9 years and was terminal for 5 of them. Once they accepted that he wouldn't be cured, they got on with the business of living, and they made the most out of his last 5 years. Truly inspirational. Not easy, but truly beautiful.

So, what's first on the list :)

xx Lori

@FayC said...

here, here!

RJMJ:Jennifer said...

Sending much love to all of you Mrs Lynch from all of us at Wyman Towers xxxxxx

Stereo said...

Found you through Leo and am completely blown away by your awesome. Bought your book today too. I will be back.

There's not much else I can say, Lisa. Except please don't change. You're some kind of amazing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lisa,

Get your pain sorted and then get on with living your life!

The little bit I know of you through your blogs, tweets and book has me thinking you'll make a bloody good job of it!

Love you

sarahmia said...

Just having a little weep for a second. it's nothing to do with what you just wrote, I swear, I just er, was thinking about something else. Promise. ( *sadface* )

I know that I don't have the power to make you well (man, that'd be so awesome. I'd be the best X Man ever...) but I hope I can help you to live well. So if there's anything you want to do that I can help you achieve you just holler, kiddo. So long as it doesn't involve wasps, heights or being in the dark because those things make me piss my pants.*


*not literally**

**but it's probably only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

Another truly inspirational post. Keep kicking the bullshit's ass!! xx

Sally said...

Do you know what Mrs L. I've never left a comment on your blog before today. Nope, not a dicky bird in all the years you've been blogging your ass off. It's not because I don't care, it's not because I don't read it, because I do. I've read every single one, and the book, twice. It's because I'm shy, I know that's hard to believe, loud-mouthed me confessing to shyness. It's just that apart from all the other things you are brilliant at, your writing is AMAZING. I just always thought if I tried to put into words how your writing and your story makes me feel they  would just look insignificant and betray the HUGE depth of feeling I have for you, your words and your story. See, I'm not really doing a great job of this at all. What I'm trying to say is that Ive and I love you. We're not going to stop living our lives alongside yours, we'll be there for Glasto and Fireworks and BBQ's and fancy dress and getting drunk and whatever else helps you and P eek out every last drop of life.  We'll be there for the shit stuff too but for now it's a question of Keep Calm and Carry On.... xxx

Terri said...

I LOVE YOU LISA! My son's girlfriend just found out yesterday that she has a recurrance of Triple Negative BC. Biopsies yesteday will know more later this week. She hasn't been in remission but for a month or so. I bought her your book because you are such an inspiration. Lots can happen in 4-5 years in the cancer arena looking for cures. I will stay positive in hoping for a cure for you both. You are one of the most amazing women I know although we have never met I feel like I know you so well. hugs and kisses!

Anonymous said...

I am just coming to the end of my treatment for primary BC, which has followed a very similar journey to yourself. I loved your book, and follow your blogs. You made me realise that life is there for living and we need to enjoy every day. You are "the girl for the job", and you know what, so am I!

sue glader said...

that's all.
sending strength from across the pond.

Maren Hallenga said...

I'd give you the job anyday! You are one very funny lady. Let's eat cake together again soon?? Xx

Dutchcowboy said...

rock on, chick!


LunaTechChick said...

Sure do wish I knew what to say. You have helped me through my cancer so much just by "talkin" to me on Twitter & Facebook, & by writing your book. You. Are. AWESOME.

lovelovelove to you, P & your families from the USA.


barleyanne said...


I was 'introduced' to you by Stephen Fry some years back when he tweeted about your book. Being the 'mighty Fry' his word is taken as gospel, so I bought and read your book. Since then I have followed your blog - sometimes in a rather hap-hazard fashion. In all that time I have thought of you as a far and distant friend that I have kept in touch with. I just want you to know I'm here - another anonymous face in your life, that sits back routing for you and wishes the bullshit hadn't become so regular in your life.


Fen said...

aw babes, YOU are the Great New Thing. Whatever you chose to do you're going to be awesome at it, even if it's beating the odds and living how you want for that bit longer.

Having worked in Palliative Care I can vouch for its effectiveness, glad you're being given options early x

Anonymous said...

I cannot begin to express how amazing I think you are. You write so well about so much and manage to convey your feelings so effectively that we, all those 'anonymous faces' out there, feel we know you personally - what a gift! I confess to bursting into tears at my office desk on reading both your last two posts, not just because what's happening to you is so damned UNFAIR, but because you really do live and love to the full, adore your Peter and your brother and his wife and your parents and are just a completely inspirational person, with or without cancer. You don't need to give a thought to your legacy - you've already reached out, helped and inspired so many people, ill and well, happy and sad, with your extraordinary gift and you are not defined by the Bullshit but by the person you are and the way you write. There are many things I envy about you, believe it or not. Sending you so much cyber-support and love as you find a way of living with this latest news as we all know you surely will. So sort out your medication, go shopping and get on with planning the next holiday! xx

The Adhikaris said...

Lisa Lynch ... you are bloody awesome!

Anonymous said...

Bloody genius, that's what. You're writing is off the scale. Jack Black et al should be rummaging your wastepaper basket for screwed up outakes, that's what. Keep it coming, kids. Much love xxx

Anonymous said...

Your posts and the comments that follow need facebook stylee like buttons! I too have read the book and every blog but not commented...Just wanted to say that if I ever have to face anything you have I hope I can do it with the same attitude, but I guess we all just get on with what's thrown at us. Love to all xxx

Lorna H said...

Hey Lisa

I wont remember you as 'the one who wrote about cancer'. I will remember you for far more than that. For being beautiful, silly, straight talking, arse kicking, life affirming, being totally in love, showing me how things are done, making me snort tea out my nose, for always looking completely stylish and making me look like a Primark poster girl. For being totally into cricket, for loving Dave Grohl, for being St Pepper crazy, for you and P showing us how love should really be done. For so so many things - oh, a little of remembering about the book about cancer, the book that helped so many women on the same journey as you. The book that made me even more grateful to have you as my friend.

And anyway. I plan to make a lot more memories and have a lot more giggles before I even have to think about remembering you. Boo to remembering, IT CAN TALK TO THE HAND FOR NOW.

even now, in your bleakest moment, you are showing me how to live.

So exciting to see you again for hugs and singing soon,

Lorna x

Bel said...

Love you. A lot.
Surely it's time Dave Grohl appeared in these morphine induced dreams?! xxxxxxx

Karen said...

Hi Lisa. I love the way you blog. I have just taken myself of the chemo you are about to start, what was supposed to be for the rest of my life, I found when mixed with the other drug they gave me as I am also her2 positive doesn't really like me at all, so instead of being a dithering uncontrollable zombie like mess. I've stopped the treatment. It sounds from you talking that I'm on my last year of life after battling with my squatters now for 4 and half years. Please don't listen to the statistic as I have spoken to quite a few women who are in fact still here and living a good enjoyable life nearly 20 yrs after there diagnosis of bone Metz, and of course I plan to be one of those women and am planning the biggest 80th birthday party ever... I used to be like yourself and on the enormous amounts of morphine, I can't remember the day when it happened but it's very very rare that I take medication now. Maybe it was after I'd had the opp on my spine to remove parts and make me bionic or whether it was after the bone strengthener started to do it's job.

I feel where your coming from and totaly understand. Your a strong woman and even though you may not think it at times, you truly are. If anyone can beat this bast**d, you can.

Keep strong, keep positive and smiling. Big big hugs xxx

Helen Clarke said...

I'd put off reading this particular post for a couple of days and now I know why... How do you manage to take something so crappy and turn it around into something so positive? You turn my thinking around and give me a kick up the arse that I need. I am so proud of you! xxxx

Anonymous said...

You have all the strength and love you need. You know exactly how to do it and your family will draw strengh from you.

Wardotron said...

It is fair to say that you've made the best of the hand you have been dealt. All the things that you have had control of – your career, your life experiences – you have pushed and maximised to the full. Nobody could ever accuse you of not having LIVED, damn it.

And as for the sheer random chance of genetic misfortune, well, what can I say? You couldn't help being born a Derby County supporter, could you?

Fluffy said...

Jack Black? Jack ruddy Black? C'mon woman you can do SOOOO much better than him!!!

So, what's first on your "conquer the world" list & how can we all help make it happen?

Am resisting the temptation to bore on about how you inspire & humble me - but you do, & thousands like me! Keep on keeping on!