Thursday 20 October 2011

Cross purposes.

I’ll begin today’s post with a confession. Right around now, if The Bullshit hadn’t come along to screw everything up, there’s a strong chance I’d have been opening this post with another kind of confession: that I was shaving my head into a punk-rock mohican.

It was early September when I equated the probability of P and I having children as ‘no likelier to happen than either of us getting a mohawk’. Well, that was a bit of a fib, designed to throw you – ‘you’ mostly meaning our family and close friends – off the scent, leaving us with the kind of space and time in which we could consider The Kid Question without fear of scrutiny or raised hopes or enforced opinion. You see, in that tricky period when we were daring to look ahead for the first time since The Bullshit’s initial appearance, considering what we might like to do with our newly rosy-looking futures, P and I were beginning to think about what it might be like to adopt children, whether we thought we might be up to the job, and how we might go about looking into it. And so we registered interest with our local council and signed up to a meeting in which we could figure out how it all worked and then be in a position to decide, one way or another, whether this really was something we could – and wanted to – commit to. As it happened, however, that meeting took place while I was in a hospital bed, a day after we’d learned of the incurable spread to my bones.

But before you get all teary on me, pack it in. Yes, it’s very sad; yes, we’d have been wonderful parents; and yes, it’s just such a shame when so many ill-prepared, Jeremy-Kyle-auditionee twatclackers can get pregnant so damn easily blah blah. But let me stop you there. Because, actually, this confession simply doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything; it doesn’t make the new diagnosis any more heartbreaking; and it doesn’t mean that P and I have lost anything other than the opportunity to try out a crazy new hairdo. Hence, we don’t want sympathy, we don’t want oh-what-a-shames, and if you don’t immediately adjust that tilted head I swear I’m officially banning you from my blog. I’m merely using this confession as a means with which to introduce what I wanted to write about today: having a purpose.

And so, here’s another confession. For me, a significant part of entering into the should-we-adopt debate was because, probably even more than I wanted children, I wanted a purpose. I wanted a drive, a reason to be, something to call myself. It’s most likely an issue that many non-parents consider, before deciding either that actually, yes, they’d like to give this child-rearing thing a go, or hell no, they’re perfectly happy with their purpose being freedom and spontaneity and having a marvellous, guilt-free career, thank you very much. But, I suspect, the what’s-my-purpose question is one I’ve considered more than most.

As those of you who know me personally – or know me through years of reading this blog – will understand, it’s always been my purpose to be purposeful. I do like a purpose. It’s incredibly important to me. Hence, unsurprisingly, some of the most troubling moments of my life have been those in which I’ve struggled to define my purpose: the odd, pre-birthday, panic-attack-laden period earlier this year, for example. And while I hate having been right about those moments of panic (which, I might as well admit now, were not borne of worry about whether P and I would adopt, but whether we’d finally do so and I’d then discover what I since have), I can perfectly understand why they existed. Strange as this may sound, my days of partial remission were, of course, hugely celebratory, but also bloody frightening: because what was my life all about now, now that it wasn’t about beating cancer?

Today, of course, it’s not about beating cancer, but keeping it at bay for as long as possible. And shitty a purpose as that is to have, at least I’ve got one. I appreciate that probably sounds like a sick thing to say; cancer having given me a raison d’être where I was otherwise scrabbling around for one, but that’s not what I mean. Because, jeez, I’d happily scrabble around on my hands and knees all my sodding life in return for my purpose being something other than trying to make it to thirty-fucking-five. How I – we – deal with that purpose, though, is a whole other ball game.

It’s something Dad and I talked about last week while he was on looking-after-me duty (speaking of which, you’ve never seen this flat so spick and span: Dad spent the entirety of the week with a paintbrush in his hand and, now Mum’s swapped over to relieve him, my ironing pile has magically disappeared and my cupboards have suddenly organised themselves). The conclusion of our discussion was, unsurprisingly, that there is no right way to deal with this stuff (as I’ve said before, there is no ‘how’ in managing this kind of thing; you just manage) but simply ‘doing what you do’ is probably the best way to go. Hell, the only way to go.

And so, now we’re over the initial horror and heartbreak and shock and sadness, ‘doing what I do’ is exactly what I need to crack on with. Because, if I don’t, we’re in danger of life carrying on as it is right now: with everything being about cancer. And boy, do I mean everything. This is the point where I come across as a miserably ungrateful cow, but that’s just something I’m going to have to take on the chin – because things simply. cannot. continue. in the way they currently are, lest I suddenly flip out and do a Falling Down on your ass.

Seriously, it’s suffocating – arguably even worse than the shituation itself. Not a single conversation or phonecall or email or text message or Facebook post or goes by without me being reminded of the state I’m in. Every ‘how are things?’ or ‘thinking of you’ or ‘hope things are improving’ is more loaded than a semi-automatic; every ‘how was the hospital?’ or ‘what’s going on with your meds?’ or ‘have you been sick today?’ is more impossible to answer than the last. In fact, I’ve now simply stopped answering, instead sending ludicrous, nonsensical responses to people’s well-meaning kindness. (‘Are the new anti-sickness drugs working?’  ‘Bacon.’)

‘Crikey, you’re popular,’ said Mum earlier this week in response to the incessant beeping of my phone and my inability to fit in all the people who want to stop by.
‘But I’m not,’ I said. ‘All these people aren’t coming to visit me because they just want to hang out. They’re visiting me because I’ve got cancer.’
And, if we’re being brutally honest, they’re not even doing it for that reason: they’re doing it because they’re afraid of how many more hanging-out times we’ve got left.

I’m not stone-hearted enough to roll my eyes at everyone who wants to visit or text or tweet in reference to my health. It is, obviously, very kind of them to do so. But let’s cut to the chase here: my time left is limited. Hopefully limited to many years – but limited nonetheless. Hence I don’t want to spend that time talking about the reason why that is the case. It’s like knowing you’ve got to give birth to triplets in six months’ time and people reminding you every sodding minute about how much it’s going to hurt. It sort of defeats the purpose.

I’m sick sick sick of having to talk about it. Because, let’s not forget, that’s why I have this blog. It’s why writing has worked so well for me throughout the thorny mental terrain of dealing with The Bullshit: it gives me the opportunity to say everything I need to say, in an accessible place for anyone who wants to read it, so that I can get on with the important things in life, like making playlists, watching Coronation Street and wondering what I’m going to have for tea.

That said, though, perhaps the blog is the problem? Perhaps writing so honestly about my experiences has made a rod for my own back?
‘You’ve done well to be so honest about the latest news,’ said my friend Kris yesterday. ‘A lot of people wouldn’t be so open about it.’
‘Ah, but I have to be, don’t I?’ I said. And I do. I’ve started, so I’ll finish. What that means, however, is that discussing my situation with anyone and everyone is fair game – as well it should be. I’ve put it out there, and I should be able to deal with whatever comes back. Hence, people I don’t know – and will most likely never know – contact me regularly, whether for advice on their own Bullshit struggles, to tell me how they’re doing, or simply to ask how I am. And, by ’eck, it’s an incredibly privileged position to be in, and one I take seriously. What I can’t handle, however, are the grief-trolls that piggy-back on top. It’s alarming to me how many of these people exist (particularly, I have to say, on Twitter), positively revelling in the chance to join in with the talk of my new diagnosis, as though it’s granted me access to some kind of secret club of folk who just love to be ill, relishing in the sickly deliciousness of medication names and pain one-upmanship and hospital-whinges. So let me say this now: I am not one of you. I am not my cancer, and my cancer is not me. Yes, it’s affected the course of my life, and yes, I write about it – but it is, quite simply, not who I am.

I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister and a friend and a colleague and a writer. I am a woman. I am a Ram. I am a postgraduate. I am a cat-owner. I am an author. I am a neighbour. I am a driver. I am a music buff. I am a traveller. I am a soon-to-be-auntie. I am a Mac. I am a perfectionist and a baker and a secret rapper. I am an online shopper. I am a home-maker. I am a Virgo. I am a lover. I am a terrible sleeper. I am a latecomer. I am a gin drinker. I am a doofus and a telly-addict and a clumsy bugger who’s terrible at geography. I am all of these things – and so many, many more – before I am a cancer patient. And though my new purpose is set, it simply cannot be achieved without all of these things. When Dad and I talked about ‘doing what I do’, the above paragraph is what we meant.

I’m not intending to belittle the seriousness of my new diagnosis with this post. I appreciate how heartbreaking it is for those who love me, because my heart is breaking for them too. I also appreciate that ‘doing what I do’ must incorporate talking, where necessary, about the reality of the situation Im in – just as I always have – and listening to what other people feel they need to say to me about it. But, bloody hell, the grief has got to end somewhere. And I’d like it to be now, please.

There are going to be difficult times ahead. Even more difficult than those we’ve seen over the last few weeks. But they’re not happening right now. Right now, things are returning to some semblance of normal. My pain is under control. My sickness is a lot better. I’m going to be on looking-after-myself duty next week and I’m going to start getting back to work. I’m seeing the right specialists, the right nurses, the right community services, the right therapists. I’m back in the system, and it’s doing everything it can possibly do. Everything is under control.

I appreciate more than anyone that my secondary cancer is, bit by bit, taking away everything. It’s taking our optimism and our hopes and our tentative plans for the future. And what it hasn’t already taken, it one day will. But what it hasn’t yet taken are the little things; the day-to-day trivialities which, it turns out, are even more important than the big stuff. So now it’s my turn to take something from The Bullshit. And what I’m taking is a new purpose: to do what I do, for as long as I can. So, I beg of you: let me, eh?


MummyBarrow said...

As always with your posts. Bloody spot on. You are fucking brilliant.

The End

Vicky S said...

Read and noted. Particularly poignant as I am currently relishing my status as an inpatient and happily posting pictures and updates on FB. But once I am home it will be nice to get back to some sort of normality again for however long until the next bit of Bullshit nonsense crops up.

Good to see you blogging away, look forward to the next one. I'd do blogs myself but can't write half as well as you so stick to my short FB updates x

Anonymous said...

'Twatclackers' = new favourite word.


betwixt beauty said...

Mmmm... Bacon.

Carlie said...

You tell em girl! xx

Anonymous said...

But Lisa, the only reason anyone reads this blog is that you ARE that "brave young woman.." The one with the Bullshit! the one that Stephen Fry suggested we follow. The one that got the book deal... I am sorry but the package comes as a whole.

Of course, I wish you well, but when strangers offer you kindness and well meant thoughts it seems churlish not to accept them as they are meant.

you have every reason for anger, frustration and disappointment, it is a tragedy..etc etc

I'm sure these comments can and will be read as cruel and unkind, they are not intended that way, I wish you and P every happiness and hope that you are fulfilled by your sense of purpose.

LunaTechChick said...

*stands & applauds...loudly* EXACTLY! Brilliantly put!


Anonymous said...

Hey Lisa

What's for tea? (hope I used the apostrophe correctly)

Love yas x

Kate said...

I think you missed off 'Dave Grohl's secret girlfriend'.

Susan said...

Not sure what a Ram is? But thought if you were a Ram and a Virgo you must be on some cusp or other?

Anonymous said...

I am officially stealing twatclackers, in return I will lend you use of both cuntweasel and sheeeetfurk (but you have to say it in an Allo Allo style French accent...)

Bob on, by the way.


A Fighter, Cindy said...

Incredibly brilliant, and so well put - I share the same thoughts. Fucking ingenious!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, you are the absolute best! I decided to only tell my mum about my breast cancer diagnosis a year ago. All the nurses, doctors and therapists I came across disagreed with my decision to keep it secret, but I knew that I'd be labelled 'cancer girl' (not in a mean way) for the rest of my life and any hope of forgetting about my diagnosis for a nanosecond would be practically impossible due to the the constant barrage of questions, conversations and sympathy, from well wishers. I really value the few moments when I can escape from the bullshit and I'm treated the same as everyone else. That's all I want. Love to you Lisa, you have unknowingly been with me every step of my journey, so thank you. Caroline xxx

Anonymous said...

Here's a joke for you Lis.....

Woman answers the telephone to a heavy breathing pervert.

"Do you have a tight, hairy twat?" he said.

"Yes I do" she replied. "He's on the sofa watching TV. DO you want to talk to him?"

Whilst I'm in sweary mode - Fuck the Bullshit and drink more gin :-)

Helen said...

Just LOVE your blog, hugs from all here chez-moi (and that includes the gifted-musician-one who has just gone through donor transplant)
Bacon again-and eggs?

Lisa Lynch said...

Hello, everyone, how’s it going? What’s for tea?

Enormous thanks for the brilliant comments, as ever. It still comes as a surprise to me that anyone’s interested enough to read, let alone comment – quite aside from commenting in such lovely fashion – and I hope you know how much I appreciate it.

Just felt I ought to respond personally to Anonymous (#1) and say that in no way did I take your comments as cruel and unkind. Quite the contrary – you make a fair point, and I’m as grateful for your input as I am anyone else’s. I didn’t mean to sound as though I’m dismissive of people’s kindness, because I’m genuinely not. I really do appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness – and I’d be upset if I hadn’t communicated as much. I suppose, in a nutshell, I’m just hoping to be treated – by those who knew me pre-cancer – as no different to the Lisa who once wasn’t ill.

I understand, however, that that’s how I’m known to many people who read this blog – in which case fair enough that you see me as ‘the one with The Bullshit’; why wouldn’t you! I suppose this post was meant more for those who see me as the mate, the Ram, the colleague, the baker… because, cancer or no cancer, I maintain that I’m those things first.

Thank you again for the kind wishes, and for taking the time to make such a pertinent point.

Big love,
Lisa x

Baileyjoer (twitter) said...

If I tell people to read your blog I don't say "her story is about cancer and it's sad", I say you're a brilliant writer and your blog makes me laugh. There's more to you than The Bullshit.
Fancy skydiving?
*brews up*


Anonymous said...

I can forgive you a lot of things on your list of what you are. But not the Ram thing. I'll never forgive you THAT...

Lil said...

I ordered my coat today and I bought a purple dress for a party where you have to wear purple. Don't really want to go to the party as it'll be shit but have to.

Matt went to Slough today and is chuffed the Blues won and tomorrow I will desperately try and crack the art media - they're notoriously tricky.

Normal enough? I love you xx

Emma said...

twatclackers - awesome

@tateyw (Twitter) said...

I completely agree with Baileyjoer. I bought The 'C' Word because my friend was also going through the bullshit and I thought it would help me understand it better. It did, but what I also felt was that it was very funny, and a really beautiful love story. So yes, it might have been about the bullshit, but the other stuff is what stuck with me the most. It's why I'm still following you on Twitter and reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

Love the bit when you say 'I am a Mac'
Keith x

Anonymous said...

Have to nick Twatclackers- excellent new word!!!!

You are an awesome writer no matter the subject. Fuck The Bullshit, we need to hear more about you secret love for Mr Grohl.


Anonymous said...

have you ever considered that there are alternative options out there and looking into those? also, although the docs have an idea of what could happen given your prognosis, it doesnt make them right! it feels like you have resigned yourself to dying in the near future and there is a LOT of evidence to show that your mind plays a huge role in whether you live long or not. x

Nicole said...

Sgt Pepper wanted me to correct one bit in that paragraph--it's "I am owned by a cat." Not "I am a cat- owner."


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you're a cat owner. Dogs are soooo much better.

Love Cxxx

MBNAD woman said...

I have just test-driven "twatclackers". Excellent word and the idiots in the car in front really were. Doing what you do ... the part we know about is how brilliant you are with words. Keep doing what you do.

SB said...

Ummm... Hate to pull you up on this but you're already a bloody brilliant, favourite, 'Auntie', soon to be real-Auntie.

As for the rest; it's making a nice change that you're not too busy to meet me for lunch - I'm bloody well making the most of *that*.


SB xxx

Lisa Lynch said...

I cannot begin to tell you guys how chuffed I am that ‘twatclackers’ is catching on. Hooray for made-up expletives.

I thought I’d better add another personal response, this time to Anonymous #9. I’ll keep it as short as I can though because, frankly, this is your place to respond and I didn’t ought to be hijacking it.

As ever, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. You are completely right: the mind plays an enormous part in how long we live, cancer or no cancer. Hence, I wanted to expand on your thoughts and reassure you and everyone who reads this – but especially the likes of my husband, my parents, my family and my best mates – that where my focus is concerned, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

As such – and at the risk of sounding a bit like a schoolteacher – I must correct you on the ‘it feels like you have resigned yourself to dying in the near future’ front. Because let me make this very clear: I DEFINITELY HAVE NOT.

There is no evidence to suggest that I am going to die in the near future, hence I’m certainly not assuming as much. If I believed that, I wouldn’t have booked holidays for autumn 2012, opened up a savings account for Glasto 2013 or started looking into ideas for my Super Sweet 40th.

As for trusting my doctors, I do. With my life. From day one, they’ve instilled in me a very can-do attitude to my health and treatment, and it’s one that remains despite my secondary diagnosis. I’m lucky enough to be under one of the world’s most renowned oncologists – who, I have to say, is not just an expert but a total dude – at a specialist cancer hospital… a specialist cancer hospital who do not, by any means, shun the alternatives. Hence, I’ve been given access to many alternative therapies and perspectives – in conjunction with the more traditional treatment – which I’ll be taking and, most probably, writing about.

I am absolutely confident that this is the best treatment I can be having. I am confident that it works. I am confident that I will cope with this – and anything else that’s thrown at me – and I am confident that nobody – nobody – has the kick-ass strength of mind that I do. Furthermore, I am confident that I will be around much longer than anyone might have predicted. In the meantime, however, I don’t want to live any differently than I would if I didn’t have cancer. And THAT, I think, is the point.

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to read and to comment but, more importantly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to make this clear.

Huge love,
Lisa x

gemmak said...

Absolutely brilliant post, the ability you have to articulate complete honesty is very refreshing and highly amusing, perhaps even in parts you didnt intend. Oh, and imho you are spot on in your thoughts and observations :)

Burly Chassis said...

Quality swearing Mrs Lynch! Gob and brain in perfect harmony, AGAIN. Time for a submission to the Profanisaurus?

Mikejkw said...

Excellent and thought provoking writing, as usual.

Have a lovely weekend


Sandy said...

Go for it! After my treatment yesterday, you've made my Saturday morning all the better, and filled with purpose. Will be thinking of you and hopefully using your positive approach throughout my pending operation. Thanks again for being here. S.x

Anonymous said...

Dear Lisa,

I read your blog not out of casual curiosity but because I have spent the best part of this year dealing with my own 'bullshit'.

I bought your book (which I consumed within 3 days) and I'd like you to know that it made me laugh and cry in equal measure. Not cry out of pity I hasten to add (for you or for myself) but because of how open and honest your writing is. The book (and the blog) feels as though I'm present for each step in your treatment journey.

I think perhaps because of this it brings a sense of familiarity and possibly causes some to cross a line, saying things they'd never say if face to face or if they thought about what they were saying. I'm sorry that they feel they can do that.

Please don't let a few oddballs put you off. If you still gain a personal benefit from writing your blog, then please know that there are many of us who gain from reading it. Making us smile when you talk about your encounters, the names you give to the medical staff, the medical processes we can identify with, the warmth we feel when you talk about P and your family. Making us feel as if we aren't alone, and somehow even though we don't know each other, that this virtual connection makes us stronger together and as individuals. Whatever our battle it.

Take care Lisa

Anonymous said...

A Virgo! Blimey how does P cope? lol

Pauline Castledine said...

so cleverly put as usual... i read your blog to see how you are doing but also for a laugh... i think your an amazingly funny witty lady. I'm waiting for your next book....

here's to a normal future filled with fun and mundane boring stuff (like the rest of us) that you will undoubtedly turn into something comical as usual xxx

jonah said...

Just also had diagnosis (different but crap) and way fed of people forgetting I am still me! Keep that humour and I may steal your nonsensical response idea. Oh and twatclacker - that has made me smile sooooo much!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

I'm new to your blog and also think it's completely fabulous, again because it's hilarious and I love your frank attitude not because of why it's written. (I'd say Awesome but I hate the word and have a personal rule that it can only be used 3 times in your lifetime!)
The thing I most like about this post is that if anyone I know is unfortunate enough to have to deal with the bullshit then I will endevour not to treat them differently as I can only begin to imagine how irritating it must be.

Oh and also stealing Twatclackers and Shituation. Thanks Much for those!


Anonymous said...

We are all too important and useful to be martyrs and victims. We shouldn't gradually die from the moment of dx there is too much living to be done before the dying part. Some people love the gothic horror of plotting someones demise, well bugger them and the gory details. You are not a soap opera (a sit com perhaps, hmmm playing you would be... ) And living is all about small things.

Freda said...

I love your paragraph about "I am........" and want to encourage you to keep writing and keep challenging us, your readers. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you will never have a better excuse to spend a huge amount of money on a pair of Laboutins!
My personal swear favourite is cunting ninga cuntfuck. We all love you because you speak our minds. Much love from a Toffee xx

lilianavonk said...

I felt the exact same way when I got sick--I am not my fucking disease, this fucking disease does not define me, I was a fucking big bunch of other fucking things before this crap descended on me, and I bloody well AM STILL THOSE THINGS.

Knowing that you probably felt this way was the reason why I deliberately refrained from telling you when another of my Twitter friends got cancer, cos I immediately thought to myself, "Why the fuck is this relevant to Lisa? It's not like she's Cancer Girl or something! Jeezus, why not talk about Dave Grohl or Louboutins or the transplanted Derby fan I just met or ANYTHING except cancer?"

But in terms of your purpose...there are so many things you're already doing quite spectacularly well (please ignore my slight flash of annoyance at all this competence), but unquestionably, you are an exceptional role model, my dear; IMO, you absolutely should embrace that jewel-encrusted crown and ermine-trimmed mantle, because quite frankly, it does look SPECTACULAR on you. ♥

Anonymous said...

I bet your Dad is LOVING all this descriptive language ... hehe

I most certainly am :]

cheers Lisa and P


Leakyloolah said...

Are you STILL going on about this cancer stuff?

Lisa Lynch said...

Oh Leakyloolah, if I weren't such I good mate I'd leave that comment as it is and watch as you to were torn limb from limb by all the people who'd not realised that was an in-joke. As it happens though, I wont (you bitch).