Monday 28 November 2011


It’s been difficult to know how to get going with this post. After the awful bombshell of the last, and everything that’s had to come with it over the past fortnight, it’s been pretty impossible to figure out how best to construct an update on everything I ought to be filling you in on: something that has, daftly, been keeping me awake at night as much as the reality of the situation itself.

In short, I suppose, it’s been a hell the like of which I simply can’t do justice; surely – surely? – the worst two weeks that my family will ever have to endure. And yet all, of course, in the beautiful, bittersweet context of the birth of my nephew Corey James. Within the space of a cruelly confusing 24 hours, it was like being handed both an angel and a devil, each as convincing and important as the other, with arguments to be heard and dues to be paid.

My family, in their unending brilliance, have shielded the grief of my newest diagnosis from Corey with considerable skill, never allowing him to be party to tears or heartbreak; always ensuring that he doesn’t even so much as sniff the anguish into which he’s been born. Jamie and Leanne have, in particular, done all they can to simply do what must be done: being eager parents, dedicating everything they’ve got to raising their incredible son while maintaining a steadfast refusal to acknowledge darker thoughts of The Bullshit.

My folks have, as always, been the very picture of devotion: not just perfect parents, but perfect grandparents, mates, organisers, confidantes and sounding-boards, spreading themselves so thinly between Derby and London and workplaces inbetween that they’re practically tarmaced across the M40. My best friends, too, have had to get used to a new way of doing things: with me so lost that I’m incapable of providing any kind of direction, they’ve formed a forcefield of amity around P and I, giving us the requisite space to find our way through each mapless minute with the stern caveat that nothing cannot be dropped in order for them to be here at a moment’s notice. And as for P and I? Well, who’s to know what we’ve been doing.

Actually, I know full well what P’s been doing: he’s become a carer, and I have hated seeing it happening to him: adjusting his hard-fought and expertly played career in order to work from home, having to construct every day around tending to an ill wife, looking after the food, the finances, the washing, the admin, the health visits, the mobility improvements, the wheelchair ordering, the prescriptions, the incessant numbing din of my shit taste in telly. It’s taken its toll, of course (if ever work dries up, we could each do a marvellous sideline in pimping anti-anxiety drugs) but – in the highest compliment I can pay to my husband – what it hasn’t taken a toll on is the simple gloriousness of just us. Because though P is now carer where I am now patient, we are still we; we are still one; no less secure and firm and unbreakable and permanent as we have been for the decade in which we have now been together. And the fact that something as unshakably pure as that can remain at a time where I have never felt less like myself is, right now, the only thing in which I can find hope.

For while P has been coping through caring, I’ve barely even remembered to exist. Or, to put it in much more Lisa-centric terms, I haven’t opened my post, I haven’t really tweeted, I haven’t sung, I haven’t written, I haven’t listened to 6 Music, I’ve missed birthdays, I haven’t self-tanned, I haven’t kept up to speed with trashy news, I have friends in need who I haven’t been able to support, I haven’t baked my Christmas cake, I haven’t replied to text messages, and until last night I hadn’t even watched a single episode of The West Wing in two weeks. All the things that would ordinarily prove to me that life is ticking over, that everything is still okay, have simply not been happening. I have, however, in a fit of desperation, done my Christmas shopping online – but, judging on a tiny flat filled with giant boxes the contents of which I neither cannot remember nor bring myself to open seems to suggest, it’s not been an entirely successful mission.

Where once I’d have been the flag-waving leader on our tour of cancer, bossing the arse off everyone with The Way In Which This Is Going To Be Dealt, with the latest bombshell I just haven’t found my mojo. I had a brief kick-ass moment upon facing down my first new cycle of chemo, but that soon booted me up the ass when cockiness became excruciating pain and I ended up back in hospital for my second, and there’s been the odd bit of Facebook-wall fighting-talk but, let’s be honest, that’s been more for your benefit than mine. And, yes, shock and heartbreak and devastation and all that have more than played their parts but, when it really comes down to it, I think the biggest of all the emotional hurdles to negotiate right now is simple confusion. Everything, all of a sudden, is just very, very confusing. Rather like being handed a giant, indecipherable matrix of algebra and being told ‘solve that, mofo, or you’re fucked’.

Perhaps the most confusing thing of all for me to get my head around, though, has been the reaction to my news. At present, for example, I’m sitting on several hundred unanswered emails from unfeasibly kind people wishing me well – many of whom I know, many of whom I don’t, and none of whom I can possibly manage the justice of replying to without it being the last thing I ever do. Please know that my telling you this isn’t meant as a brag or a whine or a swank (in truth, I don’t know what it is; I can’t work out how – or even if – to compute it); it’s simply the most extreme means I have with which to explain the puzzling nature of my situation. It’s insane. And, again, it’s hella confusing. Because please, tell me: how do you reason with such angelic, overpowering forces for good in the face of the despicable evil that’s brought it all about?

From the hugely touching messages (and, I found myself surprised to read, the overwhelmingly faith-and-religion-referencing words) that you’ve written to me, apparently you’ve been asking yourselves the same question. And, in an even more confusing turn of events, for a lot longer than I have. See, I’ve always been pretty self-satisfied when it comes to faith stuff. But you, it seems, have spent years dedicating enquiring minds to searching for the right comforts and conclusions, seemingly while I’ve been sitting on the sofa picking Tunnock’s Teacakes crumbs from out of my bra. I’m grateful, I think, to finally be party to the conversation… but where the hell was I in the meantime? Why did nobody tell me this was happening?

I don’t remember a time when I’ve ever firmly believed in God, choosing instead to accept an agnostic conviction that there’s very little that can’t be explained by science. I don’t even remember a time when I’ve questioned my faith in any way; I guess it’s just always been something that, like the allure of Brad Pitt or the gap between Sarah Jessica Parker’s legs, I never imagined I’d be able to understand and, well, haven’t really tried. Throw my first bout with The Bullshit into the mix, then, and ha! Why should I even need to try? Because, purlease, who could possibly deign to know more about the ridiculousness of faith than I? Spiritual beliefs were my bitch, and damn the person who thought they could tell me better. Yeah, damn them and their rickety convictions, unable to draw a clear enough line between black and white, getting confused by faith-shaking bumps in the road when – pah! – what in the name of any so-called God could be any more life-altering than that which I’d already endured? Come on – what?

Well, we’re looking at what. Because, right now, I’d love to be able to be so cocksure with my beliefs as I was three and a half years ago. I’d love to tell you that there’s nothing that can’t be explained away by science. I’d love to declare that gene patterns are the end of all lines of enquiry, I’d love to state that there’s no how nor why in this having happened to me, and I’d love to console you that there’s nothing but coincidence in the cruel timing in which all of this has had to come about. But most of all – oh, yeah – I’d just love to have breast cancer right now. I’d just fucking love that to be my problem. Because right now I’m not just sitting on several hundred unanswered emails atop a tuffet of confusion, but from the uncomfortable position of having had a big old bite taken out of my arse.

On occasion over the last couple of weeks, I’ve brought up the subject of what, in light of my new diagnosis, I ought now to believe in with those who are best placed to understand my confusion: namely P, and my parents. Given that nobody knows me better than they, they’re not freaked out by the panicked faith-frenzy that’s come from my direction; nor the anger that’s come from science not always having the answer; nor even the necessity for me to read out passages of emails from people who’ve felt the need to say certain things in light of the shaky timescale of my prognosis. None of these can have been easy for any of them to hear but, as is customary with the way in which we cope, we’ve done it together. We’ve acknowledged that there are people (many, incidentally, from whom I haven’t heard for years) who are preparing to deal with what may by communicating things they might otherwise not have had the chance to say to me. We’ve concluded that being told such things is a true privilege, and we’ve respected that it’s a rare opportunity that isn’t presented to everyone. The confusing bit for me, however, is that I’m just not on the same page. I’m simply not thinking like that. I’m not there. I’m not ready to make final plans or write last words or hurriedly finish off half-written books; I’ve got a radio to sing along to and birthdays to remember and a West Wing box-set to watch.

Which is why, for the good of my health and my mind, I must remain unwaveringly true to the things in which I do still believe. Because, faith-shaking as this chaos of a fortnight has been, though so much has been taken already, so much more remains. Yes, a significant spread to the bones and brain might mean one thing in terms of survival statistics, but it means quite another in terms of options to try in the meantime. Hence, as my kick-ass mojo hopefully makes a slow and steady return, I think it’s important that I search not for answers to reasonless questions, but instead retreat back into my trusty, expectant, biscuit-crumbed, Lisa-standard headspace, where life is simple and Coronation Street is on series link, and where the things in which I believe – conventional or otherwise – are not to be messed with.

What I suspect I’ve never previously given faith credit for is something I hope I’ve come to appreciate over the last couple of weeks: how genuinely lovely it must be to have rock-hard beliefs in which to find comfort at times like these. And, I’ve got to say, bloody good on any of you who’ve been able to do as much. But bloody good on me, too. Because although the words ‘but where’s MY comfort?’ have lately found themselves pouring from my tearful face over and over again, the truth is that it’s been there throughout. It might not be God-shaped; it might not even be faith-shaped – in fact I dare say it might often be more Tunnock’s Teacake shaped – but that doesn’t make it any less present, or any less of something in which I believe.

See, what I believe in is people. I believe in the people I don’t know who’ve been so kind as to wish me well. I believe in the people who have got back in touch after so many years to say that they’re thinking of me. I believe in the people who have faithfully promised to look after the things that I hold dear. I believe in the people who’ve not known how – or even whether – to approach me, and I believe in the people who really don’t mind that I haven’t opened their post or remembered their birthday or replied to their texts or picked up their calls. But most of all, I believe in the people who’ve seen me through this most unbearable, fractious, horribly confusing disarray of a couple of weeks. Those people know who they are, but what they perhaps don’t know is that they are Gods themselves – and they haven’t just turned this non-believer into a devout fanatic; they’ve genuinely saved her, too.


marsha said...

This is beautiful.

And FUNNY. In the midst of this, you are still able to be so fucking funny. And such a brilliant writer.

To say you're amazing, lovely Lisa, doesn't cover it. You're beyond amazing, and then some.


Hopeful head said...


I sat down this evening to catch up on your blog. Feels like I have been hit by a bus by your news...I just cannot come to terms with it and I simply cannot imagine how you must feel.

I too have stage 4 'bullshit' and since week 1 of diagnosis you managed to turn my whole attitude around on finding and reading your book. You have always been my inspiration with your kick ass attitude and spot on words about how you tell your experiences. You are truley the best writer I have come accross - everything you write is just pure gold.

I wish you nothing but the best with this new treatment regime and happy times ahead with your gorgeous nephew and family.

Keep up your fighting spirit because f*ck it'll get you far!

Fletcher of the Day said...

So how far are you in the West Wing? Have you gotten to the 2nd season yet?

xx Lori

Freudus said...

For what it's worth, I agree wholeheartedly. But I could never put it so beautifully.


Rachel G said...

A very touching post by a very inspirational woman! You are a true fighter and everyone is behind you 100% of the way of battling this horrid disease! xxx

Unknown said...

These last couple of posts are ones I hoped never to have to read on your blog. I don't know what to say, apart from the fact that your honesty continues to be an inspiration on this subject and, in fact, an inspiration generally. Your writing has inspired me, I'm in awe of your perfect use of grammar. Yes, I love grammar.

So, just know we're all thinking of you and your family, and sending strength and hope your way at this horrid time.

Now, I must go and get me some Tunnock's Teacakes. I forgot how much I bloody love them and my waistline hates you for reminding me of the fact!

little_ape said...

I fucking love you Lisa Lynch. I have followed you for ages, you have read my rape blog and told me I was wonderful even though I never believe it myself ( i keep the comment in my purse to remind myself aometimes) Yet I don't know you from Adam - so to many that *word* may sound a bit over the top but well I mean it. I have cried over your diagnosis, laughed at your perfectly written blogs and have been amazed by your bravery.

So for however long you are here to do all of those wonderful things I am beyond grateful whether it's to god or tea cakes. Xx

Crafty little ape.

Suze said...

What you probably don't realise, my gorgeous, lovely, Lisa, is that there you have shown thousands of people that you have shown how to swear, how to laugh, how to love. Fuck it, you have shown us how to *live*. Not how to live a mediocre life and just get by, but how to pour every drop of us in to everything we do; whether that's adoring our spouse, loving our family and friends or watching the sodding x-factor.

So, in return, when we all feel useless and helpless and you are going through this hell, what else could any of us possibly do but take those lessons in life and love and build a wall of support around you? All of the positivity and love from you, throughout the last however many years, is now what supports you, and P.

I am so sorry we can't do more. I am so sorry we can't wrap you up, protect you, make you better and make you sing again, Lis. But, even without the birthday messages, texts and Strictly commentary, you are still just that - our Lisa.

And as our Lisa we have faith in you. How the bloody hell could we not?

I love you, we love you. Probably more than you'll ever know.

SB xxxx

Ps. Hate to be pedantic but you've actually done a fucking awesome job at being supportive - just want your readers to know that.

billy said...

I believe in you Lisa, and your amazing mojo.

Mean Mr Mustard said...

Faith is a funny thing. I'm in the Dawkins camp when it comes to a higher power. I don't throw that out glibly or to have a pop at those who have God in their lives, but I've asked myself and I came back with a resounding, clear no.

Ironically though, in the last few years and particularly the last few months, I have found faith. Faith in the people I care for, faith in the fact that we're just 7 billion over-evolved monkeys sat on a rock and we can do so much, that we can create a world so amazing.

And faith from the people in my life that I love.

And faith from reading the deepest thoughts of one of my closest friends, someone who got handed a shit sandwich of ludicrous proportions. Someone who would be forgiven if she responded with nothing but hate, anger and bitterness, but instead faces down the worst shit I can imagine with humour, with warmth, strength, honesty, incredible writing and just, well, being genuinely fucking amazing again and again, blog post after blog post.

And now I really want a Tunnocks Teacake.

Keep on truckin' Mac. Love you.

The Impatient one said...

Errr... what they said!
Hugs xxxxx

CancerCultureChronicles said...

Lisa....I think this is an absolutely incredible bit of writing and I'm blown away by your ability to describe "the confusion" that you're grappling with. For the record, I totally get it.

I also completely understand the emotions around watching your hubby morph into a carer. I have watched mine do the same this year, and it is distressing, but honestly I don't think we've ever been closer.

It is hard to know what to write in the face of this utter utter BULLSHIT, but just do what you need to do. No explanations needed. Thinking of you.

Unknown said...

I feel the same way. People ARE amazing.

And so is this blog post.

Lots of love
A.K.A Chief Stalker

Jane said...

Hi Lisa - of course the temptation to answer the 'why?' is overwhelming and something I too have struggled with. The desire to find reason is powerful and that is why people spend a lifetime searching for it. Your faith and your reason is exactly that, yours, and don't let anyone try to make 'their faith' yours.

For mine, it's all about the now and I don't mean that in a pseudo religious Eckhart Tolle 'Power of Now' way just that all that really matters is that you are in the now and surrounded by people (P and family) and things (teacakes and music) that you love.

One thing I used to think about a lot is 'what if I am on my deathbed reading magazines and the last thing I ever do is read about Angelina Jolie and her endless children in Hello?' - what a mundane trivial unprofound way to go. But of course you have to live and living includes the trivial and mundane. So get back into it Lisa, when you feel able, and that fighting spirit will come back. And for Gods sake the time for Final Plans is not now. Now is the time for West Wing. And to write, if it helps. And to spend time with Corey James.

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell woman, you never do thing's by halves do you? Came to catch up and I'm both gobsmacked & devistated.

I'm not surprised it took a while to write this, I'm still struggling with understanding & coming to terms with this all myself.

As has been said, you have affected many people through this blog, and as a sufferer of long term physical and mental health problems I'm going to take a page out of your book and LIVE. Yes there will be days of crying in bed and feeling shit, but I'm going to do my dammed best for you and for myself to get out there and celebrate life despite being delt a shitty hand when it comes to health.

You are amazing, despite never having met you I love you and consider you a friend. You have made the world a better place with your courage, wit, general awesomeness and writing.


Jo Young said...

Somehow I missed your last post and your shitty awful news. Fucking fucking fuckitty fuck.

I have lost all the mascara from my newly grown eyelashes. You are awesome. Sending love, awe, mojo vibes and just plain old fashioned good wishes through the ether to you.

Jo xx

wb said...

Lisa xx
You're one special lady from a special family.
Amazing blog!

A Pale English Rose said...

You are my inspiration. Every day. I can't say how much I hero worship your courage. Not the fictional hard line courage of stern upper lips and ignorance, but the courage to allow yourself to be loved. Even by complete strangers. This blog reaches so many people and the consequence of reading it (living each day to the full and making damn sure I love my family as they deserve) spreads to every reader. Where ever we are in this world the effects of your courage are rippling out.

Fashion Detective said...

Lisa - you're a Tunnock’s Teacake-eating shiny star. That's what you are.

Look forward to the next post. And lots more after that.


MBNAD woman said...

With love.
Mad x

AnneMarie said...

I don't know how I got here, I'm a new tweep, a baby blogger and I AM A GIRL. (And, I'm a mess of years older than you are..... ) therefore, YOU MUST be a girl-not a woman-or you will be blowing up my shit.

I only glanced through some of your writing. Will be back to catch up. You now have a new friend in NY. If you need to get to the other side of the ocean for a break and to walk the streets and gets some really wacky material..... I will be glad to play tour guide and welcome committee.

Stay well, sweet girl. You write beautifully and you write "real" .... Your mojo is in tact.


CB said...

Welcome back! You made it, oh yeah! I was worried there that the hiatus was going to be permanent and I would be left to construct blog entries without a parallel.

SO thank you, I thank you on my blog - I wanted to tell you before but forgot.

You guest starred today's on the entry.

As for this one, so OK, can safely assume that you do not intend to become a Nun then?

hugs xx

lilianavonk said...

This is the first time in my life I've ever wished that I believed in God. It would give me someone halfway concrete to hate and rail against for doing this to you, to P, your family, and all of us far-flung denizens united by our common love of Lisa.

Like I said at Twitter, every tweet from you now is a gift--as is every blog entry. I just wish it hadn't taken this latest blow to make me realise that they always have been, and what an embarrassment of riches you've showered us with throughout this journey.

Sending rib-cracking hugs to everyone in London and Derby.

Clare said...

Hi Lisa, I'm long time reader, but first time commenter. I've loved reading your blog and you're such a great writer. You've made me laugh and cry.

I'm so sorry about what's happening. I hope you get to have lots of cuddles with Corey. That, along with Tunnock's Teacakes will definitely help.

Sending you lots of virtual love.


Polly Dolly said...

Hi Lisa, I read your blog this morning. I have since spent the rest of the day unable to stop thinking about you and your family. I just felt i had to return and leave you a message to say "I'm sorry for what is happening to you". Clare xx

Rebecca said...

Hi Lisa,
Another long term reader and first time commentor here. I read your last two posts a couple of days ago. I was going to comment straight away but instead I decided to turn off my laptop and spend some time with my lovely partner (a rarity recently due to the long hours I've been working). I cannot write anywhere near as beautifully as you can but I wanted you to know that you reminded me to give time to the people that really matter in my life.

I wish that things were better for you right now.

I hope the treatment you are having goes well. Corey is a lucky boy to be part of what sounds like an amazing family. I wish you and your family the very best.


francesca wakefield said...

I was so desperately sad to read these updates. You have been an inspiration to me during my diagnosis and treatment and I just can't compute this latest development - I'm so incredibly sorry.

I don't know how to leave this comment, and these links, but I'm going to because I can't not - I can't just say how sorry I am without sharing what I believe might help.

People telling you to read books claiming that they will change your life is, I know, not what you want to read. But they changed my life. They completely changed my outlook on cancer from something that happened to me to something I can at least help control.

I know you will have heard of one but maybe not the other. I know you probably will look at the other and write it off as I first did as American wacko nonsense. But maybe you won't...

With love, respect and admiration. Know that your writing has helped so many women find the strength to laugh when they just want to cry. Cesca xx

Marcia said...

Another long time reader from the land of the T.T. I just wish I could help you now as much as your blog and book have helped me.
Love Marcia