Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Licking the C-word

The Berlusconi-ly minded amongst you are in for a b-i-g disappointment. This is not about what you're thinking, you salacious beasts, this one's about beating cancer. A friend I've known since University has breast cancer. I just found out.

For once, thoughts are all jumbled in my head, as if the gravity of the news had derailed my train of thought, shunted the carriages this way and that, strewn the passengers luggage all over the landscape. So, in no particular order:

1. She writes the best Facebook updates
2. I wish we didn't live so far away from each other
3. What can I do that will make a difference?
4. I wish I'd re-connected with her sooner
5. Her son is very young
6. Bet all her students will finish the year with straight A's because no one - I mean NO ONE'll dare get a C
7. I wish I could hold her hand and give it a good squeeze and make it all go away
8. I never realised that she wrote a blog.
9. I'm never ever going to complain about... anything.

I like that last one. Imagine that, no more complaining about "feeling" fat, about zits, about in-grown hairs, about not getting more auditions, about being categorised as a foreigner in my (chosen) country of residence, about this and about that. No more gratuitous moaning, no more self aggrandising neuroticism, no more "no" and "I can't" and "it's not fair" and "why can't..." and "what ifs"... What a relief!

From now on, I am going to be a model of positivity and optimism. A real Polyanna. It's going to be an uphill battle but I'm determined. I WILL BE HAPPY.

Already I feel freer from fear and disappointment. As if the sobering message that she received had had the same electrifying impact on my attitude: "damn it, I'm going to beat this thing if it's the last thing I do." Except I don't have to go through clinical trials and chemo and hair loss and the surgery and all that malarkey. I just get the good stuff: the "enjoy life to full you fool whilst you still got it because who knows how long you got it for" - no one knows their own use by date.

Ever generous, what a gift she's bestowed on me. The gift of realisation that life is precious, to be savoured and bitten into fully and enjoyed! Less Black Swan and more True Grit please!

I hope I will be able to return the favour. How? I don't know yet, but inspiration will strike, and hopefully more frequently than lightning (although apparently this not-striking-twice-in-the-same-spot-business is pure fiction, it can and will strike in the same spot as many times as it feels like, and it does, quite frequently I'm told, to the surprise and shock of those who happen to be standing under it.)

Another consequence, is the discovery that not only life but time too is precious. There isn't that much time for any of us. I always assumed I'd live to 100 (in the same way that as a child I assumed I would never reach 30 because the time-life continuum would stretch and stretch into eternity before I ever got there. Because I couldn't imagine ever living in the 21st century, wearing a silver space suit, and eating space food and... I don't know... living on the moon.) 100 that's a big number but it's still finite. If there's stuff I want to do I'd better get cracking. And not just the big stuff like acting, but small things like filing applications and using the online tutoring programme for my upcoming financial regulation exam (- Note: I tried to access it yesterday but their IT system was down...).

So no more procrastinating on big or small things. Get things done or don't do them at all and throw them out. Clear that in-tray. Clear that inbox. Clear your mind, your soul, your every nook and cranny!

All this is exhilarating but exhausting too. And with exhaustion comes the release of effort and a return to the bad old ways. Must fight it, fight the gravital pull of the familiar, of the status quo. I owe her this much. Her gift is too precious, the price of it too great for me to return to form. I will push on, seeking happiness, optimism, clarity of thought and action for the rest of my life. That's a promise.

So what's it going to be? What am I going to do with this new found appetite for life? What gift can I offer up in return? I feel so small and inadequate. And humbled by the enormity of the disease, or rather the enormity of my perceptions of the disease and my total ignorance and lack of experience. It's a right B*****d. Still, I will think of something. Something unexpected and just right.

And it won't be a Hallmark card.


Dawn said...

Five years ago, when I had cancer, I really just appreciated it when people said or wrote "anything" to let me know they were thinking of me. Far away friends shared warm or hilarious memories, that was nice. Funny emails or cards were especially nice. I didn't so much appreciate people saying "you'll lick it" actually, nobody knew if I would. I did. Just write or speak from your heart. Can't go wrong if you do.


WhatACharacter said...

you know what, forget Pollyanna, just be real... lose the navel-gazing. to your friend (i've been where you are) say: you can do this. be there for her. be there. for her. be. for. you get it.

and that's right: "get cracking" girl - go!