Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tell me who I am

Summer is definitely here - despite almost constant rain for the past 4 days.
But the adverts on the TV that tell me I need silky smooth legs - shaved, or epilated or waxed or depilitated (hmm, most of those may not be real words.....) If I do this then the man will kiss me - or better. And then those legs need to be tanned but I also need to use sunblock (or suntan lotion as we Brits still seem to call it - which is essentially missing the point). So I have to use fake tan as well as my sunblock (why haven't they come up with one that does both? It's probably in the offing). Then I can wear my little skirts and strappy heels.
But for that, I need to lose some weight - so I can wear my swimsuit. But, alternatively if I use a particular brand of bodywash then I'll be so smooth that I can not bother with the weight loss because I can be a 'real woman' or whatever.
Are you confused yet? Well you should be. This is the permanent state of womankind. Unsure of what she is and what she should be. Because all these things tell me that being a woman is not a good thing. I cannot be accepted (not really) unless I rectify these faults - this hair, this weight, my appearance - I haven't mentioned how apparently my eyelashes aren't good enough either. My teeth aren't white enough. My gray hairs and less taut skin are shameful and must be rectified. Are we never good enough as we are? Must we fight a constant losing battle against the expectations of society? Why can we not all agree to give it all up. Why can't we acknowledge that our bodies have hair - they evolved this way deliberately. Why can't we accept that our appearences change as we age. Why is the way we looked at 18, at 20, the ideal when we all know that we are far superior now we are older. Why do we let ourselves be manipulated in this way - why do we assist? If somehow we all could realise then we could act - there are more women than men in this world if we acted together then we could sway these things.
But we're all so different too.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The nitty gritty

Finally, a little breathing space......
I am doing too much - I know I am, but most of it I'm committed to now and I can't get out of it/cut back. I've just got to ride it through and finish them (and then try not to pick up any more!). So I've done my talking (for now) and I've got Guide camp out of the way (yes, my guides made a spectacle of themselves and behaved less well than they could have - fantastic! (not))
So, where am I now?

Peru - one weekend away in the UK to go, some leaders meetings and then, in August - we finally go. Oh, injections, them too - I had my Yellow Fever last week - Rabies jabs start this week - Heps A&B to come later on. Today I go in search of new walking boots so I've got time to wear them in before we go. 3 weeks city walking until Scotland and then a week of outdoor walking there - should get them into shape.

Guides - only six weeks left until school breaks up and we finish and we're doing First Aid for about 4 of those.

So - my 'talk'. It went very well; I was quite nervous beforehand and I'd sat through about 7 presentations on various aspects of breast cancer which hadn't improved my state of mind. What did I say? Hmm, I can hardly remember now - it's as if standing there and saying it to all those people has dulled it all.
I talked about how difficult dealing with diagnosis is - from the perspective of having to take in what's happening but also about how confusing and difficult it is to negotiate the new 'foreign country' of hospitals and finding your way between all the different departments to make appointments and the waiting for results. I talked about how demoralising the treatment process is - about how you lose ownership of your body, about how my body had been looked at and handled by more people in that year than it ever had done in the whole of the rest of my life. About loss of independence -not being able to look after myself; about being 'apart' from the rest of the world; about being the walking embodiment of the potential of death; about being 'marked out' literally and figuratively from friends and family. About how difficult I've found the change in my body and about how people feel they have to right to comment about my appearance. I talked about the invasiveness of treatment - of having my body manipulated and things put into in and taken out. Then I talked about how difficult it has been/is to be without cancer - to find my way back into the world; about how it's not over when the treatment ends; about how difficult it is to live in the memories and to move out of that place. And I told them how having cancer has made me feel like I am hopeless and worthless and untrustworthy.

There was a moment of silence after I finished and then I did get some questions - some good questions like 'what could we do to make the time of investigation and diagnosis easier?' and about how to support people mentally and emotionally using counselling and the breast care nurses. Afterwards more people came up to me and spoke to me - one of the members of Cancerkin who has had breast cancer thanked me for putting into words some of the things she had also felt. Several doctors came and asked me more about what they could do and thanked me for being so honest and 'brutal'; one asked me about my portocath and about what difference it had made to my treatment - he then asked me if I would come and speak at his hospital if he asked me. I said 'yes' but I don't actually think it'll happen. Several people came and asked me if I had acting training/experience because of the way in which I had spoken; so I did have to own up to having studied some drama at university. But I wasn't really using those skills - I didn't need to; I was just speaking the truth in the best way I could, to try and help people to not just understand but also to feel some of what it had been like for me.

I'd like to put up the whole shebang for people to read but I think it's too long for a post and I don't think I have any other options on this site - plus, I don't think it will read as well as it 'speaks'. I'm toying with the idea of 'odeoing' it but I don't have a mic at the moment. Plus, I'm not sure if I want to put it out there for the whole world to look and potentially to take. It'd my story and I'm verging on the paranoid about keeping control of it. I don't want anyone else to claim my words and I don't want anyone else to change them. They are mine. However, if you'd like to read it then drop me an email, introduce yourself (if I don't already know you) and I'll send you the Word doc.

I will, once I have time, be condensing it into an article for the Cancerkin newsletter so maybe that will turn into something more readable - well, that's the plan anyway.

Right, enough for now - more things to do. Remember, even if I'm not emailing and commenting I still think about folk all the well, be whole, be loved.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

White rabbit

You peeps are so nice to ask how I've gotten on and gently prod me to fulfil what I said I'd do. If it makes you feel at all better (no, why should it?) I haven't written about it because I've been rather busy since.
But the short version is:
It went super-duper well although I was a bit nervous and lots of people said how good it was and it got some good questions afterwards too plus a funny comment from a Brazilian plastic surgeon who obviously wasn't listening (or perhaps she was and just couldn't contain herself). Anyway, the blow by blow will have to wait until the weekend - assuming I'm not feeling the ill-effects of my Yellow Fever jab from today - 1st rabies jab next week and probably also Hep A&B - this Peru lark is seriously bad for my left arm.....
I'm seriously behind on my commenting - I have comments in my head - I swear it!
Toodles til later

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tell it like it T-I-is

La la lal alala
Tomorrow I'm talking to 130 cancer doctors from 27 different countries. Yes, I'm not sure why I agreed to that either....
I'm going to tell them that, gosh, having cancer is crap and it makes you feel pretty blue. I'm pretty sure they will have noticed that, which is why I'm going to be whining about the depersonalisation of treatment, the loss of identity, the attempts at trying to live as a one-breasted woman. Officially my title is "The physical, psychological and social consequences of breast cancer; a younger woman's perspective" - wheee! Get me! Speaking at a medical conference! Maybe I'll put up my 'talk' here once I've given it - although I don't think it'll be new to most of my readers! I f*cked up over it because I was supposed to write it a couple of weeks ago and send a draft to the woman who's organising the conference but I just have not had time until this week to really sit down and get my thoughts in a logical(ish) form. But I definitely ballsed up because I should have contacted her to let her know instead of just continually hoping and saying 'I'll do it tomorrow'. I've been feeling *really* guilty about that since I spoke to her on Friday - I hate it when people promise things and don't do what they say they will or let you know that they can't - and I've just done exactly that.....sometimes I really hate how I behave. However, it's written, the beloved has listened to it and given it the OK - I think it's fine - I'm not saying anything controversial or offensive; I've made it clear that it's my personal experience and I think it'll sound pretty good. And at the end of the day I can only say what I know and think - and letting someone else read and criticise it really might have broken my heart. Sadly, I've agreed to sit through the majority of the conference tomorrow - I'm living in fear that I'll hear something I really don't want to hear. Actually, it's more likely that I'll hear lots of stuff I don't understand!!
Keep your fingers crossed for me at 3.30pm GMT (Summer time) tomorrow!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Talking and telling

Damn it! I want to be able to make pretty things like these.
But I'm sure I'd just make a mess of it. And then get cross and depressed. And even if I did manage it, I'm not sure I'd have the courage to wear it. Or rather, I can see myself putting it on, going out there and then spending the rest of the day being totally self-conscious (HA! I typed 'titally' first time around! Freudian slip, or what!?)

What a very interesting day I've had so far. I was asked to come and speak at an event for the Lavender Trust who were doing info sessions for a major chain of shops who will be doing a great deal of fundraising for them in the next 12 months. I was there to be the 'this is what you're actually raising money for' voice. I didn't do too badly, although I don't think I was as fluent as I would have liked to be and I think I repeated myself but I think I did 'reach' people - people responded and asked questions and I think that's good. That was what I wanted - to make people 'feel' something about the cause. Now, I know that the whole 'pinking' and attention-getting is a tricky area and I honestly couldn't tell you where exactly I stand on the whole awareness wagon but it was an interesting experience. I blathered too much I'm sure; and went on too long too perogative!

In more enjoyable news: massage tonight - bliss; I expect to fall asleep on the spot!