Graffiti on my Psyche

I spend the 15 minute drive to my day job each morning thinking about writing on this blog. I have lots of ideas churning around in my head, and although an idea might start off being totally unrelated to cancer, somehow everything I write about ends up cancer-flavoured (it’s hard to describe, but I can tell you it tastes nothing like chicken.) As much as I try not to write about cancer, I end up writing about fucking cancer. It occurred to me today that trying not to let cancer influence what I write about would be like trying to see someone else’s face when I look in the mirror.

It’s as if the word the cancer has been graffitied all over my psyche and there are just not enough spray packs of ripper stripper for the soul available to remove it all. Even if I do manage to wipe some of it away, something will happen and those words are writ all over me again, bigger and uglier than ever. This weekend it was a migraine headache which refused to budge for a couple of days, despite some heavy-duty medication. I suffered from migraines before cancer and in the past have had many that lasted as long, but these days a migraine pretty much instantly has my brain screaming ‘secondary tumour, secondary tumour, secondary tumour’. One of my cancer friends actually did the whole Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘it’s not a tumour’ line for me which made me laugh and a couple of hours later the headache resolved.

stock-photo-a-wall-with-lots-of-graffiti-115851334

My most recent CT scan.

The fact that  I have cancer friends doing cancer jokes about me potentially having secondary cancer demonstrates what I mean about it being written all over me. Of course I am, except for my right breast, 16 lymph nodes and my once amenable nature, pretty much the same person I was before cancer, but parts of me are vastly different and I’m still not entirely comfortable with that. I’m still in love with the same man, but he is now in love with a woman with one breast and sometimes that makes me feel so incredibly sad. I am still the mother of a gorgeous small person, but when I make parenting mistakes I mentally castigate myself about it, sometimes for hours on end, because what if I die and all he remembers is the times I yelled at him?

Some days the only thing that seems tangible is that I had cancer and I may well get cancer again; that word has been written over and over my soul so many times that I can’t remember what, if anything, used to be written there before. I have learned to accept these days, because fighting against them is pointless, and I also believe that the acceptance of them actually helps to reduce how often they occur. I often wonder what will happen if I make it to the magic five year mark, at which point I will be considered cured. Will the Cancer Council send in a psyche graffiti clean up crew to remove all traces of the unsightly tags, or will they be with me always, faded into a dull patina where the words are now unrecognisable but the sentiment lingers on?

I want so badly to find out. I want to know what it feels like to be someone who has been cured of cancer. The wanting of it is so visceral that I feel actual pangs when I think about it. Every day that goes by I am one day closer. Until then, and perhaps even beyond, I am marked, stained and defaced by cancer.

bc graffiti

15 comments

  1. BRILLIANT!!! Lol at the taste like chicken bit. I can’t remember how they say it, and I am sure what I am about to say will sound like gibberish because I cant think (too tired) or write (no talent whatsoever lol!) but people often say that you are defined by who you are not what you are. But I strongly believe that once you have cancer you ARE defined by the cancer and not just a person who has cancer. Make sense? (Just for clarification I am thinking along the lines of you aren’t an autistic person but person who just happens to have autism. I feel like I am a cancer person, not a person who just happens to have cancer iykwim).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Julie. Only yesterday Simon and I spoke at length about this very issue. If I survive, how on earth do I continue to live?!? And for how long will my survival or not plague my thoughts. 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 30 years?!? The truth is we will never be free of this. And sometimes that’s completely overwhelming.

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  3. I don’t have cancer, but I get it. There are times when one particular thing can take over and even though you don’t really want it to, it just does.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is hard to imagine a day will ever come when I don’t think about having cancer, or once in remission, if it will return. I hope over time though it will become less all encompassing.

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  5. I am not a cancer sufferer but have had to watch someone go through all that having cancer entails and for me I imagine the feelings are like grief, something I have experienced first hand. It’s overwhelming in the early stages, hardly seems real, then it’s so painful physically and emotionally that you think you will never recover. But somehow you do and then totally out of the blue it grips your very being and you sit crying, you struggle to explain to anyone else how or why you feel like you do and then slowly things get back to your new normal where you coast along just fine and something simple derails it all. What have I learnt from all of this, sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s amazing but always it makes you who you are and that’s what keeps you going. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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    1. Hi Nanette, thanks for such a thoughtful response. One of the things I have been grateful for throughout my journey is that it’s me with the cancer and not my husband or son. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to sit by and watch someone you love go through it all

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  6. When my niece was a very little girl she used to pick her nose and eat it. Out of curiosity, I once asked her what it tasted like. “Chicken” was her earnest reply.

    The same neice had reached 7 months gestation when my pregnant sister was told by the specialist that mum had cancer.

    My neice recently turned 15 and my wonderful mum was there to celebrate.

    She’s been “cancer free” for several years now, but even she would admit that one is never quite free of it.

    Thank you again for sharing. Such splendid writing! I wish you the very best luck on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Georgina, thank you for coming in to comment again. I LOLed at your niece’s comment about snot tasting like chicken! Each day I feel a bit more free of it, and a tiny bit more hopeful that I will live to a ripe old age. But it tends to be one step forward, half a step back at the moment. I just need to allow myself the headspace for that to happen, and writing about it seems to be a bit of a pressure release when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Thank you again for reading and commenting, it means a lot that I am connecting with you.

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  8. Recently, I did actual graffiti. For the first time in my life. I’m nearly 40. I blogged about it, so the world could be aware of my bad, and the dangers of carrying a sharpie in your handbag for totally legitimate reasons and then forgetting all about the fact that it is in there until bright purple Jesus words come to you as a surprise while you are trying to tinkle.

    That is when my best thoughts happen, on the throne.

    But that is not what I stopped by here to say, actually. 🙂 Sorry!

    I read this post of yours (after adding you to my feedreader after finding you in my internet travels) and it made me think of Memoirs of a Geisha, specifically this line –

    “I made up my mind to be like the fisherman who hour after hour scoops out fish with his net. Whenever thoughts of the Chairman drifted up from within me, I would scoop them out, and scoop them out again, and again, until none of them were left.”

    I am like the fisherman on a constant basis over various things, some quite petty, some rather large and life changing. The petty and small things can be scooped out and eventually after enough scoops they do not return. The other things – they make up part of the fabric of who we are.

    So, there’s that thought, which I have shared with you. Back to your regularly scheduled comments section! 😉

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    1. Hi there and thanks for your comment. You definitely get the prize for most thoughtful response, sadly there is no actual prize except for the glory. Thanks for adding me to your feedreader, I’m so pleased that there are people out there in the wide world reading along as I write. The quote from Memoirs of a Geisha is pretty apt – cancer brings with it so many things, some of them can be scooped up in a net and will eventually never return, others there is no net big enough to scoop up, so it’s a matter of deciding how to live with them in something approaching a peaceful way.

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