Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

I've got it.

For months now, I've been wondering how to refer to my current health status. My oncologist doesn't do follow-up scans, you see, so I can't join the 'NED' club (no evidence of disease) or declare that I'm officially 'in remission'. I would be talking, as the Bear would say, through my arse. For all I know, the Freeloader could still be here, playing merry hell very quietly in my bones or internal organs.

(Not that I think for one moment that this is so.)

But I've got no proof, and Dr Mumbles has very good reasons for his strategy. Too many scans, and I end up abusing my health even further; a-hem, radiation can cause cancer, and I wouldn't want that, would I? My body has already been through the therapeutic equivalent of Hiroshima. Enough already.

And in his Mellow mode, Mumbles also acknowledges that the constant testing and waiting for results is just too damn hard on the patient's coping strategies. Don't I know it. Remember back at the beginning of this lunacy, when I had a bone scan and ended up locking myself in a public toilet to shake in private while I waited for the results? And once you get those damned results, the countdown starts to the next test.

No thanks. Pass.

See, if the Freeloader's back, it's not like they can fix me. Did you read my poem? After Stage 4, the doctors say there's nothing. So Mumbles reckons I may as well enjoy blissful ignorance for as long as I can.

I'm good with that.

But it doesn't help me to explain my situation to others. Am I cured? Buggered if I know. I don't feel sick now, but then I didn't feel sick to start with, when I was potentially dying.

So I've been struggling with the words. And finally, I've found something that fits.

I am on parole.


To all appearances, I'm a free woman. To look at me, when I'm all dressed up, a stranger would never know I'd been sick.

But it doesn't alter the fact that I've been in metaphorical jail. Cancer will always be with me. I've got a record. Like a stretch in the clink, my diagnosis will follow me everywhere and affect much of what I want to do.

Most tellingly, it'll affect my relationship with any new
employer; in my line of work, I'll have

The photo's as old as the hills, but let's just
say that preschoolers can WALK... and
babies can be heavy!
to disclose that I've had a mastectomy. My arm is still too weak to work with babies.

So I'm limited in my options. I need to stick to four- and five-year-olds. Today is the one year anniversary of my diagnosis, and I celebrated by going to town, dropping in on the preschool where I was working before D-day and declaring myself ready to work again. I feel confident that I've got my energy back enough to manage the odd casual day, and I'm pretty sure I can pick up the occasional preschooler if I have to.

But lifting and carrying babies all day? With my left arm? That's a recipe for lymphoedema for me- and possible disaster for a baby- if ever I heard one.

No way. Doing time with the Freeloader precludes me from that occupation.


And then, of course, it only takes one little offence and I'll be back inside. Parole revoked, go directly to jail. Nobody can predict how I'll go with my new-found freedom. I could be back behind bars tomorrow, or next year- or, if my body can behave itself, never.

It's lifetime parole for me.


But for now, I've survived my first year with the Freeloader. Surely that's worth a little bit of a party, beyond just trying to go back to work.

Remember Amanda? I do.

So I dropped into Shartan and visited Amanda to ask her if there was anything she could do with my atrocious hair. I cringe at the way it looks; it's not growing out anything like the way I thought it would, and in the words of an ancient hair product ad, I can't do a thing with it.  It's already way too hot for the Megwig, but despite sweating like a curly-coated hamster in a sauna, I still avoid venturing out without a hat or a scarf disguising my chemo coiffure.

I tried 'product'.

I tried colouring it, but the
effect was similar to that
achieved by applying
lipstick to a pig.
So I actually made an appointment with a hairdresser, for the first time in about 28 years. Amanda says she can trim the sides so I look like I meant it, rather than being the victim of a tragic cranial accident.

Well that's not quite what she said, but that's what she meant.

Yes, yes, it's good to have hair again, I shouldn't complain, blah blah blah, but honestly, I look like had a fight with a pair of hedge shears and then stuck my finger in the powerpoint. Worse, I look like my mother's deeply unpleasant cousin, who occasionally took her face out of the gin bottle for long enough to get a short, tight and unflattering perm and tell me I should have a breast reduction. 

"You really MUST get a breast reduction..."
I do NOT need to be reminded of THAT. Bring on Saturday.


So here I am, a year out from Dr Adnan's good news and bad news, still walking Planet Earth and not, it seems, dying any time soon. To all intents and purposes, I'm a free woman- as long as you don't go back too far in my file.

And the Kris Kristofferson song? Well, I guess all I've got to lose is my life, so I may as well feel free to go for everything else I want- if I've got the energy. Going back to work. Getting a new haircut. Maybe trying to get this blog published at last.

But most of the time, just like Kris and his Bobby McGee, feeling good is good enough for me.

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