Cortisone Musings & Ramblings
I’m writing this while being on my second to last cortisone high. It is 3am, I’ve been awake since 1am and the one thing I’d love to do right now is to go and mow our lawn. But since that would wake everyone & lead to some awkward conversations with neighbours, I can’t and so here I am, in my lounge with my two farting dogs, writing a blog that I might regret posting tomorrow. You never know what a cortisone high will bring and I’ll certainly miss them. Won’t miss the BLANGRY though – a name I gave this unique combination of being angry & bloated…
So I have encountered a lot of very interesting people on this ride. The most interesting ones were the ones who don’t know me and who would come up to me with the most random of comments or questions. And some of it was really useful and helpful and some sparked conversations, but others not so much. Perhaps the not so useful ones were the unlucky ones who encountered me on post cortisone days. I’ve done and said some things I’m really not proud of. Steroid rage is a thing people! I would for example tell the poor peeps on the other end of the marketing call that I’m not interested as all my money is going into my chemo treatment – they never know what to say, some just puts the phone down. Then there was a certain lady who said to my 6 year old son “you must be the (insert surname of another cancer mom & friend who is quite well known in Durban) boy.” I got so angry at her for defining a child by his mom’s illness that I turned around and angrily said “No actually, he is the JACKSON boy, the OTHER cancer mom!” She didn’t pick up on my sarcasm as shortly after she told me about her dead relative, as many many people do. (ps. I don’t mind you telling me if we’re friends!)
And then there was that one evening where I asked a lady to get out of the way as I was trying to get a photo of my kids standing by the HOPE sign (at the trail of lights at the Botanical gardens), and she was really in the way and I needed that photo like you sometimes need a lemon meringue biscuit. And I said these words: “I actually HAVE cancer, please can you move”. For twenty minutes after I wanted the world to swallow me up, but luckily my memory span is equal to that of Dory’s now and I quickly forgot (see chemo brain is really also a thing and sometimes it has its benefits, like selective forgetting of when you’re being an asshole to other people).
Then there was the lady in blue. She was dressed all in blue. In the cereal isle of Woolies. In Durban. She wheeled her trolley up to mine, it was a very sudden and abrupt approach, like being attacked by a giant smurf. And she said this: “Are you sick or is that a new hairstyle?”
My insides boiled. Wrong I know, was I not judging her blue look just 1 minute ago? Difference is I did it in my head and whether that is better or not I simply can’t figure out. But the answer I gave was stupid and petty and mean.
I said: “That is a very personal question don’t you think? It has nothing to do with you and I wish people and their comments would piss off.” And then I stomped off and shouted out, “it’s not a new style, it’s cancer if you must know.” And that way all the other curious shoppers could also hear my answer and I’m sure they must have thought jeez, cancer turns you into a real ball breaker (which it does actually).
This is what I could have said and what I wished I had said:
“Naaah, it’s chemo. Wish it was just a funky hairstyle. It also gave me night sweats & cold shivers. And bleeding gums and mouth sores. Nose bleeds, skin tears in the most inappropriate places, those are super painful and silly-irritating. It gave me neutropenic sepsis once, I honestly thought I was dying, because you know, I probably was. Thank God for modern medicine. It gave me some weight gain and then some weight loss, a total loss of libido (sorry for the overshare but some argue that I’m being too positive so here I lay it all out for you, dear stranger in blue). It’s given me stomach jabs that will make your toes curl, blown veins, bruising, hair loss – all but your fucking leg hair. I have such loyal leg hair I’ve had to keep on shaving through this whole ordeal, cancer has a strange sense of humour. Pneumonia, it made all food taste like metal, BLANGRY, handfuls of pills. Constant thrush, regular bladder infections, interesting hospital conversations and strangers like you, asking me inappropriate questions. But you know what, in this awkward moment, in this, the cereal aisle of La Lucia Woolworths, there is a chance to connect. And I might learn why you wear so much blue and you can learn why I no longer wear scarves or a wig and we’d both walk away wiser, more connected and richer for it.”
And while I have your attention not-so-litte-smurf, let me tell you that cancer has also given me empathy, the ability to really not judge. Not just to say that I don’t judge, but to really not judge. Never. Because I’ve not walked in your blue shoes and you’ve not lived in my naked head. It has made my kids grow up, faster than I’d like, but in a good way. It’s made them not even bat an eyelid when I grab the toy zone packet on the back seat and vomit in it all the way home. Kai complained a bit of the smell and B was like “suck it up” and that’s what he did. He sucked it up and when we stopped they left me to sit on our lawn and catch my breath, holding my really heavy toy zone packet filled with vomit whilst trying to figure out if I should drop the contents in the garden first or just bin the whole thing as is. One day they (the kids) will be really understanding. It’s given me freezers full of yum-food from caring friends. It’s given me time out from a busy life. It’s given me red lip kisses on my neck from the person I’ve known for over 30 years while we go on an impromptu shopping spree to deal with the crazy that is cancer. JUDGMENT FREE. It made me love my husband on a deeper level than I ever thought possible. It’s given me so much. George, you are a dick but you were good to me in many ways.
At the risk of sounding corny-poetic; no matter which isle of life you find yourself in there is always a chance to connect with, and learn from a stranger. Put down your phone, be present and observe. Your tribe will thank you.
And if you see me in the cereal isle or the wine isle or the book isle (because this is where I hang out), then you’re welcome to wheel your trolley right up to my knee and ask me anything. And if you know the lady in blue, please send her this as a way of apology. From me to her.
Ps. If the inside of my brain sometimes make you feel like a better person then don’t forget to vote for my blog! Just click the big red button and confirm the e-mail link they’ll send you.