Ten things I love and hate about my cancer

Remission sounds like you’re just waiting for it to come back. I only say I’m in remission if I’m milking someone for sympathy, hehehe. But, technically, my cancer is in remission. I’m in remission. In 19 months, if nothing changes, I’ll be officially cured.

One of my oncologists, a spunky young Vietnamese-Australian, accidentally used the word ‘cured’ a few months ago. I’d asked him what he liked about the job and he’d replied that it was great to be in a research-intense area that was in constant development and change (‘not like gynaecology’, he said). He told me he liked dealing with ‘people who are cured like you’. Cured. I froze when he used that word. I felt clear and still, like a TV that’s been staticky for ages and is suddenly fixed.

I knew that his more experienced superiors would never have made such a slip. Because until five years have passed I’m only in remission. At half a decade ‘cured’ kicks in. Five years is the magic marker: five years cancer-free gives me the same statistical chance of another cancer happening as anyone else my age. The first two years post-diagnosis are the most dangerous for recurrence. But some women find a growth in lungs or liver three, or four, or four and a half years after their breast cancer has been treated.

Meredith Jones

This was taken mid-chemo, about August of 2006, before I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes.

Richard and I were on the Marrickville 423 bus last night coming home from a quick eggplant curry at Kammadhenu. A couple of real oldies were in the front seat. He had pure-white neatly trimmed hair and was terribly bent over and slow. She was tiny and spry with hands twisted into arthritic forms hard as branches. As they struggled down the stairs of the bus & turned stiffly to thank the young driver I whispered to Richard

‘I want to get that old’.

‘You will’ he said ‘with your genes’.

And I nearly said ‘but what about with my cancer?’ but I didn’t.

My genes are pretty good: my Nannas are both still alive with all their marbles, one is 89 the other is 90. My mother, in her 60s, is in just about perfect health. Perhaps the cancer was a blip — caused by plastic containers or diesel fumes or a virus or just bad luck — in an otherwise blessedly healthy body.

Anyway, enough blah blah, on to the purpose of this post: ten things I love/hate about my cancer.

1. I love that it helped me cull half a dozen of what my Nanna would call ‘fairweather friends’.  Bye bye fuckers, you know who you are.

2. I hate that the tamoxifen makes me grow uterine polyps that have to be scraped out every 18 months or so, although I love the general anaesthetics, especially the pre-ops. One anaesthetist, a big rich-sounding white South African, said as he injected me ‘This will feel like a glass of white wine on a Summer’s day in the South of France’. It was true.

3. I love that the tamoxifen is wondrously blocking that pesky oestrogen from feeding more cancer.

4. I hate the panic that sets in — like I’ve swallowed concrete — whenever I think I feel a new lump, get breathless, lose weight (without trying to) or have a pain in the small of my back.

5. I love that my true women friends came to the party while I was having treatment. Sitting for hours with me in the Royal Prince Alfred chemo ward (Deborah & Tracy you stars); buying brandy and holding my hair out of the way while I was vomiting (Zoe); madly offering to pay for limos to and from the chemo treatments (Lesley you treasure), and flying from London just to Be With (Julia).

6. I love/hate that some people are a bit scared of me now.

7. I hate that I’ve lost my sense of being invulnerable — I’m now permanently aware that life is a series of suspensions of disbelief around the fact that we’ll all be dead rather soon.

8. I love that occasionally I forget about point seven, above, and experience a glorious feeling of lightness.

9. I hate that this might happen to my daughter. This point was very hard to write. It’s actually the unmentionable.

10. I love that I’m still here because none of the alternatives, from oblivion to golden angels, are really my cup of tea.

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21 Responses to “Ten things I love and hate about my cancer”

  1. Pavlov's Cat Says:

    Damn, crying into the keyboard, and I’m already using the spare.

    Thank you for reminding me that I had better front up at the Royal Adelaide on Tuesday morning when my dear friend D ( who lost her husband to lung cancer only last year) has her first chemo in the wake of breast cancer surgery a few weeks ago. She too has a daughter and will be thinking the same thing.

    You look like a gorgeous Buddhist nun in that photo. It might just be the colour of the shirt.

  2. Jo Says:

    Beautiful.

  3. Helen1 Says:

    ‘Cured’
    The definition of cured I like best to describe my post-chemotherapy post-operative state is a twist on Vulcanised. . . ‘treated by a chemical or physical process to improve (its) properties – hardness and strength and odor and elasticity’
    Well in my case the elasticity is yet to be tested.

    My surgeon’s announcement was “The Disease is Gone”. He was not cute but put on a little charm out at that point.
    Bring on the radiotherapy!

  4. Grant Says:

    I love that we are friends and you enrich my life 🙂

  5. David Says:

    Lovely lovely.

  6. elsewhere Says:

    Oh dear. Cancer is so scary. I wish I had something intelligent to say.

  7. Kirsty Says:

    Oh. You offer such wonderful portraits of your doctors, that it’s clear they’ve been great. Not a small thing.

  8. Stephanie Says:

    uterine polyps, eh? It’s a very long list of potential side-effects in the Tamoxifen leaflet, isn’t it? Still, not too many more of these ops to go, from the sound of it.

    If you have only 19 months to go, I am only five months behind you, and will be cheering for you all the way. Just putting up a new link to you now…

  9. Cress Says:

    Was LOL about the Illawarra Road graffiti over at Marrickvillia, now crying over this one. Especially #10. You shining star, you.

  10. RecycledEnvelope Says:

    I’ve been a lurker over at Marrickvillia for a long time, possibly years! I think your take on life is beautiful. I loved #5, you sound like you have great friends who love you 🙂

  11. Owen Richardson Says:

    You are so brave and clear-minded and I am glad we are in contact with eachother again after all these years. Much love. Oxxxx

  12. Meredith Jones Says:

    Owen it feels like yesterday.

  13. Paul Says:

    Remain Calm – Plan for a Future – Live like there’s no tomorrow – Don’t forget to eat your vegies and brush your teeth 😉

  14. Georg Says:

    I’ve arrived at this post rather late.

    Thank you. It’s wonderful.

  15. Elizabeth Says:

    Just found you via the artist Ellis Hutch. Thanks so much for that post. All of us reading this have been touched by cancer in family, friends, ourselves. And now we’re touched by you. Thx again.

  16. Stephanie Says:

    And now I know what you mean about polyps! I’m just been referred to the gynaecologist. How bizarre is that for timing?

  17. Meredith Jones Says:

    Bad luck Stephanie, but they’re easy enough to get rid of…

  18. Peter T Says:

    As someone without anything diagnosed yet but having lost many close to me at a young age PLUS having a challenge in a very slow child who will be with my wife and I till we can no longer look after her, I can add one item to your 10 from my own personal experience. Life is a fatal disease – While we may get more than one life (debateable), give the one you have now your best shot till you stop thriving with those around you and in and around the environment that we breath – Life is terrible and wonderful at the same time.

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