10/05/16-Radiography Waiting Room: I’m sitting here in my blue and white ‘one size fits all’, stripy gown.
…actually that’s not entirely accurate.
Inside the small changing cubical the information poster states that there are in fact four types of gown; short, long, large and rear fastening and you are instructed to choose the one best suited to you and your treatment. In all honesty though, I’ve only ever seen two types and the blue and white stripy one is the closest ‘best fit’ for someone like me.
So I sit here in my chosen front fastening gown which gapes most inappropriately spilling its contents, my chest, all over the place and I look around this waiting room within a waiting room.
Let me explain myself…
I enter the radiography department and check in at the reception where upon I am invited to wait in the waiting room, which I duly do.
I wait in the waiting room until I am called by the radiographers at which point I move through to the changing cubical exchanging my upper garments for my chosen gaping gown, depositing my belongings in a green shopping basket and taking a seat with said shoppingless shopping basket in the waiting room within a waiting room, which is where you find me now.
So as I was saying before I interrupted myself, I’m sitting here in my gown grasping on to my modesty when I remember to, and wondering about the population here.
I wonder about this community that I now belong to.
This cancer community.
I think up back stories for the individuals here, creating lives they’ve probably never lead.
I give them loved ones and families, especially if they are here alone and I wonder if they do the same for me.
Some people’s cancer is private- looking at them doesn’t provide clues.
Other folk are betrayed by their cancer, it shows itself off to the world through its obvious treatment markings like the man with the tangerine sized shape sketched in thick black marker pen on the side of his forehead or the man with the surgically redefined mouth holding a tissue to catch the constant stream of saliva he’s unable to control…or me with my chemotherapy bumfluff covered head and newly tumour excised chest.
My cancer is personal and private but its treatment is very public.
I can not hide it.
Very early along on this journey I realised that in accepting my diagnosis and agreeing to allow the NHS to tackle it, I was resigning myself to giving up my body, my time and my privacy to a range of treatments and the medical staff trained to carry them out.
What I hadn’t fully appreciated at that time was just how very public my personal and private cancer would be.
Although I’m not a shy kind of person, I do shy away from attention not of my own making.
Within the inner circles of my family, my friends even my colleagues, I can appear larger than life. Often found playing the role of the fool or the entertainer, the wise or the confidant all as long as it’s within the confines of my small, unassuming world.
I’ve never been one for courting favour beyond this micro manageable pond.
Beyond this, my self governed comfort zone.
Self confidence for me is similar to a muscle in that if it isn’t regularly exercised it weakens, if it isn’t love-fed direct from the heart it will strain and spasm.
Like a muscle it cannot be neglected without suffering ill consequence and as such I never take mine for granted.
And so it is that the things that frighten or intimidate me in life will likely be the very things that I will attempt to front out and embrace. If something frightens me then I will push myself to face it because the biggest fear I have is of being afraid.
Fear cripples my self confidence.
I know that my confidence has been rocked by the rigour of treatment, the symptoms and side effects, the self imposed isolation of recovery as well as my new-found understanding of the fragility of life.
…of my life.
I know that there are days now when it takes an additional effort for me to go out into the world. I set to pop to my local shops, a mere five minutes walk away and at my door I hesitate for a moment…key in hand and I could quite easily just shut the door and leave it for another day.
It’s only a fractional shift inside of me at present but I know if I don’t challenge it at this exact moment, it will grow.
So I front it out.
I push through the embarrassment of walking into a restaurant with a shiny hairless head.
I front it out.
I push my good breast alongside its diminished friend into all the same dresses I wore before, in spite of how odd it looks.
I front it out.
I push my non breast into the face of the world, brazenly flouncing around my lopsided, metaphorical fuck you to the norms and conforms, whilst all the time inside silently reciting my self soothing mantra “It’s okay, I’m okay, it’s okay, I’m okay” over and over and over and aching for the way my body used to look, used to feel…
Though I can understand and definitely empathise with the many reasons why people choose to disguise or even hide their cancer, for me wearing a wig through treatment or a false boob for the rest of my life was never really going to be an option.
For me, it seemed wrong like self betrayal.
Like a denial of my experience.
Like somehow being disingenuous about who I am.
I’m not saying that cancer is all that I am now but it is certainly a major contributor to the me that I am growing into.
And it’s not all bad.
Yesterday I loved life, today I love it with just that bit more passion.
And though it is many years now since I found the song in my heart, today that song is a stronger, sweeter and more vibrant song than ever it was before.
It’s not all bad.