Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Friday 19th September

It’s quite interesting to see how people react when I tell them about my condition (or disease – I’m still not sure exactly what cancer is, or how it is routinely described. I’m beginning to suspect it’s in a class on its own.)

Anyway, so I’ve told a number of people. I truly do believe it is silly to beat around the bush and avoid the (perhaps not quite so) obvious. I tried for a couple of hours on Tuesday last week to ‘make as if nothing was wrong’, simply because I didn’t want my children finding out individually, or when I couldn’t stay with them because they had an extra-mural, or I had a commitment. Well, best I never join MI5, or our local equivalent. Maybe it was because that was when I’d only just found out the lump is malignant, but it wasn’t at all easy to make my mind basically ignore its presence so that the tears didn’t come too easily!

So, I tell people. Why not? I also need to have support and how are others supposed to know this if I don’t tell them?

It’s also about my students. I can’t leave them in the lurch on Teaching prac. Imagine if I just say, “Oh, I can’t come and see you,” or, “I’m going to be in hospital on that day, I think, so there can’t be a crit.”

This isn’t a small procedure and it won’t be like I’ll just miss one day, or something.

People’s reactions are interesting, though. Mostly, they are quite shocked, I think (we all associate ‘cancer’ with ‘chemo and death’) and don’t really know what to say immediately. I think it’s also that I am so straightforward about it. I don’t tell them and then wait for the sympathy. I tell them because I need to make a point and this is something that will affect how things go, or where I am likely to be.

The evening I found out about the malignancy, I had a committee meeting at the dam. I was sitting there with this knowledge in my head and it made me realise that we interact with people who we know (perhaps well and perhaps not so well) and we mostly have little or absolutely no idea of what is going on in their heads and in their lives. Strange.

It’s also when we routinely ask, “How are you?”

In the last week, there have been a number of times when I’ve spoken to people, either who I actually know, or who are total strangers, like the petrol attendant. Even as I answer, “I’m fine” to the routine greeting, running through my head are thoughts like, ‘Does s/he need to know about the cancer?’, ‘What would happen if I really told you how I am?’, ‘I’m actually not fine, can’t you hear the snottiness in my voice?’ – but none of that comes out, unless it’s a particular circumstance.

We really do know little of what goes on inside other people’s heads.



  1. Peculiar article, exactly what I needed.

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