Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Sunday 21st September

I think I’m being too influenced by Erma Bombeck, as I read her book…

I’m now on the track of: “I’m not sick, I have cancer.”

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve become acutely aware of how many times a day we routinely (and, often, politely) ask someone, “How are you?” – especially in South Africa. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve commented on this before!)

The answer to the question is usually an automatic, “I’m fine.”

And me? Well, I am fine. I’ve had this cold, which, luckily, is so much better. (Has to be with the anaesthetic tomorrow.) Otherwise, I am fine.

Oh, I do have cancer.

But otherwise? Well, I’m exactly as I was just over two weeks ago: I look the same, feel the same, sound the same as I did then, when all that was wrong was that I was sad, as I have been for a number of months now. But, healthwise, I was fine. And I am now. Except for the fact that I’m suffering from something. I still haven’t managed to ‘label’ exactly what cancer is quite successfully. I’m not convinced it’s a disease, but it may be. Or it could be called a condition.

If someone asks me how I am, what am I supposed to say, except that I am fine? Usually this type of exchange is so fleeting that it really becomes quite meaningless. What would someone do if, the next time they ask, “How are you?”, I were to answer, “Well, I have this condition / disease (or whatever),”

That would surely oblige them to ask further questions, which 80% of people don’t anticipate doing – or, at least I can’t imagine why the petrol attendant, shop assistant, random person in the street – even people I know in passing at the club – would actually feel the need to pursue the conversation to that level.

So, when people ask me, usually politely, “How are you?”, I smile and think a million thoughts, but say, quite simply and expectedly, “I’m fine.”



  1. Carl says:

    Hi! Missed your post today… But, then again, it was a kind of extraordinary day!!!

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