Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Sunday 28th September

When we were in 4th year, we had to direct one act plays as part of our Directing course. I, of course, did a very silly farce that was great fun and aimed really just to amuse – which it did, admirably. (My rather pompous and erudite lecturers and some peers did not quite agree with the audience’s opinion that it was amusing, but what the hell!)

One of my classmates directed a play called After Magritte, which was about a bunch of people who had been to see an exhibition by the surrealist painter, Rene Magritte. I enjoy paintings and art that is more realist or naturalist rather than works that are a bit ‘out there’, or a bit weird, at least according to me. (I do, however, really love Lichstenstein, who is a pop artist.)

Surrealism, though, has a kind of appeal. I get what the artists are doing and some of the works sometimes make more sense than others. Right now, though, I have a far greater appreciation for anything surreal.

In many ways, I feel as though I could be inhabiting a painting by Magritte – living in the surreal world he creates. Everything is normal looking. Everybody is going about real life, as needs to happen. Underneath all this, though, is an entire ‘other’ world that is unfolding. As I sit here, I am being invaded by something I can’t see and can’t really conceptualise, although I do understand everything that has been explained to me. Even the thought of having the mastectomy is surreal. Exactly at the same time that I think and talk about it, as though it is ‘normal’, my mind is baulking at the very idea and wants, effectively, to run away from it.

Everyone around me in the family is much the same. We watch tv, load the dishwasher, brush teeth – all the normal, necessary things one does. Staring us right in the face, though, is that ‘elephant in the room’. We do talk about the cancer and what will happen. In fact, every so often Michael will ask me a question, or I will get a look from someone. It never goes away. And, yet, it is not actually here. It is like a random cello hanging in the air in the middle of an otherwise apparently realist painting: you can try to look past it to appreciate the scene; you can even manage, for a moment, to pretend it isn’t there – but it is, large and looming. It never goes away.

At exactly the same time, though, I look around me at the real things like the weather and the world. Aren’t we so damn lucky?

We went for a drive out to a place near Magaliesburg yesterday, just for an outing and for some food. The countryside we drove through was sporadically built up, very dry, very brown – and so beautiful. Yesterday was a beautiful day. Today, again, is a beautiful day.

I am surrounded by all this. I am surrounded by so many loving, caring people.

In the middle of all this surreal feeling, those are the reality.


  1. Beverley Cooke says:

    Jane, it does seem surreal…and in some ways like yesterday and then like forever. I cannot understand fully how u feel or how you cope. All I can say is that you are constantly in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Suzanne Ter Morshuizen(Ms Pinky) says:

    Dear Jane, sorry to hear that you do in fact have to have a masectomy and some lymph glands out but I have to say that I am so glad to read your writing and to see how positive and brave you are being.I know that you will be fine but I am praying for you to continue to be so positive and for you to heal quickly so that you can become as active as you always are usually , and for this to happen quickly. Sending you hugs and lots of love , Ms

    • Thank you so much for all the thoughts. I’m glad you’re enjoying the writing. It really does seem that there is only one way to go – onwards and upwards! So, that is what I will keep doing. The mastectomy does freak me – the thought of it, but I will deal with it. I think I’ve mostly got my head around it already. I am not looking forward to the consultation with the plastic surgeon – think it will be far too anatomical for me!
      Much love.

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