Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Saturday 4th October

My birthday’s in 2 days!

I have a habit of saying things like: “I really need this in my life” with a really sarcastic tone – meaning, of course, that I really do not need whatever it is I am referring to. Or, I may ask, “How is that useful?”, when something really, really isn’t useful in any way at all.

So, last night, I was thinking about the operation (something I find myself doing quite a lot these days), and I said something like, “Now I’m going to have this big-ass operation, which I really need in my life.”

It struck me then that there is a lot that we say that is actually true when we kind of mean the opposite.

One of the last things I feel like having happen to me right now is an operation that is going to render me disfigured, in much pain and most probably quite unhappy (at least at times). It is, however, exactly what I do need at this time. And it is, possibly, one of the most useful things that can happen to me right now.

And all this because of something I cannot see and have literally no sense of.

People talk about fighting a battle against cancer, as though its some enemy force waging war against humans. One at a time.

And that, I suppose, is what it is. Or seems like.

I doubt for one second that ‘cancer’ is a unified force deployed by some alien intelligence (or something) with the express aim of depleting the human race. It does, however, feel just like some invader, quietly taking over, bit-by-bit.

Cancer is a sneaky invader.It is hidden, completely quiet and insidious. I can’t help feeling some form of resentment against this disease (or condition). I mean, most other health issues at least have the courtesy of giving hints (and even obvious signs) that they are there. Then we have the chance to understand the terms of war and to fight back. Hell, the person whose body is the battlefield at least experiences the effects of the war!

Cancer is different. It doesn’t announce its arrival. It finds a hidden patch and begins its campaign – often really small and then growing insidiously in the dark. And the person whose body is the battlefield in this case doesn’t even know they are part of a war.

I understand conceptually what is happening to me and what must be done. And why. But I have absolutely no sense of being threatened. There are no symptoms. I feel no pain. I can’t identify what the disease (or condition) is doing to me.

It seems unfair. If my body is going to be ‘put to knife’, I should at least be able to really, really understand the enemy.

I feel as though I’m on a train that is set on this track with no stations along the way, just the end point in the operating theatre. The journey has taken four weeks so far, during which nothing much seems to have happened. There have been temporary pauses along the way, but the operation is the end station.

Then I list the ‘pauses’: the first visit to the gynae, the mammogram and then biopsy, being told its malignant, first visit to the surgeon, blood tests, x-ray, ultrasound, second visit to the surgoen, lymph node dissection, third visit to the surgeon, visit to the plastic surgeon.

I guess a lot has actually happened.

I am not happy about having an operation. I’m not happy about the thought of what is going to follow and how long it may take to recover. I’m not happy about any of the coming pain, discomfort, or any hard moments.

Then I realise, though, that the train does not stop at the operating theatre. That is just another pause along the way. It may be significantly longer and more important than any of the other pauses thus far, but it is just that. The train keeps on and will only end its journey when the war is won and the insidious invader soundly taught the only lesson it deserves – defeat!


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