Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Friday 2nd January

Although I studied Drama, I am not a performer and don’t actually like being the centre of attention. When productions are involved, I choose to direct rather than perform. I also get nervous if I have to talk in public, even though, as an educator, I am basically a professional public speaker!

I realised today that this is all wrapped up in the way I feel about the whole chemo thing and the way people react.

People seem to find it fascinating how I am coping with the chemo. I’m still not sure what they expect, which makes me wonder how I should be reacting or behaving. I don’t know any other way, I can only be me and do things my way.

I don’t like being watched all the time. I don’t like being the object of people’s fascination. I don’t like being asked all the time how I am, or having attention drawn to what I eat, or what I should be doing, or when I should sleep.

I want to be left alone to be me, to do what I need to do, to eat what I want to eat and to behave in a way that is me without feeling as though everything I do is part of a performance for the benefit of others, or for others to judge.

If I wanted to perform, I would have gone onto the stage.

And yet, all of the attention is not about actually judging me, or trying to make me feel uncomfortable. The attention is about caring and concern. So many people are interested in my progress with regards to the cancer thing and chemo. A lot of them don’t completely understand exactly what having chemo entails. It’s a new thing to so many, me included and I guess we all muddle along the best we can, one moment at a time.

In many ways, that’s what life is about, I think. We plan things and do what we can to get them done. We deal with issues and crises as they come up and do our best to resolve them. We stagger at times and run at others. All the time, though, we are being individuals, marching along our own paths, doing the best we can.

Mum was so like that.

As I interact with older people, I am reminded so often just how wonderfully strong and independent she was.

I am so like her in many ways – definitely sharing her stubbornness. I think that is hugely to blame for how well I seem to be (am) doing with the chemo. I have deferred to myself when I have felt very nauseous. I have even had ‘pathetic’ days. I just can’t be bothered to be ‘gotten down’ by the whole thing, though. It’s not worth it. It’s not me.

In the last couple of years, I have performed in public on occasion – when I have chosen the circumstance and the audience. Perhaps that is the clue: with the chemo (etc), I have not chosen to ‘perform’ and be on show, it was a decision made for me by some insidious cells that tried to cause me harm.

That’s why I don’t like this – none of it has been my choice. If I truly want to be the centre of attention in any way, I want to choose the context, not be dictated to by some condition / disease.

It’s not about the audience’s reaction, it’s about why I got here.  It’s not about being on show, it’s about the fact that I didn’t get to make a choice.

I can do thing, though, so I guess I’ll just ‘smile and wave’ and continue to deal with the extra attention, all the while thinking, “Huh! Damn, you, cancer, this is about me!”


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