Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Monday 9th March

There is a silly movie on TV, where Julia Roberts is yelling at Brad Pitt and accusing him of talking about ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’ all the time.

Sometimes I think that I think about ‘I’ a bit much – that this cancer thing seems to be only about me. If I tell this to Sarah, she gets a little exasperated and reminds me that it is, indeed, ‘I’ who have had this happen to me.

It’s a strange thing, though. Of course this is about me on one level – in fact, this whole cancer thing is all about me. After all, if I hadn’t had a lump and the mastectomy etc, then there would be no ‘cancer thing’ at all. I write about it to help myself to make sense of it all, so, in most ways, it is about me.

That just feels weird, though. There is little or nothing in life that can be just about one person. Everything that happens, everything we get involved in, becomes about us in relation to others at some stage.

That is how I feel about the cancer. The whole thing begins with me and is something I have had to deal with. It is also so much about everyone else.

From when the lump was found, I have found myself thinking about the effects on other people. I chose not to tell the family that there was something before I went for the mammogram. I just thought it would be good to not have everyone stressing about something that was potentially a nothing, or a nothing much.

Then, of course, there was the biopsy and the potential nothing became a possible something. That was the time to mention it to at least some of the family. When the results showed that the possible something was a definite thing, there was no doubt, for me, that that was the moment to tell everyone about it.

Maybe that was a selfish decision. Maybe I just wanted everyone to know so that there was not so much pressure on me, or so that it was easier for me.

Maybe not, though. Maybe the very act of sharing the news was about allowing everyone to be able to embark on the journey with me and to understand, rather than find out along the way and try to understand their own position in relation to something scary and so very, very alien to us all.

I firmly believe that the more we know and can understand, the easier it is to make sense of it. The family would have found out sometime exactly what was going on, so why not at the beginning? Why not all go into battle together? That way, we were there for each other from the outset.

Other people I know of are not so public with their journeys, choosing to keep some of the details to themselves. I don’t know if this is to spare those around them, or to allow themselves the space to be able to deal with the various stages of the journey as they come in their own way.

Whatever informs the decision about how to deal with something as scary as cancer and as arduous as the cancer journey can be, is very personal. There is, of course, not one way to do these things.

If you learn one thing very early about cancer, it is just that: there is not only one way. It seems that just about everything about cancer is different, even slightly, from someone else. That makes it easier and more difficult to deal with. In many ways, from the beginning right to where I am now, it would have been so much nicer to have had a kind of blueprint to understand where I was on the journey and where I could expect it all to lead – and how. And when.

People like to know, I think, especially when it comes to finding a cure for something, or treating an ailment.

Maybe the fact that a cancer journey is so very particular and so personal makes it easier to travel.

My involvement in the ‘I’ of this cancer thing is not so much selfish, then, as a way for me, simply, to find my way through (and along) what is a long ride with an uncertain end point, but with victory within my sights.

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