Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 4th March

When I taught at Wits a number of years ago, my Head of Department then used to talk about the ‘private summers’ he experienced. Of course, that seemed like years away to me then. Even as I approached 50, the idea of hot flushes and what goes with the turf seemed alien. Then I had to go onto hormone therapy for the cancer thing.

Now I understand 🙂

I have found that one of the things having no hair has messed up is my temperature control – or, at least, my temperature sensitivity. I can get very cold at times, mostly on my head. (They do say we lose a huge percentage of heat through our heads.) That is fairly easily remedied by the wearing of a buff, or bandanna. Then I will get uncomfortably hot at times, but that is also fairly easily managed by removing the head covering. In fact, one of the major reasons I didn’t even contemplate doing a wig and haven’t been fanatical about wearing something on my head, is because of the heat.

Then, of course, there are the times when the temperature control has nothing to do with the weather or ambient circumstances.

I was sitting in a class yesterday talking away, when the heat crept up on me. The funny thing is that it literally feels like it is doing that – creeping up the back of my neck and into my head. It happens every-so-often and does not last long, but can be really uncomfortable.

Oh well, I suppose this is another of those things that just goes with the turf and with which I will have to live for who knows how long.

I wonder if the associated symptoms with the hormone drugs last as long as the drugs do…

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a pinball – flicked from pillar to post, bouncing off one thing (treatment, test, moment in the cancer journey) to another. It’s almost like I want to yell ‘Stop!’ and just take a moment to step back and contemplate what is happening, or what has happened. That hasn’t been possible since this whole thing began, though. Even though there have been periods of waiting in this whole cancer thing, it has felt (and still feels) like a train that is set on a path with no stops along the way. The speed of the train varies, but the journey simply goes on.

Then, of course, there are those moments that stand out.

Tonight was one of those.

Dani was in a house play at school, playing a boy – great with her short hair! A parent asked me if the girls and I had shaved our heads because of the Shavathon. I explained that my hair is because of chemo, the girls because of me and the cancer. As I was explaining, I could see the faces of my audience reflect what was brought home to me again – how great this thing was that the girls had done. And how the boys have taken part too.

I think we all feel important at times, just as we feel completely insignificant at others. Often, we measure our worth in the reaction of others, or the way they receive us. It is so humbling, and so life-affirming, to be the recipient of the number of meaningful gestures my family has offered in so many ways – and continues to do so. It is similarly amazing to be the recipient of so many good wishes from so many along this journey.

I think our feelings of worth are not so much about the actual amount of attention we get from others, but, rather, about the type, intention and depth of that attention.

If my supporters are anything to go by, then I must be worth quite a lot. And that has to be the most life-affirming experience one can ever have.


  1. Mo Masukula says:

    Hi Mrs Ballot
    This is an inspiring piece but then again you were always inspiring. I have been trying to contact you to no avail. I phoned Abbott’s and they told me you left years ago. I was one of of your Drama students.

    Mo Masukula

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