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30 May 2009: the Disease

Tired of The Disease’s distasteful interruption to my life. A coping mechanism, I suppose, to view it as a nuisance. Trying to quell the terror of the possibility of this new drug’s being just as ineffective as the last was. Nothing to do but wait–for that date, the next appointment, 17 June. I’m restless, uneasy; I don’t know how to approach the time til then. Yet I don’t have to “approach” it at all, I suppose–it will approach me, overtake me, as swiftly as the rest of it has.

I’m desperate to stay in the warmth of this moment, this memory, and without all the underlying anxiety–a still, hot Saturday with my bare feet in the garden grass–how could something like surgery, like death, be as real as this?

Mostly it’s the wistfulness of wishing this were ‘really’ my home, my life, that I could be cemented into it somehow without the feeling of wandering wraith-like through other people’s lives, the ghostly uncomfortableness knowing none of this belongs to me, nor do I deserve it.

My father has boked a ticket–four days I’ll see him, after an absence of years. His voice on the phone is tinged with desperation and worry. Both of us helpless, not knowing what to say to one another. The strange, enduring, inarticulate & inexplicable love.

I continue to exist with my imagined life of the mind while my real world recedes, its borders drawn in. I imagine expansion, and how wonderful it would be to have the money and ability to travel, as if, should I go far enough–or far enough away from my daily reality–I might be able to escape it.

How disgusting that news of more chemo would be a blessing. God, I am terrified of going into that room in two and a half weeks and being met with that assortment of chalk-eyed people.

I’ve become accustomed–appointments, pill-taking, exhaustion. The latest nurse who prodded my arms after asked, “How was the cannulation?”

“Great,”I said, and meant it. A relief not to have needed multiple needle pricks, to the point at which it was almost a pleasure. I’m at the point of becoming another one of those doe-eyed women in the ward, bored but unfazed by it all, allowing it to happen because there’s not other choice–realizing your own powerlessness, your insignificance in the system.

And I’d be happy with that, too, truly–all of the hospital bullshit–could I be assured this treatment were treating the disease. I wish I could perceive a difference, not constantly feel it, hard as a peach pit, cruel and unmoving.

If there is no just reason for having gotten cancer in the first place, is there any just reason I should recover without pain or even inconvenience? Most of me refutes entirely the possibility of a mastectomy at twenty-four–but what force will prevent it, not having protected me in the first place? (I cringe at my blasphemy–but it isn’t exactly a doubt of God, but rather the realization that any sort of Calvinistic predestination is not under my direction or at my discretion).

I get embittered by old women. Walking to East Hendred this morning I momentarily hated her, a grey-haired stranger in an overcoat, hands clasping Cadbury’s chocoaltes in their purple metallic wrappers. An overcoat! What right had she, I wondered, to live so long? And of course I was immediately ashamed of myself; God knows what she’s been through. What kind of discretion dictates existence? What sort of sick insistent logic might I apply?

Apocolyptic dreams last night, blood-red streets and starvation. Something about a cult concerning Jade Goody. And Anne Frank preparing to hide in an attic.

Waking knowing what the end would be; feeling cheated.

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Jade Goody & the mythology of redemption: the spectre of cancer in the media

Jade Goody–the Big Brother reality television “star”-cum-cancer martyr–died the day before I started my own chemotherapy. I remember standing on the platform at the Royal Oak train station, waiting to go to the hospital for my first chemo treatment, looking at everybody’s greedily-grabbed copies of the Metro and the London Lite; even in the “real” papers, Jade Goody was the front-page news (alongside findings of a recently-published study, coincidence or no, about the non-improvement of cancer survival rates in the UK).

 I don’t know how large the storm surrounding this woman was in the American media, but in England she was as ubiquitous as Big Brother himself: first for the car-crash entertainment value of her all-around ignorance and repugnance, with the cherry-on-top of racist allegations–and then for the car-crash entertainment value of her stage 4 cervical cancer, and society’s ensuing Schadenfreude at observing her decline, glued to the television with eyes wide.

She made a mint out of that damn cancer, and, maybe even more sickeningly, seemingly won everybody’s sympathy from the media exploitation of her sickness –from her showstoppin’ Cancer Special, to her eight-weeks-to-live “fairy-tale” white(trash) wedding, to which she sold the rights to Ok! magazine for £700,000. (A  few months after Goody’s death, her previously-incarcerated Prince Charming was arrested yet again for an alleged sexual assault on a teenager. This may want to be excluded from the Disney version of the Jade Goody Story).

The debate raged as to whether Jade, being dumb as pig shit, was the victim of the media’s agressive manipulation of her, or whether Jade, being an unscrupulous media whore, was in fact the one doing the manipulating of her audiences. But whoever was pulling the strings, the result was the same–as her Guardian obituary put it:

The pig who deserved burning had become our sacrificial lamb, garnished with sentiment. Britain had turned 180 degrees to embrace a woman it had earlier scorned. Symbolically, at least, it was the right time for Goody to die.

–what someone on the BBC referred to, as I listened to Radio 4 while waiting for my chemo, as “the mythology of redemption.” Continue reading

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