Definition of nostalgia. 1: the state of being homesick: homesickness. 2: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition also: something that evokes nostalgia. – Merriam Webster
A few days ago I had a dream. It was one of those dreams that is felt so viscerally that even upon waking you just can’t shake it. In fact, this particular dream stayed with me all day like a weight on my chest. Now, I am a dreamer by nature. I dream a lot. I have terrible nightmares, beautiful daydreams, and strange fantasies. For better or worse, the majority of my life is spent in my head. But even some of the most gruesome nightmares, or heart wrenching dreams about loved ones passed, haven’t stung me like this.
In concept it was simple; I saw my ex and he told me he loved me. I remember maybe a minute of it, but the sheer intensity, the connection, the detail, that’s what shook me.
I held his strong, comforting arms as he pulled me close. I felt the bristles of his untrimmed facial hair brush my cheek as I burrowed into the crook of his neck. I could smell him. His smell. I had forgotten how sweet, yet earthy it was. Like him; gentle, but grounded. When I looked at him, his blue eyes swallowed me up like pools of water. I could see his every freckle and the deepening crinkles around his eyes. I could see his sadness and his fatigue, but in the way that only I would be able to notice. He was stoic and calm on the outside, as always. I could feel his fingers grip me tightly, keeping me safe and reminding me I am his, but still allowing me space to move and be free. Knowing he could never tame me, and that trying would be futile. He wore his own clothes. His real clothes. Not make believe things I had concocted in my mind. The smell. My heart was aching with a sense of foreboding. Maybe knowing deep down that I was going to wake up. And then he spoke. He said my name. The way only he could say it. The way that reminds you that you belong to someone in the best possible way. The way where you can hear they have said it, let it roll around their mouths and truly felt it thousands of times. It’s not even a name anymore, it’s just you. He gripped my face with his slightly weathered hands, freckled on the backs, with soft palms, and lightly calloused fingers. Hands that have never been raised to me, and only ever brought me pleasure. Hands that know more of my body than I know myself. And he just said, “I love you.”. That’s all he said, over and over. Torturously he repeated, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”.Each time he said it with more certainty, desperate to convince me of the truth behind the words, and with my eyes closed in my nostalgic dreamland, I believed him.
In truth, he could’ve been saying anything. What he was saying was brutal, but what really stuck with me the whole day was simply hearing the sound of his voice. Three years. That’s how long it has been since I’ve heard that voice. Yet, in the depths of my subconscious, I still know its every nuance. The recreation was faultless. Every infliction and change in intonation that, despite the words being said, would tell me everything about how he is (…was) feeling. Every pause. Every breath between words. The warmth, the timbre, the depth. It was perfect. I was jealous of the words for being inside his mouth. For being part of him. And of all the things he could have said, he chose to say my name. Mine. I felt special before realising my mistake. I’m just a sleepy girl in a room repeating her own name to herself, trying to get it just right. I wonder what my name sounds like from his lips today. I’m sure he wouldn’t even know. I wonder…but I don’t want to know.
They say a separation is as painful as a death. For me, this has been true. There are too many significant voices out there that I can never hear again. Voices that have spoken to me before I was even born (my father), and voices of those who have kept me alive with their strength, despite their lives coming to an end. And then there is ‘him’. His voice is still floating around out there somewhere. Saying other peoples’ names with conviction. Avoiding mine. But just like the voice of my father, I will never hear it again. And in his case, I really don’t want to.
Nostalgia; a word that paints such a delicate and romantic scene, but in actual fact, is quite cruel. Nostalgia takes (or creates) a beautiful memory and inserts a sense of longing, that by its very nature is unattainable. It is reaching out for something you loved and never being able to touch it again. The nostalgia of my dream created an idealised version of someone who has never existed. The ultimate dream-man, if you will. Whereas in my waking life, this person is demonised as a form of self-preservation. I must make him the baddie in my story or ill never wake up. Why would I if ‘dream-man’ is just a snooze button away? But the truth is that somewhere between these two creations lies some version of the truth. Not a demon, nor a dream. Just a guy doing the best he can. Not someone who could have saved me, or had the presumed power to destroy and break me. Just a guy who entered my heart when I wasn’t quite ready, and overstayed his welcome. Just a guy.
Below is an X-ray of what my spine looks like today, post spinal fusion. What you can see is the entire thoracic spine, fused together by titanium rods and screws. The contraption you see in the middle is the metal cage that was filled with powdered bone from one of my ribs, as a replacement for the vertebrae they removed. To the left of this metal contraption, on the left image, you can vaguely see an additional missing rib, which was removed as it was also infected by the cancer. The goal is that the rods will not move at all. I am just lucky that the thoracic area is the least mobile of the entire spine so it is not as noticeable as it would be in the lumbar or cervical areas. But, not gonna lie, it’s still a total buzz kill!
For context, please first catch up onPart 1&Part 2 of ‘The Cancer Chronicles’ at the links provided. Or alternatively, pick up at Part 3 for a mini re-cap.
After the nightmare of waking up prematurely post surgery with the breathing tube still down my throat, things slowly started to improve over the next several days. By day three I was moved into my own room and out of the madness that was the intensive care unit (ICU). I was finally relieved of the plastic drainage tube that had been wedged between my fractured ribs and partially deflated lung, allowing my breath to deepen from the bird-like sips of air I was previously taking in. Although still painful to breathe, this meant I no longer felt like I was suffocating. Praise baby Jesus! My nurses regularly encouraged me to cough, as to avoid a build up of fluid in my lungs, but the idea of that level of pressure against my bruised and wounded ribs was chilling. So, being the brat that I am, I would just look at them with you-gotta-be-shitting-me eyes, before letting out a pitifully weak, fake cough. This would usually be enough to be left alone for another day or so, before my acting chops would once again be put to the test.
At this stage I was still “nil by mouth”, meaning I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything for 5-days’ post surgery. The eating wasn’t a problem, I was so out of it on medication and bloated beyond recognition that I wouldn’t feel like eating for weeks (Disclaimer: However effective, I do not indorse this as a healthy form of weight loss… unless of course muscle-wasting-chic is your thang). However, the lack of water was torturous. I wasn’t even allowed ice chips. On a really special day my concerningly pregnant nurse would lean over me and dab a water-soaked cotton bud onto my dry, cracked lips (the same lips she would occasionally slather a thick layer of my favourite lip balm on, to help them heal. The smell of which now makes me dry heave). I was pathetically grateful and lapped up those cool, droplets of water like heroin! Which incidentally, I was allowed, in the form of morphine. What a world!I began begging the nurses to give me even a tiny sip of water but it was futile. I remember finally being allowed some ice chips to suck on. I must have looked so hopelessly ecstatic because the nurse looked at me and let out a slightly sorry grin as she handed me the tiny cup of frozen heaven. I would place a single chip at a time in my mouth, savouring each morsel. One by one I would let them melt on my tongue, enjoying the cold liquid for a moment before letting it drizzle down my throat with utter satisfaction. Momentary sweet relief.
I don’t know how to describe the pain that could even provide a glimpse of the all consuming, relentlessness of it. It was pain like I have never known before or since, and hope to never experience again. It was pain that made you pray for death just for the relief. But it would be the unexpected losses, which I had zero control over, that would end up testing my already fragile mental strength to the absolute limit. I recall the actual decision making process that I went through just to be okay with giving over any and all remaining dignity, as well as trying to override my basic human instincts and needs. I knew that if I let my desperation or pride get the better of me in any way, I’d be ruined. I would not make it.So you just don’t let your mind go there. You can’t. You must accept the pain of being split in two, because you are already on as much medication as is therapeutically possible. You gratefully accept that fact that your pee drains into a catheter, because you are unable to even roll to one side on your own, let alone stand and walk to the toilet 3 feet away. And you must find a way to let go of any sense of ego, as you will now be whore-bathed daily by nurses you’ve just met (who, for some cruel reason, all happen to look like Victoria Secret models. Is that a perk of private health?). There is no ideal way to prepare for a challenge of this magnitude. I was just thrust in and started to pray (for the first time in my previously self-absorbed life) to everyone and anyone I could think of, that I would have the mental stamina to survive. Sitting with intense uncomfortably and allowing things (everything) to happen to and for me, is a lesson I wish I could have carried out of that hospital, into my real life. Because if you don’t give up, what you find you are capable of is nothing short of superhuman.It’s completely fucked! But it’s astounding. It’s like you are forced to access this tiny corner of yourself that despite everything, still has the ability to find a little glimmer of calm, even though everything else in you wants to scream, cry and die. Let me be really clear. I am not special. I did not access this place out of strength, tenacity or positivity (lol). Quite the opposite actually. I found it because I literally had no other option. All the overt reactions that I desperately wanted to pursue, had been stripped from me. Calmness, found me, out of necessity. It was pure survival instinct.
I found being washed difficult. Not because I’m overflowing with dignity, in fact, I could probably do with a healthy helping of shame! No, more so because my body was so unrecognisable that I felt obligated to apologise and justify myself. Here’s something you don’t learn watching Grey’s Anatomy; it turns out when your body goes through such extreme physical trauma, it sort of ‘freaks out’ and all the fluid moves toward the surface as a protective mechanism. Don’t ask me the science behind it, but it’s essentially full-body swelling. Not dissimilar to when you sprain your ankle and it explodes into a cankle…only, everywhere. I found this quite confronting; and not only due to the exceptional uncomfortability of having my skin stretched to capacity like a human water balloon, or because my hands looked like someone blew up a pair of rubber gloves. Disappointingly, I was ashamed of my size (I can hear the eye rolls from here, trust me, I feel you!). Let’s attempt to make some sense of this utter head-fuckery, shall we?First of all, I am but a girl raised in an image-focussed world, which from the moment I first blinked was constantly reminding me that skinny and youthful is the only way to be worthy in this world(of what exactly? A man? Success? Existence? This part was never made clear to us women. It is seemingly unimportant as long as we resemble a Hadid or Kardashian). Additionally, I had gone into surgery very thin, too thin in hindsight. As the “good” little, recovering anorexic that I was; I obsessively followed the all-organic, sugar-free, gluten-free, protein-free, joy-free, real-life-free, “cancer-healing” lifestyle (AKA mentally toxic diet) that had been suggested to me at Camp Cancer (not it’s real name)! So, when I woke up looking moon-faced and 6-months pregnant, it was (yet another) shock I was not anticipating. How’s that for a mind fuck?
I think a lot of us have this idea that overcoming something as supposedly life-altering as cancer or a serious illness, guarantees us personal evolution and growth. Well, turns out…it ain’t that simple kids! *insert chain of expletives here* I was in a hospital with brilliant nurses who I was required to trust with everything from feeding me, to wiping my butt and here I was, worrying that they thought I was fat! Even in my morphine-fuelled paranoia I could step outside myself and see how insanely ridiculous that was, but fuck me, old habits die hard. Was I concerned about the foot-long scar that was now lining my back? Nurp. The fact that I would essentially be bed bound for the next 6-months? Hmm, not so much. I worried that my carers were gathering around the water cooler, talking about the HUGE bitch in room 305, as if they had nothing better to do! *Face palm*
On that incredibly discouraging note, I do want to add that 6 years on, the care-factor for how my body is perceived by others has decreased immensely. I am unsure however, if that is the trauma finally settling in and doing some helpful work, or if it just comes with age and experience. Like anything, it’s likely a mixture of many factors. This showed me that managing my expectations would serve me well. As yet, I have not mastered this fundamental skill, but hey, knowing is half the battle right? ….Right..? I was so disappointed in myself for giving a flying shit about my body swelling up like the elephant man, instead of directing all my energy into my healing. This was anxiety that was completely unnecessary and unhelpful. The reason it upsets me so much is that I have seen it before in loved ones who have had terminal cancers. They are dying and yet further their suffering by devastating themselves over the weight gained from their steroids and other medications. It is truly heartbreaking and, in all honestly, I don’t know what we can do about it. How about diversifying the way in which women are portrayed in media, destroying all social media platforms (or why not the internet all together!), and taking down the patriarchy once and for all! Might be a good jumping off point? Who’s with me! … Yeah, this could take a while…
As I was lying in my hospital bed stressing that I looked like a shiny, overgrown baby, my nurses were more concerned about how to turn, wash and moisturise me. I had to be rotated and marinated, like a pig on a spit, a couple of times a day as to avoid bed sores and help blood circulation, as I couldn’t move on my own. The problem was that my spine was in twain and still far to vulnerable to risk twisting it in any way. Therefore, it would take 3-4 nurses to perform said spit-roast… I mean turn. There would be someone on each shoulder, at least one person on my legs and hips and on a lucky day, I would even get someone to man my head. This was all just to roll me onto my side for a maximum of 20 seconds so they could scrub me down, lather me up with moisturiser, and quickly lie me back down. Look, I love attention more than Mariah loves a high note, but I did not look forward to these turns. I couldn’t breathe on my side as the pressure of the bed against my rib was too much for my weakened lungs to push against. I would have to time my breath right before they rolled me and hope I would have enough air in my lungs to last the distance. I only remember one time I was left on my side for too long and I started to splutter for air. I was just starting to pass out as the team of nurses returned me onto my back.
For the most part, my nurses were wonderful with me; kind, gentle and sensitive in delicate situations. One was even so sweet while wiping my ass that I cried and wrote her a thank-you note! She was truly an angel and definitely in the right job. The doctors were different however. Obviously extremely talented and proficient in their fields, but often lacking patience and compassion to the same degree. I had a really horrible experience in ICU when the nurses designated to my bedside were unable to access a vein to insert one of my cannulas. My poor little veins were like dried up worms left in the sun too long, as I was so completely dehydrated. The nurses had tried numerous times in each of my elbows and just as I overheard them talking about shoving it in between my toes, in an ohmage to Amy Winehouse, a doctor came over in a huff. We were clearly wasting his precious time. I was high as a fucking kite and only 24-hours out of surgery at this stage, but even I could tell this guy was being a jack-ass! He was acting as if it was my fault for not having plumb, juicy veins and the nurses’ incompetence for not being able to access them. In his anger for being called down to perform such a ‘menial’ task he started stabbing at my wrist with the thick needle. I don’t know how many times he tried before he decided this was getting cruel and he went to get some numbing cream so he could continue his massacre. However, I do know that 6 years on, I still have 5 small scars on my left wrist from this incident. Just for comparisons sake, I had dozens of cannulas in each elbow and wrist over the course of the 2 weeks I was in hospital and hundreds of blood tests taken in the same elbow over my 2 years of treatment. Despite that, I do not have one single scar in any other area, other than where this c*nt-monkey butchered me. Again, I couldn’t cry, scream or tell him to go “eat a bag of dicks!” as much as I would have loved to, as this would only increase my discomfort. But there was no preventing the silent tears that were rolling down my cheeks. The nurses’ felt my pain and comforted me gently but they had no power in this situation, and neither did I. He probably thought I wouldn’t remember how he treated me because of the state I was in, but this was one of the most traumatic parts of the whole procedure and there was absolutely no need for it to be. I felt like an annoying, irrelevant, pin cushion.
Unfortunately, this was not my only disturbing interaction with a doctor. This is tough for me to write, even as the over-sharer that I am. As even for me, it is hard to make sense of. After about one week in hospital, still in an extremely delicate condition, my primary surgeon came in to check-up on me and deliver some news. For context, I had only re-learned how to sit up at day 5 and attempted standing for the first time, around day 6 or 7. This is important, because had I been physically able, I would have flown across the room and beat the living shit out of his scalp-happy ass; Negan from The Walking Dead style. Trust and believe! But, I digress. He entered my room, where mum was sitting by my bedside. He had this strange, nervous grin on his face as he told me the medical team had been analysing the area of my spine they had just removed. I could tell he was dancing around telling me something important, but as he had essentially just saved my life, I was trying to be polite and attentive. I can not recall his exact words, because as he spoke my head filled up with so much burning rage that all I could hear was a high-pitched squeal and the pounding of my own heartbeat between my ears. But the general gist was this…
He stood wringing his hands and standing with his back to the wall, as far away from me as he could physically get. Even as a 23-year-old, weak, immobile girl; I still must have looked fucking terrifying. Good. He stammered anxiously over his words as he told me that the vertebrae they had removed no longer contained the tumour they had cut me open to retrieve.I stared silently at him, oscillating between blind rage and complete heartbreak. My face must have been displaying this, because I’ve never seen a fully grown, highly accomplished man, so petrified in my life. There I was, lying in front of him in agony so severe that I am in and out of consciousness and he has just told me that I am and was, tumour free all along. What the actual dick? I felt like I was going to be sick. I fell into shock and although I didn’t feel in my body anymore, I heard myself ask all to politely, “So…why did you do the surgery?”, to which he nervously chuckled and replied, “I thought you’d ask that.”. DID YOU? Did you think I’d ask that?!My, your powers of deduction astound me sir! Fucking ass hat.
In reality, I have to give the nerd a break, but it’s tough man. He went on to explain that the treatment had been so successful in converting my jelly-like tumour into bone, that it had calcified it entirely. This was a good thing and what we had hoped the chemo would do, but it had exceeded expectations in its efficacy. I think it was assumed it would calcify the outer layer of the tumour but not the entirety. Therefore, they were shocked upon opening it up to find only more calcified bone. He further explained that had the tumour been somewhere less dangerous, such as a toe for example, he would have considered taking me off the chemo and testing whether or not the tumour reverted back to its previous, jelly-like state (which was the suspected outcome) or whether it safely remained as new bone. However, due to the proximity of my tumour to my spinal cord and the risk of paralysation, this was not a chance my medical team were willing to take. I understand this and could even make sense of it at the time, despite my anger and confusion. But in all honestly, I think I would have been happier just not knowing. I could have lived in blissful ignorance for the rest of my life…or at least wait until I have full use of my limbs again! The timing wasn’t ideal…
This whole experience, both in the short and long-term, has taken so much of my health, happiness and life. Therefore, it’s almost impossible not to wonder what could have been. Maybe the tumour comes back and I end up having the surgery, leaving me in the same position I am in now… but maybe it doesn’t, and my life could have been so immeasurably different. Better. I know it isn’t that simple, and getting locked on ‘what ifs’ is a dangerous place to live, but when I look at my life before and after the surgery, I can’t help but think, what if we had just tried. Now, 6 years on and I am unable to work from living with sever chronic pain and trauma-induced fibromyalgia (me and Gaga alike!), my mental health is under constant strain, and my weeks are broken down into which day I see certain medical specialists. I desperately cravea life that isn’t dictated by how I feel when I wake up in the morning. It has been a long time. Way too long. And unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be something you get used to. Not for me anyway. I do not seem to be gaining acceptance of my condition or strength with time. In truth, I feel as though I’m eroding. I am tired; a to the bone, heavy hearted, just fucking exhausted, kind of tired.
So, from the bottom of my old, shrivelled heart, thank you for reading. This little blog gives me purpose and helps me clarify and confront parts of my life that I have been running from and burying for a very long time. I never really expected anyone to read, but you are, and it’s truely humbling. Whether you are simply reading, commenting on my writing or offering an insight into how you have been able to relate to my stories, it is all deeply encouraging. Every one of you who takes an interest in my writing contributes to my life in an extremely profound way. Once again, thank you.
The other day my favourite human sent me, what was for him, a really simple, throw-away text message. We were texting back and forth for hours, as we do, while simultaneously bingeing on some trashy Bravo T.V. goodness (#lifegoals). I made a comment about the most recent idiotic/impulsive decision I had made and after thorough personal analysis (hours of obsessive torment), I concluded it was probably driven by the total lack of emotional regulation that comes from my, oh! so convincing and always ‘interesting’; borderline personality disorder (BPD). If only blaming all my troubles on mental illness stood up in a court of law… ho hum! It is unfortunate, but the only mental illness I am still worried about being stigmatised for is BPD. So naturally, I must write about it. I have been told that many doctors refuse to treat it as they see it as a hopeless case. I’ve been marked as an ‘un-dateable’, being told “I can deal with the bipolar but NOT BPD!”. And honestly… I get it. The perception of the condition is that of a selfish, manipulative, highly sensitive, suffocatingly needy, soul-sucking-dementor and quite frankly, that image isn’t entirely wrong (except in my case I tend to feed on the human heart, as opposed to souls. Just a personal preference). It doesn’t matter how I dress up or rationalise my volatile outbursts or ‘irrational’ behaviours (but by golly I’ll try!); like how they stem from issues of abandonment rooted in childhood, or how I can justify the fact that my ‘positive’ emotions are just as strong as the ones that make me act out. Meaning my capacity for love is so great that Romeo and Juliette would pale by comparison! It’s irrelevant, because at the end of the day, I am erratic and unpredictable and that makes people uncomfortable. To quote Rhianna, I can go from “zero to sixty in 3.5” and it freaks people the fuck out! I prefer to think of myself as an acquired taste, like foie gras or that fish that will poison you to death if you eat the wrong piece…but mostly it just means I am seen as rather off-putting, dangerous and unnecessarily over-the-top. So, when my bestie casually text me saying “Your BPD is my favourite thing about you.”, the kid got me shook! I don’t think I had ever felt so completely accepted by anyone in my entire life. Okay, I’ll level with you, there’s no denying he is a total fucking weirdo himself, but hey, all the best people are…
I’m an open book. If you’ve read any of my blogs you know that I ain’t holding back, but when it comes to my relationships with people, I won’t lie, it’s difficult. I’m difficult. I have many acquaintances and very few close friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a riot for a night out! Take me to a party and I will own that shit! Jokes are on fire, I’m looking tight, charm-factor is turnt up, I know how to use words like turnt and lit. For a night of debauchery and fun, I’m your girl!But, as the trail of ex-boyfriends I’ve left behind will attest to, I’m hard work long-term. “Exhausting” is a word I’ve heard a lot. In fact, this isn’t easy to write, as the majority of my brain glitches stem from my intense fear of abandonment. There is the rational fear that reading this could potentially push the few people I hold dear away and prevent me from becoming closer to others. But as someone who knows what it feels like to carry the burden of BPD, I think it’s important to be assured that we are not alone and we are loveable. There are other weirdos out there just like you, who will understand you and see your ‘flaws’ as your greatest superpowers! On a completely unrelated note: PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME! I LOVE YOU! I’LL LOVE YOU TO DEATH!
If you’re unfamiliar with BPD, a quick google search is sure to scare your thong right off (if I haven’t done that already). But unless you are a truly extreme case, it tends to blend so fluidly into our personalities that we are often simply seen as sorta kooky, dramatic and highly sensitive. The creative type, if you will. As the child of a very charismatic drama teacher and an aspiring thespian in my own right, this worked in my favour a lot of the time. In primary school my music teacher labelled me “the girl of a thousand faces!”, because I was a different person everyday. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure there is medication for that… However, as much as I could hide my constant need for validation and acceptance as a desire for the performing arts and stage, I couldn’t hide the fact I was still a little odd-ball. Being a sensitive child who showed vulnerability and reacted to said bullying, oh man, I was Christmas, New Years and Hanukah all in one convenient package for a kid with a chip on his or her shoulder! It was like I wore a florescent sign on my head that constantly flashed “if poked, will cry!” and boy did they poke this bear.
As a kid I was told I was “too sensitive”, a “drama queen”, or an “attention-seeker” on a daily basis, both by other children and teachers. I incessantly heard that others felt they were “walking on eggshells around me”. That’s always been a comment that has bothered me. As a kid with limited processing resources (shit, as an adult with limited resources!), all I heard was “your reaction to this event is over-the-top and therefore wrong”. This is a really scary feeling as a child because all we have to process the world is what we are taught and what we feel. But, no one is really taught feelings (or if they are, I missed that class). So there I was, already upset about said ‘event’ (lets say someone threw an orange rind at my head and I felt picked on), but then I start to cry or yell at the perpetrator and I’m told to “get over it” because it’s just an orange rind and I’m “overreacting”. But wait, now I’m confused because to me this reaction feels totally justified!? So now I am doubly upset because not only was I upset about feeling targeted but I’ve just been told that my feelings are wrong. Only now I can’t let it show that I’m upset or stand up for myself, because I’ve just learned that those feelings are invalid. So I end up suppressing my humiliation and confusion until it is no longer possible and it blows up in the next persons face who does or says something slightly off colour to me, causing the cycle to continue. As a child it is frustrating. As an adult it feels like gas-lighting. But as a bonifide mental person it causes either and implosion or explosion of emotions as I attempt to figure out how to react. What is a “normal” response to this? What is justified? Will I end up gas-lighting myself and allow myself to be walked over for fear of a disproportionate reaction? Oops, decisions times up, BLAM!!! This process essentially repeated itself for the next 20 years to varying degrees of intensity, until I became the all-too cliché substance-abusing, in-and-out of psych wards, unemployed, pushing-30 and perpetually-single (but still highly attractive in that Angelina-Jolie-in-Girl-Interrupted-type-way), gal you see before you! C’mon fellas! Put a baby in me!
Basically, this very basic example taught me that I ‘lifed’ wrong. That I was wrong. It meant that for the rest of my life I would never feel like I “fit in” which would flip/flop me between feelings of grandeur, like I was the fucking Queen of England…but like, a young, hot version! Or, I would feel like a worthless, hopeless, useless piece of hideous, gutter trash. I was never just, simply fine. To this day I still struggle with this. It has gotten better, but it will always be work because I will always be work. There will never be a time I am not in some form of therapy and working on myself. If that day comes I better be Ghandi-meditating-in-a-cave-in-the-Himalayas-level tranquil because the only other option would be that I would have given up and the reality of that is far to real for many people living with BPD (and other mental illness).
I recently learned that 70% of people with BPD will attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime and 10% will be successful. What the actual fuck?! I know cancer patients that have better odds than that! The stats for bipolar are similar and if you have more than one mental illness the percentage significantly jumps up again. I believe suicide is such an issue, not only because the condition itself can make average, daily encounters unbearable but also due to misdiagnosis. Most people are diagnosed in their 20’s, meaning they have had at least two decades of deeply rooting in poor coping mechanisms and habits before they can even attempt to heal, which itself is a slow and arduous (some will argue impossible) task. Doctors and Psycho’s alike have usually labelled us with a number of other disorders throughout our youth, like anxiety to explain our intense neediness, depression to understand our insatiable loneliness, and/or bipolar to make sense of our rapidly fluctuating and unregulated mood swings. No wonder all my ex’s individually came up with the descriptor “rollercoaster” for me! And there I thought it was because I was such a fun ride! *wink* Heyyyowwww!
Personally, I have experienced suicidal ideation for months and years at a time. If you haven’t, I am unbelievably relieved for you and if you have, from the bottom of my heart I’m sorry and I am here for you (I mean that, hit me up if you feel alone). It is nothing short of torture. I recently saw one of my doctors and she was so pleased to see how well I was doing because less than 2-months ago I was done. Out! I was about to call the loony bin to check me right back in and give me a vegetive-state-enducing lobotomy! I have worked really hard on myself in that time but even I am surprised by the progress this time around. Today, I can honestly say I feel better than I have in years, both mentally and in regards to the chronic pain and fatigue conditions I live with (which have a cyclic effect on my mental health too). However, I know how quickly things can change. I know how quickly I can be triggered into a reaction that could take me right back to square one.
I’m not going to tackle the debate about whether or not suicide is selfish or justified. Not today anyway. I have very alternative views on suicide (and selfishness too actually) and I think I’ve opened enough room for debate in this blog already! Nevertheless, I will say this. Two years ago my mum came into my room after hearing me whaling in agony. These screams were guttural, coming from the deepest pit of my stomach. I have never felt so much pain in my life. The 9-hour, full spinal resection I endured a few years earlier would have been a relief. No word of a lie. This whaling was not a once off. This was every. single. day. for an entire year and I had well and truly surpassed my breaking point. The thread I had been holding on by was long gone. I had lost (to death or perceived abandonment) so many people in such a short amount of time and I was completely and utterly heartbroken. Maybe it’s because of my wavering mental health that I felt it so intensely, I’ll never know, but I have been through cancer, the spinal surgery, addiction recovery/relapse, anorexia, rape, chronic pain and so much mental health bullshit I should have my very own Dr. Phil on speed dial; but heartbreak is the most excruciatingly painful experience I have ever been through.
Mum sat quietly at the end of my bed as I looked up at her from behind red, puffy eyes, exhausted from tears, and I begged her to let me die. I was calm now. I explained it all; how it would benefit the family and free me, how I was in such excruciating pain. How I could physically feel my heart tearing apart and my stomach sickly squirming and clenching without a second of respite. How deeply angry I was and how I felt it was cruel to keep me alive when I was in such all consuming agony. Honestly, if I had been a cancer patient I would have been on life support. I was terminal. I can’t imagine what it felt like as a mother to watch the child you brought into the world suffer in that way and be ungrateful for ‘the gift of life’.
Let it be known that my mum is one strong-ass Queen to be mother flipping reckoned with!
In her desperation she said the one thing that she knew would work when nothing else would, when not even a mothers’ love was enough, “you will destroy your brother.”. What was left of my heart dropped to the floor because I knew she was right. We’d just lost our dad. My brother and I had been best friends our entire lives.
One would not survive without the other. As much as she wanted to, mum wasn’t able to fix my pain but she provided, what mums do best, a little guilt trip (omg JK! Not the time? ), that lasted just long enough to keep me alive and those few words have helped me many times since. I won’t lie, I still fall into extreme depression at times but the decision is made now and there is no going back. I will never commit suicide. As bad as I may get, I will drag myself kicking and screaming to therapists and psycho’s, psych-wards and hospitals. I will allow myself to stay in bed for days and weeks at a time and exist solely on cereal and peanut butter if that is the only way I can work on my number one priority, survival. I will do whatever it takes to continue to find the tiniest little spark of hope inside that has helped me remember myself in the past and launch it into a blazing fire, because I have no other choice. I only have my mum and my bro left and let’s face it, they would be completely lost without me (or at least really fucking bored!)! I may be a nutcase, but I’m sure as hell fun!
*Loss – Referring to loss through both death and relationship breakdowns. To a person with BPD both are perceived as abandonment.
Of all the differences my father and I had, we shared two important things in common; we were both undiagnosed bipolar for most of our lives, and our destructive/obsessive tendencies were idealised as passion and determination. This meant that as an intensely and often irrationally anxious child my fear of failure was fostered and admired, eventually letting it overrule and guide my every move. Sure, this had some positive influence in my life; while all the other high school kids were smoking cigarettes behind the soccer oval, I refused to take a puff for fear of damaging my oh-so-precious voice that was certain to make me millions one day! By the age of twelve I had already decided I was going to be a superstar, just like Charlotte Church or Britney Spears (clearly prior to their subsequent meltdowns which, ironically, ended up likening much more to my life story after all…). I couldn’t see the value in risking what I believed was my destiny for something as trivial as looking cool. Besides, I would have plenty of time for that when I was selling out arenas world-wide! Of course, as the slightly overweight, boofy-haired, choir dork that I was, I never had to worry too much about my coolness factor getting out of control. On the other hand however, that obsessive drive that constantly simmered inside me, provided me with the “strength” (crippling anxiety) that led to a fierce battle with anorexia. Tell me one more time how it’s a shame because I have such a “pretty face” and I’ll show you another meal I replaced with a Berocca or sugar-free gum (damn, adults can be c*nts)! All this to say that I had a goal (fame, fortune and admiration… obvs) and I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that. Even proudly starve myself to the bone.
I was well aware of my addictive tendencies growing up. I’d make silent pacts with myself not to get tattoos, or smoke, and plastic surgery was out for fear of winding up looking like a Real Housewife before they really figured out the secret to good lip filler (no disrespect Lisa Rina, you know I love you)! I remember trying speed for the first time and thinking “Holy fucking, fuck-tits batman!”, (or something to that avail). I loved it so much that I instantly vowed never to touch that beautiful nose candy ever again. I knew there were only so many times I would be able to say no before I would never say no again. Suffice to say, I had a thorough life plan mapped out and being a cancer-ridden junkie was not part of it. Jokes on me I guess…
I was practical with my diagnosis. I never asked “why me?”. I had no time for a pity party. I just wanted to move forward so I could claim my life back and get back on track with the immaculately detailed ‘lifeplan’ I’d been working on since I was 5. As I saw it, I had already wasted enough time from pain to diagnosis. Now I had to spend another 18-months on the drug trial before I could even think about having the surgery and finally begin the lengthy recovery process. When was I supposed to achieve world domination? A girls got shit to do, damnit!I wasn’t allowed to work anymore as it was too risky for my health, but all I could hear in my head was the incessant tick-tick-tick of time passing me by. I’d gone from working 4 jobs like an ADD kid off his Ritalin, to watching reality T.V. for 9-hours a day. I was loosing the fucking plot.
I desperately tried to tell myself that this was some kind of test to help me slow down and learn to smell those bloody roses enlightened people are always on about. But, in my mind I had been late for “success” since my sixteenth birthday so every second that wasn’t utilised felt like a failure. Why sixteen you may well ask? Sixteen is nothing more than an arbitrary number I plucked out of my arse as a kid, when I obnoxiously declared to my father that that would be the age I would achieve the afore mentioned superstardom and/or world domination (either was fine, I wasn’t picky). I stored his bemused smirk in the ‘I’ll-show-you’ compartment of my brain and let it fuel the fire in my pre-teen gut. Because that’s what I needed, more reason to kick my own arse! So at 21, already 5 years late to my utterly delusional and completely imagined concept of success, I was essentially in a constant spiral of rage-jealousy and/or depressive-failure. Here’s a tip kids; have low expectations. Seriously. Can we please stop teaching children that if they work hard they can achieve anything, like we’re fucking accolade cheerleaders? It encourages perfectionist behaviour, cultivates a fear of failure, builds pressure/anxiety and it’s simply not true. In my humblest of opinion…
Although a habit I still struggle with today; those reality T.V. marathons did teach me something. When I wasn’t watching Heidi and Spencer (Speidi; for the die hards) on The Hills, I was addicted to Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew (I believe they call that irony…). To this day, still one of the greatest shows of its time; not to be outdone by Sex Rehab with Doctor Drew or the classic spin off, Sober House. Ahh, they were simpler times! What I learned by watching Grease’s Kenickie go through his tragic and ultimately fatal battle with opiate addiction on Celebrity Rehab, is such; spinal surgery is dangerous and excruciating, pain killers are addictive and sexy pilates instructors can make you feel better momentarily, but ultimately you will die a slow and agonising death. Shit. With this in mind I went to my next appointment at the cancer clinic armed with questions.
I sat in a sterile room with my father and the head of my clinical trial, who essentially was my dad, 20 years and 30kgs ago. These two autistic nerds talked excitedly to one another about the wonders of modern medicine while I sat there, doing my best imitation of a slightly animated test tube with stuck-on googly eyes. I was worried. I thought back to that first line of speed and simultaneously felt a pang of fear and excitement, which rang danger alarms in my head. I was young but there are parts of me I knew better then than I do today, or at least used to listen to. I just knew if anyone was going to get hooked on pain pills it would be me. I didn’t have time to waste getting wasted! What about my goals? My plans! What’s that saying? ‘We make plans and God laughs’. Years on and “God” is still pissing herself laughing like a mum of triplets in a Zumba class at me! Bitch.
When the nerd-lingers (or the super-important-men-who-were-actually-saving-my-life) finally remembered there was an actual living, breathing patient in the room, I had the opportunity to ask how most people fair coming off the post-operative drugs, namely the opiates (oxy’s). I was swiftly assured that as I start to heal and feel better I will simply not need them anymore and will naturally wean off. Simple. Natural. Easy… I internally groaned and externally rolled my eyes,knowing that wouldn’t be me and instead I was much more likely to be another fucking Kenickie; wheelchair bound and screaming at nurses in a rehab facility by 50 (flash forward 6 years; turns out I’m way more efficient than Keni and would be found doing this by age 27, never to be outdone). I couldn’t bring myself to push the subject in front of my dad, who innocently suspected I was a majestic earth-bound angel, who radiated purity and bliss. And although he wasn’t too far off, I wasn’t about to shatter his illusion, so I shut my mouth and never mentioned it again.
By this stage I was starting to get angry at the world. My friends were all at the stage of their lives where they were graduating from their degrees and entering the work-force for their first real adult jobs. Their biggest concerns being where to have Saturday night drinks and if their new colleagues would like them. And then there was me; unable to work, isolated, bored to literal insanity, suffering intense pain and pumped with experimental chemo and pre-surgical pain killers. Not to mention the typical angst an early 20-something feels anyway as they try to spread their wings for the first time to leave the nest, only in my case, them wings done broke! This is where Schmoo and I really leaned on each other. We were two young, fierce and fabulous gals about town who, at this stage, still looked “normal” AKA healthy. We could still function relatively independently and our main disability was everyone else’s inability to understand what we were going through!
Schmoo was always a vison. Just to sit down at our local soup joint she was always dressed like an off-duty supermodel in understated designer clothes, immaculate jewellery and smelling like something I definitely couldn’t afford. I’d sit there in my no-name, see-through leggings that I’d been wearing since I was 14 and she’d just laugh with that whole-body cackle that was signature Schmoo, as she called me a pauper and paid for my coffee. Occasionally she’d let me pay, just to make me feel like the baller I certainly wasn’t. It was appreciated.
Every week we would get together and bitch about how our families couldn’t possibly understand us and our friends were so lucky they didn’t have cancer, and basically just vent about the shit-storm that was our lives! And in doing this, we laughed, a lot. These conversations were some of the most cathartic and hilarious of my life. Of course nobody could relate to us! Who the fuck gets cancer in their early twenties and ends up making besties with another cancer-kid?!Nobody, that’s who! We knew that, but we were each others’ outlet. A safe place to release our pain, frustration and vent about everyone and everything that pissed us off. Our socially inept doctors, our mountains of medication that made us rattle when we walked, our isolation and loneliness, our stupid boyfriends who were trying so hard and yet failing so spectacularly, our friends and their “trivial” problems which, in reality, were completely justified but let’s face it, cancer’s hard to beat! Together we would laugh about all the mother-fuckery that had become these lives that we no longer recognised, and in that we found some relief. I can’t imagine going through this experience without my Schmoo. We were two extremely unfortunate kids who found some hope in each other and in that, we were lucky.
There used to be this homeless man who would occasionally walk past our soup bar and stop for a chat. Nice guy, if a little kooky. One day he sat down with Schmoo and I and started telling our fortune. He told me I hadn’t yet met the man of my dreams and that Schmoo would live into her 90’s. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case but I believe it gave her enough hope to keep “fighting” a little longer. He spouted a lot of insane shit for about an hour and although we suspected it was 99.9% bullshit we tipped him generously for his entertainment and kind distraction. I hate that word fighting. Like all it takes to beat cancer is brute strength! I’m telling you, if that’s all it took Schmoo would’ve had me beat 100 times over. Nobody fought as hard as she did. Nobody loved life as much as she did! She was just hungry for every experience she could sink her teeth into. I admired that in her so much and I desperately craved that in myself. The girl had 5 brain surgeries over 4 years, spent a year as her own nurse attached to an IV bag that constantly dripped chemo into her veins, had her skull literally fucking cave in on her and was still able to meet and marry the love of her life. That’s right, while she was travelling the world for all the most cutting edge medical treatments available (oh, did I not mention that? Yeah…that too), she was also planning her spectacular dream wedding at the same time! She. Was. Unstoppable. I on the other hand spent most of that time in the foetal position, moaning and discovering how to shovel oxy up my nose. Each to their own I guess!
Survivors guilt is a real thing.I generally find existence extremely difficult. I’ve got a brain with a few faulty wires that prevents me from regulating my emotions, so I’m basically a constantly swinging pendulum, my body is the Queen of the malfunction and I live in a fairly perpetual state of existential crisis. Yeah, I’m a blast! I can’t tell you how may times I looked at my Schmoo and wished we could trade places. Give me the terminal brain tumour and let her live the fabulous, travel, adventurous, wildly sexy, exotic foodie, life that she would have lapped up! But it wasn’t the case. I don’t know if I believe in meant-to-be’s and what not but I do know that if Schmoo was in my position, if she had been the one to survive, that she wouldn’t waste her second chance pissing around like a depressive little twat. What she would do is exactly this. She would write. She would write about her exeriences great and small and rather than be egotistically driven for world domination and fleeting Lindsey-Lohan style fame, she would want to make an impact. She would want to place her stamp on the world for something meaningful. So… here’s me doingjust that*!
* Originally I wrote “Here’s me trying” but I instantly heard the Schmoo in my head saying “Trying!? There’s no such thing as trying! Just do it girl!”.She didn’t do anything by halves and wouldn’t accept it from anyone else. She was the most inspiring person I’ve ever met and I’m lucky that I have her voice in my head everyday, continuing to push me, encourage me and elevate me to have the best life imaginable.
Love you Schmoo and so much love to the Schmoo Clan, both family and friends.
At 20-years-old, I fell in love with a boy. Very early into our relationship we learned that his gorgeous mother had developed a tumour in her brain which, within only several months, would take her life. Prior to this experience the concept of death was relatively abstract to me. I’d lost pets, distant relatives and was a complete mess when Mufasa died in the Lion King (spoiler alert). At that age I’d never watched anyone deteriorate in front of my eyes, or held someone’s hand as they breathed the words, “hopefully tomorrow…” when praying for their own death. I’d never watched someone I love, completely tortured by helplessness for a dying parent, friend or child. These days however, I can’t say the same. I have been heavily exposed to loss and even had to process the concept of my own mortality several times throughout my 29 years.Even several months before my dad passed away he told me that I’d seen more death and illness than anyone he knew. So much so, that I labelled 2016 ‘The year of 1000 deaths!’ and was convinced that I’d somehow been cursed by an evil witch to turn everything I touched into dead. Worst. Superpower. EVER!
I’ve been through the stages of healing into a “survivor” and subsequently crumbling back into bitterness so many times that I don’t even know where I stand anymore. I drift somewhere between grief and growth with occasional drunken rage black-outs where I desperately want to stab someone in the eye with a fork. I don’t know much of anything, but one thing I have learned is that grief is not linear and reactions are so individual they often appear nonsensical or unrelated to “real life”. I think we have this image that when you go through something major that you will just wake up more highly evolved than you were before. But in fact it tends to be a more agonising, chipping away at your heart and soul until you either develop a thick skin to survive, or if you’re me, develop a pretty intense addiction problem and file life in the too-hard-basket of your brain for several years! However, at 20, I still had the blissful ignorance of youth on my side which made this primary experience with death extremely overwhelming and confronting.
Simultaneously, as I was learning of the fragility of life and the rapid transition from health to illness and illness to death; I began to develop quite sever, chronic and acute back pain. I’d been teaching yoga for a couple of years at this point and assumed I had contorted myself into a pretzel one too many times and badly pulled a muscle. But after months of crying in agony for my mumma and seeing every specialist under the sun, my GP decided it was time to investigate further and get some scans done. As I lay in the CT machine for the first time with an IV of dye being pumped into my arm, the lab technician leaned over me and delicately said, “Now, don’t panic but…” (always a great way to stop someone from panicking), “…there is a chemical in the dye that’s going to make you feel like you’ve wet yourself. You won’t, but you will reeeaaally feel like you have.” (Brain to self – “wot dis bitch say?!”). I’ll let you use your imagination for how that all played out. Fucking dye.
The pain was unbearable and had been going on for almost 6-months by the time I was finally sitting in front of a solemn-faced doctor. I had been through pretty much every possible scenario in my head, so I thought I was prepared for what he was about to tell me. I was just desperate for an answer by this stage. Unfortunately, that answer was cancer. Only months earlier we had buried my boyfriends’ mum and now here we were, staring down the barrel of the gun again.
My doctor talked at me as I entered that state people go to in movies when they receive bad news. You know the one; there’s that loud, high-pitched ringing in your ears, your sight fades into tunnel vision, your freezing but covered in sweat, it’s likethere’s a bowling ball in my stomach and a desert in my mouth (okay, now I’m just quoting Tori Amos). From what I pieced together from subsequent conversations, I had an extremely rare form of spinal tumour. Seriously, trust me to just need to be different! Even with cancer I’m extra.
As a creative and arguably interesting woman it is so indescribably frustrating when something you literally have zero control over becomes the most fascinating thing about you. I mean really, if I’m going to be getting any attention at all it better be for my witty intellect… and dis sweet ass (obvs)! While I’m up here on my soap box, let’s look at the word “inspirational”. I always struggled with being called this during my cancer “journey” for lack of a better word (kindly punch me in the face with a thesaurus next time you see me). Of course it’s always nice to be described as inspirational, but it’s a strange compliment to receive for being sick. If it was for my writing or my music, or someone took one of my yoga classes and suddenly burst through this most basic evolutionary plane into enlightenment, then by all means! Feel encouraged to feed my ego with #inspo posts. But… I literally did nothing. In fact, I did less than nothing, I malfunctioned resulting in cancer. I wasn’t even strong enough to be a martyr about it! I complained about it…a lot. I was a massive jerk for years because I was in agony and I was scared. There was nothing inspiring about how I handled cancer.
So my super unique, inspirational tumour had eaten away an entire vertebra in my thoracic spine (T6 for any anatomy nerds out there), as well as a corresponding rib. I was told that the tumour was rapidly growing and had the consistency of jelly, which put me in a very dangerous position. As my surgeon so delicately put it, “if you can imagine your spine like a carrot… If something were to cause a sever enough jolt, like you have a fall or get into a car accident, your spine could quite easily snap in two as there’s nothing holding it together in the middle.”. Little did he know that I had a history of being the worlds shittest driver so this was all too real for me! (Cue jaw drop and audible blinking). Cheers for that super cute visual doc! Much love. Fortunately for me, I grew up with a father who was on the Asperger’s spectrum, meaning I wasn’t overly disgruntled by my surgeons’ surprising bedside manner and in fact, it reassured me somewhat. Surely someone with such awful people skills must be a genius…right? Well, he couldn’t in all good conscience have someone walking around with a carrot for a spine, so as soon as I got the news the tumour existed, I was scheduled in for surgery the very next day. That’s when I knew it was bad. They (my team of doctors who suddenly existed), wanted to rush me into a 9-hour surgery in less than 12-hours time, with one of the best spinal surgeons in the country. I was like the Beyoncé of cancer. Bow down bitches!
That evening my father received a call from yet anther member of my entourage… I mean medical team. They were worried about the surgery. No shit?! Apparently, because of the soft, jelly-like consistency of my tumour (I know, super ew), it was more than likely that no matter how well the surgery was performed that even a single cell left behind would result it the recurrence of the cancerand if/when that happened any subsequent surgery would be impossible due to the sever amount of metal and scar tissue my back would now contain. This was when I was told that if I did not have the tumour removed it would continue to grow, put pressure on my spinal cord and eventually paralyse me. However, in a fun turn of events, the surgery itself could also result in paralysis. FML.
They decided not to chop me open in a flurry the next morning and instead we had a chat to yet another super-important-doctor-man. This led to my inclusion in an 18-month clinical trial at the Peter Mac Cancer Clinic. The idea being that the trial drug would calcify my tumour making it hard and therefore simpler to remove. Easier to remove means less chance of cells left behind and a decrease in my chance of recurrence. These appointments were long, boring and both emotionally and physically painful. Going to a cancer clinic is, in a word, urrrghhh*hgh$s@g#*^k!There is nowhere in my life I have felt less like a person and more like a patient. Not even an important patient. You’re seen as a dying patient that has been given up on. I wasn’t even dying man! I was 21, with a bone tumour that could paralyse, but not kill me… therefore I was one of the lucky ones. Yeah, this place was grim.
Cancer patients can be real ball breakers. We can be really fucking demanding and why shouldn’t we be? We are all in pain, many of us dying or fighting not too and not to mention, we’re bloody terrified. Yet, in these settings we are so often overlooked or ignored by people who are overworked and underpaid. I get it. It must be necessary to detach to some degree if you are seeing the walking dead on the daily, and we are not generally coming into the clinic a ball of laughs! We are exhausted to the bone and tired of being poked and prodded within an inch of our lives, forced to give blood from veins that have been bled dry and arms that are painfully bruised. On top of that, there is an expectation of gratitude for the care we are receiving. Don’t get me wrong, I was treated by some wonderful practitioners and nurses, but a kind grin is limited in how much it can help when the majority of your sterile surroundings make you feel like a numbered petri dish in a science experiment. Which is essentially what I was as part of the trial.
I didn’t have traditional chemotherapy. Again, I was “lucky” because the chemo I was given wasn’t given intravenously. It was an extra special mix made just for me that they didn’t make until I’d arrived at the clinic. Sounds exciting but this just meant I was usually waiting at least 4-hours to be aggressively stabbed in the belly with a syringe and sent on my way. It was simple. It was sad.I was told there were no side effects. Hazzah! I later found out that this didn’t mean that there were technically no side effects, it actually meant that because it was a clinical trial, that the side effects were yet unknown. It would be several years before I stopped receiving letters about newly discovered issues caused by the drug. Here’s a cute example; they found if you received dental work while the drug remained in your system that your jaw bone was likely to rot away. Yum. Or how about when they told me that if I was to get pregnant during the trial that my baby would develop without bones. That’s right, just a ball of flesh and organs. True story.
During the 18-months I was on the drug trial I attended a kind of cult-like cancer healing retreat. Yeah, it was as fun as it sounds… Just me, a raw-vegan-sugar/gluten/caffine/happiness-free diet and 50 other desperate and dying cancer patients clinging onto a speck of hope. This was one of the strangest experiences of my life and naturally extremely confrontational (I now know what I would do if I had 3-months to live, so that’s…yeah). But in the midst of all the tragic stories, group fear, hours of meditation to reflect on said fear and depressingly tasteless food… I met Schmoomy.
The Schmoo was the most hilarious, incredibly insane, magnetic and vivacious girl I’ve ever had the honour of getting to know. We were the two youngest people attending Cult Cancer by at least 20-years and as such, we clung to each other for dear life. We ended up spending practically every day together for the next several years. She was the Kim to my Kanye, the Thelma to my Louise, The Schmoomy to my Schmoo-monkey! We were inseparable. She may have had an aggressive brain tumour that made her hallucinate small children and my spine was eating itself from the inside out, but together we laughed so hard our bellies hurt, smoked so much weed Snoop Dog (Lion?) would be jealous and generally just took on the mother fucking world!
I loved her like a sister from the second I met her but I knew I was on borrowed time. Everyone around her was living on hope but I’d seen this play out with my boyfriends’ mum. I knew how this story ended and it scared the shit out of me.But that little fucker was just so damn lovable that I decided whatever time I got to spend with her was a bloody gift that I wasn’t about to waste, and I’m so grateful I did, because without an ounce of exaggeration, she taught me how to love myself and changed my life forever. There are not enough words in the human language to adequately describe how important this girl was, and still is, to me. But I will do my very best to honour her memory in the next instalment.