Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Perks

Dear my Cousin -in-law Karen,

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now, since it keeps striking me every time I look at my post-chemo self in the mirror how funny it is that cancer can have its benefits. In light of your recent news I thought it would be helpful to write it now. (I feel like we're in that episode of Round The Twist btw - did you ever watch it? Funny supernatural Australian kids programme in the 90's, in one episode characters were miraculously cured of their ailments if they transferred them to someone else). You could probably do with some good news...

There's no denying that, as your husband - my cousin said, "You have work to do". But as with most jobs, this one has perks. Granted, most of them come at the end, but like that chocolate fudge cake you've been eyeing up since the appetisers, it'll be worth the wait.

As I'm sure most doctors, nurses, friends, leaflets, family and pamphlets have told you, everybody's journey is different, but I've been chatting to some women who have confirmed some of my journey bonuses to be theirs too, so I'm pretty confident most of these are universal.

1. Virginity Restored
I'm talking the hair variety of course. It may seem a bit of an a*se thinking of how your hair will be one day, before its even fallen out, but consider this: you and I have had several decades of dying, curling, straightening, blow-drying, highlighting, maybe even perming I suspect - you were more '80's child than me - and this does not glorious hair make. Although I'm sure they wouldn't chose our extreme methods of starting over, most women would kill for renewed, virgin hair. It may not be through choice, but I can already tell you, my new hair is exciting to christmas-eve-for-your-three-children proportions, and probably as soft as theirs too. Hairdressers keep telling me how gorgeous it is already, and I've only had it a couple of months. Lifelong hair crime slate, wiped clean.

2. Easy Dieting (The Holy Portion Control Grail)
This is a gross, sweeping generlisation, and one I know I can't attribute to everyone (my policy on internet shopping will be the same for others regarding donuts - i.e, during this time, do what the hell you like), but for the first time in my entire life, I was able to exercise some will power. It's like cigarettes after a lung cancer diagnosis; the thrill just isn't really there any more I'd imagine. Had I given up alcohol and wheat and dairy and soya and sugar (mostly) for weight loss reasons, I would have lasted a long depressing week. For anti-cancer reasons though, and I'm still living a much healthier life even after it's out. And I'm finding it easy. And I'm fitting into jeans I don't think I've ever been able to, which is a private perk for me, but not one I should really shout about. But I'm a woman! Jeans are important to me!

3. Better Than Ever Skin
I was trying to speculate at the beginning of chemo (joy of joys, this perk happens during treatment so you don't have to wait so long), as to why terrible toxicity in my body made my skin so glowy and radiant. I'm pretty sure part of it is to do with point no. 2, plus ridiculous amounts of water to flush the chemo out, but I'm convinced a large part is also the banishment of all bacteria. At the LGFB workshop last week the majority of women there were busy being thrilled by their newly amazing skin, and they all ate their chocolate biscuits at break time, so it can't all be down to nutrition. (KIDDING, chocolate biscuits can only be good for you).

4. Braver Than Bear Grylls
I am, I think, about able to conquer anything scary. Saying that I still slightly hate needles, even after the several million I've had this year, but I'm not a 5 year old about them anymore. But I do think I can handle the dentist. I am putting that theory to the test tomorrow so I'll let you know, but really, how scary can that experience be after what I've just done? Although there may well be needles...

Spiders are still a no.

5. Soppier Than Economy Kitchen Towels
I didn't think it possible but I'm now so much closer to the family than ever. They've been through it all too; we're like the Claygate Olympian team, bringing home the golds. Also they think they love me more now too, (of course its still the same, how could it not be? I am adorable youngest child), but it's newly clarified so I can get away with more things. I might ask to borrow a few more tenners from my dad... I digress, I know the Beresiners - you will most likely OD on soppy family love.

6. I Heart Everything
I've said how much I now love the sun all the way through, and sun is really just a tiny example of all the things I love now. Its an appreciation thing. I could even love a dirty puddle on Dalston High Street if it glinted right, but I'm just more grateful for the little things, so I feel joyous very easily. If everyone has a joy level to reach, and a day-to-day living level below it somewhere, my living level is now dangerously close to the joy level so I may set it off at any time. Such a lovely tra-la-la perk that has me happy to queue for 20 minutes in M&S for a punnet of strawberries. Before I would have huffed the whole way, now I queue smiling - oh joyous queue.

7. Boost Your CV
You are a mother of 3, you probably have no space left for new skills, but all that down time while you're mooching around getting over chemo will be filled with something. For me it was cooking, and now Dadjokes loves me more as a direct consequence - more perks! For you I suspect it will be relaxing, in which case take it SERIOUSLY and add it to your repetoire and whatever it is you learn to do you'll be a more qualified person out the other end.

8. Hypochondria Hall Pass
You can now be let off the hook for hypochondria. This may not apply to you - even though you are a Beresiner, it is by marriage not blood - but I was always embarrassed to go to the doctor and complain of far too general ailments that I had convinced myself were devastating. I did it anyway, regularly, and got pleasant but vacant attention. Now when I go I am medically important. I feel a bit special, like I have EARNED my right to complain about things, and SEE how brave I am. Is that just me? Oh...

9. Laid Back Looks
I have a new experimental attitude to my looks. The anticipation of the hair loss and the boob loss was a sticking point because I was, well, stuck on the old me. WHY did I have to have stupid pixie crop? WHY did I have to relenquish my boob tubes (metaphorically - I would never own a boob tube). In reality the drastic hair change was refreshing and I like the challenge of planning outfits around my 'special needs'. That sounds funny, because it is. So from now on, if I get a bad haircut one day, there will be no angsty tears or threats of legal action, I'll just go with it.
Everythings OK earrings by House Of Holland
I was having a post op check up with my surgeon last week and the nurse was telling him about my blog. I actually said these words: 'I wouldn't have written it if I hadn't got cancer, so it's great!'. Great? It is true I become blathering and moronic around medical professionals, but I did mean it in a you-know-what-I-mean kind of way. Know what I mean?

You'll be much better when you're better Karen,

Lots of love and best wishes and forced advice and healthy banana bread recipes,

Your Cousin-in-law, Soph xxx

p.s. I almost forgot the best beauty bits! You're probably still in an info overload haze, so I'll spell it out. No. More. Waxing. Plus every hair day a good one (should you go that route), a chance to have the (ok, draw on the) eyebrows you've always wanted, and super soft hands from all the washing up you now don't have to do. Bonus! Any more perks, please add below x


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sophie! You are so inspiring; I feel I could go and kick breast cancer firmly the b******s right now. Your journey continues to amaze me. With much love and appreciation, your cousin-in-law, Karen xxx

  2. i like the pixie cut....
    michael's is working on the pink ribbon day campaign and they are using your blog as inspiration!

    i hate it when its sunny in london..BUT today its 20 degrees and the middle of winter so not too jealous...


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