I took the train to Cornwall with a friend. We’d booked last minute so didn’t have a seat reservation. The forecast was good and it seemed like everybody was taking the train to the seaside. My friend was adamant that we were not going to stand and she left me in charge of the suitcases while she searched the carriages for a seat.
Although most mornings I am met with a reflection in the mirror of some alien like creature with a bald head and barely discernible features, it seems that by the time I emerge to face the world I look healthy and – I hesitate to say this, this is a word bandied around as a compliment to hide other’s fear of my condition – beautiful. Apparently, I don’t look like someone who is having chemo. But a swift removal of my hat or scarf and a wiping away of my pencilled in eyebrows reveals me in my full mid-chemo glory and is likely to earn me a seat on a full train. I say likely, Cornwall is an awfully long journey and the giving up of a seat on such a day is maybe a good deed too far. So it is with relief that my friend finds us a seat and we do not have to resort to such tactics.
It’s a relief to sit down. I may look healthy but I generally feel pretty grim. Listless. But I am looking forward to spending a couple of days with a friend who has the good fortune to live in a beautiful house facing out to the sea. I haven’t seen this friend since my diagnosis. She hasn’t seen me bald – she may, like many others before her be surprised by the sudden beauty that cancer appears to have endowed upon me in the eyes of sympathetic beholders. What I don’t know until she tells me much later, is that she is nervous about seeing me. I laugh at most things, appear to take few things too seriously and mask any insecurities with bawdy humour and innuendo at my own expense. She is worried that she won’t recognise me as I am facing something so difficult. She, like many (myself included) imagines I might spend the next few months of chemo with my head down a toilet bowl while strumming tunes on my skinny ribs. In actual fact I arrive chubby from steroids, sporting a bright scarf and a reasonable complexion.
Her house faces the bay and the view is spectacular. My friend and I arrive and we go straight onto the sun drenched patio to gaze at the sea and catch up with a gossip over a glass of wine. I am pale, the sun is strong. My friend has positioned a chair in the shade to protect me.
“Take care” she says. “The sun is really fierce today, don’t go and make yourself ill and get burnt”.
Throwing caution to the wind and settling myself in the sun’s full glare I respond:
“Bugger that, what’s the worst that could happen? What, might I get cancer?”