“How did you dye your hair that colour when it’s so short?”
“This is my natural colour,” I said.
“Nahhh. No one has hair that colour.”
“I do,” I said.
“What colour was it before you had chemo?” she wanted to know.
“This colour. This is my natural colour.”
“Well it looks dyed,” she said before heading off to take her pick of people to chat to who really did have dyed hair and had the good grace to be honest about it.
Our convenor called us to order and we started the introductions. I always feel it’s a mistake not to offer people some kind of guidance about what we might need to know about them, but this being a “moving on from the you know what” session, everyone felt able to reveal all kinds of information about themselves.
Lots of people opened their remarks by explaining who they were married to and what a really terrific husband they had been, except that they could not help but think they might be getting a bit bored of it all by now. I don’t want to sound unkind about this but I fear they could be right. The truth is that I feel much the same about it all. I’m more than a man down.
Conversation inevitably drifted into territory about the meaning of why. “Why me?” In my view it’s just rotten luck. But I was not prepared for explanations that ranged from kettle crisps to a glut of organic vegetables.
The why is not the tricky question but what to do about it is altogether a harder ask. We wouldn’t have to wait long for the myth busting NHS dietitian who unfortunately was running a week late. Fast forward a week and she was able to debunk our fears. A glass of wine was never safe and could not be recommended, but everyone accepts that ultra processed food can be a necessity. Needles to say, I put my hand up and did not ingratiate myself to anyone for holding a contrary view.
In the event we were offered a masterclass on how to make a smoothie, I would defiantly leave.
“And now,” announced our NHS dietitian, we were all off to the kitchen for a demo in how to make the ultimate smoothie with lots of yummy fruit, whose molecular structure would be irrevocably altered by the blender. I put my hand up and put it down again before absenting myself from this portion, or should I say, slurry, of the agenda.
The following week we were all introduced to the concept of exercise by a former army instructor who wanted to give something back. He wanted to give rather more back than I expected and without a blush, claimed an increased survival rate of 20% for ladies who could work up a sweat. I put my hand up and then though better of it before sitting down.
Week three also saw the arrival of the large print questionnaire, thoughtfully printed over the top of the regular questionnaire so utterly illegible. Never mind, our medical student volunteer would read me out the questions. I answered them all, and not in hushed tones because if there is one thing I am sure of, it’s that everyone wants to know how often other open their bowls, have intimate relations, feel depressed, binge eat, binge drink, take the wrong or right type of drugs, or experience feelings of frustration. I’m not being cynical.
I never went back. I realise that I am in the very lucky group that may not be through the treatment, but in my head, I’m moving on. I’m not looking over my shoulder but straight ahead.