"The doctors have all discussed your scan results again, and we have some very good news for you! You won't have to have the biopsy we had scheduled! The oncologist can be quite sure now, from your history and this scan, that it is cancer, so there's no need to put you through the biopsy. Isn't that great!" "Um... hang on... last time you were here you were telling me that the biopsy is a quick simple procedure that is no big deal and now you're talking about it like it's something to be dreaded. And sorry, I don't get it, what's the good news part about discovering the early return of my ca... AAAARRRGH"

It's so annoying when you're in the middle of making an important point and sudden blinding pain interrupts. It stops you making the point and completely derails the conversation, which inevitably picks up again somewhere on the other party's point of view side. "So you can go home this afternoon, and be home for xmas. Do you have someone to pick you up?" "Not sure, I can phone around. What's today?" "It's xmas eve." "Oh, right, I see, that's what home for xmas means, of course."

Cast your mind back to the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Cars, shoppers, kids, drunks everywhere, crowds, bumper to bumper traffic. A mad scramble to buy last minute supplies before everything closes down for days. Everyone on earth is in a mad panic. Those who are working are busting to get home, leaving as early as they can, closing facilities early and adding to the traffic stream. On top of all that, it was over 30 degrees and humid. The road between my place and the hospital is a 20 minute bottleneck. Do I have someone to drive me home? I don't think so, or maybe yes but at what cost.

Home for xmas, that's a big deal, yes. Face to face with the practicalities, like the good news about the cancer returning prematurely, when you get down and look at it it's not so thrilling. (Yeah, I'm such an ungrateful wretch.) At my week-abandoned home I have no milk, bread, veggies, nothing to sustain me over several days of shops being closed. On this day, at this time, stocking up is probably impossible. The presents I started gathering lie incomplete and unwrapped. Incomplete I can fudge, nobody expects too much from me this week, but gee, if I'm gonna be going along for xmas and exchanging gifts, what a drag if I can't wrap them properly. Ever tried buying wrapping paper at 6pm xmas eve? Or milk, or pain medication for that matter?

Oh, sorry! The jubilant doctor was quite correct. Turns out I did find someone willing to spoil their xmas eve rush to get me home, and the pain did subside long enough for me to drive to the local shops without collision, and I was able to find a chemist and also bought a bottle of milk just before everything turned into a ghost town. I was able to scrape together enough bits from my hoard to wrap the presents fine.

And I didn't have to worry about having no food because, and here's more good news, in this state I can't eat anything! "... and this type of bowel obstruction can't be corrected surgically, so we'll start you on chemotherapy as soon as possible. The chemo clinic is pretty well booked out but hopefully we can get you in around the middle or end of January." Oh thank my lucky stars, only up to 40 days more of this pain, plus however long it takes for the chemo treatments to subdue the cancer.

They're giving me a 6 month course of it. They say that if the chemo doesn't work, don't worry. There will be a check after 3 months of chemo, and if there's been no change they have many other chemo drugs they can try, so I guess we keep starting that six months again and again until one works. And how much time do I have? Ah, forget it. They will do whatever they will do, for their own shrouded reasons, and there's nothing I can do to change any of that.

Meanwhile, thanks for the morphine, it was lovely, but where's my take-home supply? Yeah, thought so. Patience is a virtue. Sorry, I don't need no stinkin' virtues.



Last year, I was often kept waiting. Aren't we all. When I had to wait as long as five minutes or more, there were usually apologies, explanations, and alternative quicker or postponed methods were offered. This year it is common to be kept waiting for up to an hour, or two, or three. There is almost never any apology, explanation, or even acknowledgement that I have had to wait an extraordinarily long period of time. This year, I'm not supposed to notice that any time has gone by, because I'm assumed to have plenty of time and absolutely nothing else to do. In fact, long boring waits have been offered to me as a kindness, to help fill my infinitely vacant hours and return me to my proper brown-nosed grateful state. There are 8568 hours.

Last year things like this would have been discussed ahead of time as an automatic human courtesy. This year none of these things are vocalised, as if it can't speak and it just takes the action offered in kindness and we hope it won't take it upon itself to respond badly (but if it does it can't help it poor thing).

When caught short for amusements, last year I would have been offered something like a scientific or technical magazine, a cryptic crossword, or engaging conversation on topics ranging from society and culture to DNS server configuration or the latest discoveries in genetics. They would be offered first, and acceptance would be necessary before proceeding, of course. This year I am assumed to like only housewife magazines, romantic novels, simple card games like snap, and trite conversations about the latest celebrity pregnancy or who won the meat tray last week.

If there are others to be entertained as well, we may be organised to play the group games that are typical of children's birthday parties. None of this is offered, it's just bestowed without option, without comment, and I feel under tremendous pressure to accept these insults with expressed gratitude. After all, they mean well don't they. Yes they all mean well.

Last year, as I walked down the street the other pedestrians hardly noticed me. In crowded situations people politely look away to help preserve each other's personal space. This year, as I walk along people look me straight in the eye, put on a big cheesy smile, the patronising look (with or without the wink), and make very sure that I hear them say "hello" clearly as we pass. People I've never met. I've been told it's because of the hat or scarf I wore, but I saw no other hat or scarf wearers who had the whole neighbourhood assuming such unwarranted familiarity.

Last year I used to phone Mandy and chat about computers for hours on end. Now when I call she only wants to talk about my health. Have I lost a friend? Of course not, she's always there for me, even more so now. But the difference is that I'm not there any more. We've both lost me.

Last year I was kept, wisely, away from very young children and delicate elderly who had sheltered lives, or anyone else who could not handle the F word and an extremely frank and explicit mode of speech. This year people panic to keep the "bloody"-sayers out of my hearing range.

Last year people wouldn't touch me unless we were being intimate, brawling, or accidentally colliding. This year everyone and their three cats wants to paw me, and they seem to think that I'll like them doing it without asking first.

Last year I enjoyed doing a lot of different social activities that were a bit difficult to fit in after full time work. This year I'm encouraged to attend more activities and offered transport to my chosen groups, but only if they are during pensioner-business hours. My normal activities, my already established social groups, are out of bounds due to dark and distance. Sure, in my copious free time I could make new sets of friends by playing bingo and whatever other intellectual challenges are available before 3pm each day. After all, nobody will help me unless I help myself, will they.

Last year people used to come to me for advice and guidance, whether for business or artistic or technical or personal matters. Since long ago, in some circles I was dubbed Aunty as a form of respect for that role. This year, new acquaintances and even strangers seem to think they have permission to instruct me on how to live my life, how to think, what to feel, and what attitude I should hold towards human existence in general. They seem to think I am ignorant of the most rudimentary life skills and understandings, and that it is their role to instruct me, in monosyllables, and mine to show gratefulness. But they do mean well.

Last year there were some people who would call in for a cuppa occasionally, or phone and invite me to go out or eat or do something with them. This year I am invited to charitable rather than social events, and some people now only visit for servicing on demand. I prefer to be "serviced" either by people I don't know, or friends who remember and like me. But come now, mustn't be ungrateful.

Last year, if religion was mentioned I'd be asked what mine is, and the answer would be respected. This year, I am assumed to be Christian, prayed over, and given biblical pep talks uninvited. Some go so far as to weep, as if they must proxy for my mysteriously inactive tear ducts. Should I feel guilty for upsetting them by having a fate, I wonder?

Last year my companion parrot used to shout "Tired!" when she wanted to be covered up, "Coming back?" when I left the room, "Wanna cah..." when she wanted a cuddle, and "Outside!" when someone came into the yard or knocked on the door. This year my companion parrot shouts "Tired!" when she wants to be covered up, "Coming back?" when I leave the room, and "Outside!" when she wants a cuddle because tricking me gets faster results than asking directly, at least the first few times. She's a good mate.

Last year the postie used to ride her motor bike up to the front door and honk the horn when she had a parcel to deliver. She still does. She has no idea which houses contain people who are sick and dying, so she treats them all the same. I never have to be on my toes to show gratitude and hide offence. I don't know her name, but I need my friends to be like her.

Last year I was myself.

This year I am myself.

Something, something else, changed.



There are 8760 hours.

On 10 September 2008, one hundred women were diagnosed with an illness.

On 10 September 2010, according to statistics, only 45 of them will still be alive.

Today is 10 September 2009, and I am one of those hundred women.

Death comes a long time before our bodies pack it in. The switch begins at the moment of diagnosis, and is complete within a few days, or minutes.

Real death is caused not by illness, but by friends, relatives, colleagues, care givers, bureacrats, medical staff, and the people you meet on the street. They switch you off in their minds, "click", and you don't exist as you any more. There is no other way to exist. Having just been thrown a robbing diagnosis, it's not even slightly interesting to be existed as anyone else.
So everything stops, and they go on muttering at some imaginary person pasted onto your weakening body. Complete. Irreversible. Missing. Death.

The universe as I knew it has been gone for a year now. Nothing is as it was, and never will be. Some things are much better, but most things quietly ceased their existence while I slept that first night.

Why have I decided to use this blog? There's more freedom over here, where I can think out loud without making weeping do-gooders blush with embarrassment in my presence. Because on the Internet, nobody knows you're dead.

There are so many things I cannot say from my daytime body, things that must be said, recorded, the truth about what is happening to me while I move ever closer to the final statistic.

That's why I'm inviting you to share the next few months with me, while I chew through my remaining 8760 hours, by the dim glow of the first 8760 hours. It won't always be pretty because it has to be frank, but sometimes it will be entertaining. And it might help someone to help somebody else to actually live their given hours.

There are 8759 hours.