Denial – why the hell not? I might have taken the wrong tack on this whole illness, and I should be prepared to make a complete turnaround of my way of thinking.
My oncologist came in the other day and threw me an idea I wasn’t expecting: she said that if she had terminal cancer she would deny it. She’s a very energetic woman, but she’s my age, 72. She flies her own airplane single handedly and does all kinds of things I would never attempt. But how about denying terminal illness to your friends and family? I think it’s really difficult, but I can imagine it, it could be fun. I’d sit here and make up porkies (lies) all day long.
I’d start out by telling them the welts on my body came from embracing an orangutan in the wilds of Borneo. My problem is that I did embrace the orangutan (truly), and it had a few leeches, but I didn’t get any skin disease… but we’re making this up, so what the hell.
Next symptom I find hard to explain, is, um, the infinite tiredness. I slept 15 hours last night, but if you’ve seen the movie ‘Up in the air’, that gives you an idea (though it’s a terrible movie): what might be called infinite jet lag. I can pretend I’ve been traveling all my life on overnight flights (thank God I haven’t).
The voracious appetite is just who I am, and I’ve never lost it, it’s my heritage. I don’t think that anyone would suggest it was abnormal for me.
Taking 40 pills a day may be harder to explain away, but I can deny I’ve ever taken any pills for cancer. II’d just say they come from an expensive Los Angeles / London doctor – he is just down the street – highly recommended by my hypochondriac friends who see him, and pay him a million dollars a year. He once placed what looked like a heavy brick on my chest, and asked me to put up with it for a half hour, which sent me running out of his office forever. So I’m a non-hip non-compliant patient, still in denial.
All of these lies would have had to be invented when I first got diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago, so I’d have consistency, but by that time I’d left La La Land and all its trimmings and fictions behind me; and sharing was in style in those days. And then it wasn’t too serious at first – stage 1 cancer, a quarter mastectomy, not really too much of a problem, I thought (was that a kind of denial?). Second time around having had to have a complete mastectomy, my whole attitude changed, and I fought it. I had someone come over to do Pilates with me, I had a hypnotherapist, full-time care, organic vegetarian cooking, bags of vitamins – did I think I could make myself invulnerable, by doing all these things? Who knows, but it worked, and I got four years of remission, which was fabulous, and that’s no lie.
I’ve been in some true denial situations, all the same. What turned out to be the most drastic were the streaks across my breast, which I didn’t think anything about because I didn’t want to go back to London, I wanted to stay in the sun in Miami. I was foolish enough to keep asking my friends what it was – but at last one told me to go ask my doctors, instead of her, and when I got back the shock on my oncologist’s face was undeniable, she couldn’t believe I’d left it that long. Still, after we established an aggressive treatment plan, and I assumed all would be alright, I decided to have a reconstruction, wanting to be beautiful again – how deluded can you get?
It’s good to get all this off my chest.