Right now, you can’t even blink without getting a bit of Friends-based trivia stuck in your eye. ‘YOUR TOP THREE HUNDRED EPISODES OF FRIENDS – REVEALED!’; ‘WHICH FRIENDS CHARACTER ARE YOU? – DO THIS TEST, POST THE RESULTS ON FACEBOOK, HAVE NOBODY CARE!’; ‘TWENTY YEARS SINCE FRIENDS – CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!’. Well, considering since the first episode I’ve been through three long term boyfriends, went to university twice, got married, got a mortgage, owned chickens, lived in three different cities, lived very much out of a city (#StepfordLOLs), had more than one identity crisis and made, named and raised two, now school-age, kids, actually YES, I can believe it. In fact, are you sure it’s only been twenty years? Because my weary face suggests a lot, lot longer… Anywaaaaay. Yeah. Friends is EVERYWHERE. And so, for sheer lack of creativity and an innate need to follow the pack, I’m carrying on with that theme for this here blog post. Could I BE any lamer? Probably not. Still, be kind…
So, life a couple of weeks back went through a particularly grizzly patch. If it were an episode of Friends, it would have been called ‘The One With The Cancer Scare’. And I’ll be honest, although the sometimes ridiculous events I seem to get caught up in are maybe half-way worthy of a middle of the night slot on ITV2 (The One With Peter Stringfellow And The Motorbike; The One With The Cock-Shaped Mushroom) TOWTCS wasn’t one of my life’s finest eps. As a major character, Cancer Scare is lame-o. Cancer Scare is no Joey (how YOU doin? Don’t be a dick, Cancer Scare, how do you think I’m doing?); it’s no Rachel (the pastel gown I had to wear for my scan, while maybe something series-one Rachel with her shonky, early days contract may have been coerced into wearing, in no way would the glossy 2002 incarnation of Aniston been caught dead in) and, although, as with almost all bleak ass situations, Cancer Scare certainly lends itself to some wry, witty quips (my amazing friend Richard and I got quite, quite creative with some emoticons as I expressed my panic to him via WhatsApp following a particularly grizzly trip to the docs. You’d be surprised how many cancer-related emojis you can find if you set your head to creative), Cancer Scare was no Chandler.
Save some minor skin things that, as a near-albino, sun-magnet ginge I’m apparently susceptible to, Cancer Scare was a character that I’d never really expected to make it into an episode of my life. Not least especially the other Friday, when all of a sudden, I found myself in a hospital in South London, making full use of the free coffee facilities and playing a silent game of ‘guess the ailment’ with every person who walked through the sliding doors.
Cancer chats on a Friday? Come on. Come. ON! Going off my usual Fridays, the episode should’ve been called something like ‘The One With Netflix, The Jar Of Peanut Butter & A Massive Spoon’ or ‘The One With The Prosecco & The Hazy ASOS Order’, but no. This Friday was completely different to any other Friday EVER. Ultrasounds, #seriousface consultants and the bizarre act of waiting for some stranger to come manhandle my boob had never featured in any of my Fridays before….ok, OK, sure, TWO of those things had never featured in any of my Fridays before…Jeez. Stop being so pedantic…
So yeah, that afternoon = Sucksville, Alabama. And the few days leading up to that Friday had been pretty grim too. For anyone who’s been though this find-a-lump sitch (and in no way am I pitching this as a poor me-me-me thing – I’m sure there are plenty of you who’ve been there) you’ll probably recognise the template of behaviour that follows the moment the doctor says ‘I’m sending you for a scan. Maybe a biopsy’. First you’re a bit blinky and shell shocked, and then that solemn quiet turns into something much more steely and matter-of-fact, and then, once the po-face drops, you properly shit it (in my case, very much in public. Crying on a stranger? Let’s consider that box ticked). And then, after you’ve wept on a trainee pharmacist in Boots, what happens is you, and everyone around you, starts making the big, jolly ‘IT’LL BE OK’ noises. ‘I’ll be fine’, I squealed. ‘It’ll be nothing’ they chirped, in as nonchalant a tone as any nonchalance-faker could muster. But, just as I imagine was also subconsciously the case with those people around me, there was obviously a chunk of my own mind considering the alternative. The opposite of fine. The upside-down of ok. A big fat thumbs down. And you know what, there was a bit of me that was going to apologise here for being a bit whiny and dramatic but, actually, fuck that. I was getting tested for cancer. Even the most icy heart could be forgiven for bricking it a little.
And brick it, I did. But wait! Stoic Brits, emotional concealers and all-round tear-fearers, don’t panic! Because said bricking? I totally managed to keep that mother under wraps. What with the black dog history and the side effects of living in a world where admitting you’re not fine is often seen as a bit weird and awkward and…OH LOOK, I’M DOING A FUNNY JIG, LET’S TAKE THE ATTENTION AWAY FROM THE SADFACED LADY, I’m pretty badass at either Touché Éclat-ing my feelings behind a series of gags and Bake-Off themed re-tweets, or half convincing my mind not to think of bad stuff by throwing my body head first into all kinds of diversion tactics (in this case Forest Gumping the shit out of some running action, developing an obsession with the Mumsnet forums (like a middle class Jeremy Kyle show. Brilliant) and trolley dashing the back doors out of ASOS on my lunch breaks – know this, all roads lead to ASOS). But regardless of what it looked like on the surface, I wasn’t so alright. And, weirdly, the un-ok-ness wasn’t for the reason you’d think, either. Because, while pre this kind of life-blip I’d have imagined my reaction to be one of serious life contemplation and fate-pondering, it was far, far from that. And actually, after all I had been doing the last couple of months was working out what the fuck was going on with my life, after the initial boo hoos on the chemist dude, what happened afterwards, inside my head, was….nothing. A weird numbness. An internal ‘meh’. Beyond the early, fleeting panic, there was no life reassessment. No clarity brought on by a sense of mortality (ok, now I’ll make some awkward noises of sozzes for being so dramatic). There was nothing but a whole bunch of empty. Some white noise. It’s like, the days between the doc appointment and the scan itself became an odd, inner vacuum where I gave up thinking and just waited for that Friday to happen. It was a case of waiting for the results to come in, before I decided how to react. And, looking back now, following – thank fuck – the confirmation that everything was ok and there was nothing bad happening in me and this had all been a false alarm, that kind of bothers me a bit. The ‘wait and see’ thing? I think that’s a mantra I’ve been following for a while now, and I’m not sure how healthy it is. There always seems to be something. An in-the-future focus point that means I don’t have to think about the here and now. The unease that I started to feel during the scare, and after it too, wasn’t about what the future could hold, it was about the iffy, blinkered way in which I seem to deal with the present. It was the realisation that, FUCK, I’m always waiting for something to happen before I make that thing happen myself. I’m always using the ‘wait and see’ as a get-out clause for the ‘just fucking do it’.
What was I waiting and hoping for when I started The One With The Cancer Scare, was some kind of ultimate, illuminating, end of episode soul-fulfilling-conclusion. But, of course, that never happened, because that’s not how real life works. The big, identity-shaking shiz will only come about if I make it come about. And there’s no time like right now to do something about that. Why wait to get cracking with life when that’s something that can happen right away?