Wednesday, 18 November 2015

136. Something Sinister?

For the ex-cancer patient, an ache or twinge or bout of tiredness is not easily waved aside. You try to forget about the dangerous surprises your body might spring on you, but it is always there, lurking ominously in the dark alleys of your mind: the possibility that your weariness or your aching bones are evidence of Something Sinister.

I have discovered that Something Sinister is one of the many euphemisms for Cancer.

Busting medical jargon is part of my job, but I had never come across that one before. Not until I heard my doctors use it.

"I'm sure your lump is nothing serious, but let's get you checked out anyway, in case it's Something Sinister," my GP said.

"I don't think there's Anything Sinister going on," my hospital consultant might say in an effort to reassure.

So there I was, back at the breast clinic with worries about Something Sinister.

I've been pretty gung-ho about getting on with my cancer-free life. What else can you do? I've been cut up, poisoned, blasted, and now I've got a mighty deterrent in the shape of 10 years worth of drugs. Tiny, innocent-looking pills called Letrozole whose job it is to keep me free of oestrogen, the hormone that was to blame for the growth of my cancer lump. (Not all breast cancers are cheered on by oestrogen, but mine was.)

So what's there to fear?

Debilitating exhaustion, that's what. The kind of exhaustion that saw me slumped on my desk by lunchtime, back in bed most afternoons just so that I could get through the evenings. Yes, I could manage full days (two in a row, at a push), but paid for it by needing several days to recover. This was new. I've never regained my full energy since the cancer treatments, but it had not been this bad. I mean, I've walked a marathon, for crying out loud! I wasn't full of bouncy energy then, but even so, I managed it. I couldn't contemplate walking even a fraction of that distance now.

Theories abounded.

"What do you expect? You've bounced back too quickly! You've overdone things! Think of all that poison last year!"

"It takes at least a year to recover from breast cancer treatments. In fact, it can take up to five."

"Perhaps - perhaps - you are experiencing some form of depression?" (This was always floated tentatively.)

Well, yes, but. But. Why on earth would I be feeling better and better, gradually, only for things to go downhill again? This was no ordinary tiredness. I am quite a positive kind of person, but now I was beginning to wake up with a sense of dread about the day ahead, which would invariably end up in frustrated tiredness.

I didn't dismiss the possibility of Depression. Why should I be immune to such illness? But really, would depression cause such extremes of tiredness?

I'm not even mentioning the bone aches. Those, I knew, were courtesy of the Letrozole tablets. But there was the somewhat worrying matter of Shortness Of Breath. As I said, an ex-cancer patient notes every change and every niggle.

The sum total of all this looked very much like a woman in extreme old age, hobbling about before collapsing in a reclining chair for her afternoon rest. Actually, make that a morning rest.

Thankfully, my GP and hospital consultant took me seriously.

They started their detective work with gusto. Blood tests. X-rays. A string of appointments.

And thankfully, they found Nothing Sinister.

I could have kissed my consultant when she suggested plan C, which was to experiment with stopping my tablets for a couple of weeks. Could they be the culprit? I had my suspicions. I know that it's impossible to predict women's response to these kind of pills. "Some of my patients don't really notice they're taking them," my GP had said. "Other can't bear it, they can hardly get through the day."

I didn't take the tablet one Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, I felt better. More positive. Less tired. On Thursday, I was a New Woman.

This was three weeks ago, and I haven't had a single daytime hour in bed since stopping those pills. My bone aches are just a faint echo of their previous ferocity.

I had started to think very seriously about giving up work altogether. Now, I am planning my next projects.

It's by no means a miracle cure. I am not the woman I once was, sprightly and lithe and full of possibilities. I have to pace myself, take it easy. But then, so do most of my friends who are in their fifties and sixties.

Could I stay off those pills forever? Alas, no such luck. Last week, I started another one. Same type of medicine, different make, different name (Exemestane). Alarmingly, the list of side effects looks identical to the those on the Letrozole leaflets. So far so good, but be warned little pills, I'm keeping my eye on you.

If they cause similar debilitating side effects, there's a plan D in the shape of the more widely known Tamoxifen. For ten years.

Do I really need to take these wretched things for that long? Yes, apparently I do.

I quizzed my consultant today. What are the actual benefits of this hormone treatment? What is the research evidence?

She looked somewhat alarmed at my apparent willingness to sacrifice these benefits if I felt that the disadvantages were worse. Not being able to get through the day for the next 10 years is, it seems to me, quite a high price to pay. For what?

Well, here it is. "Studies have shown that over 10 to 15 years," my consultant explained, leaning forward so that she could look straight into my eyes, "3% of women benefit from taking the tablets."

I know what doctors mean by "benefit", but I needed to clarify, just to be sure, so I asked: "That means that in the group of women taking the tablets, 3% more women are alive after 10 years than in the group of women not taking any tablets?"

Yes, that's correct. "So please," the consultant implored, touching my arm, "stick with it. We will find one that works for you, even if this one doesn't."

Right now, with my replenished levels of energy, I am willing to agree that it is worth it, because I could easily imagine being one of those three out of a hundred women who didn't take the tablets and died of Something Sinister.

What I didn't dare ask is how many women took the tablets and died anyway.

Perhaps it's better not to know. Let's leave that possibility safely tucked away in the dark alleys of my mind.

Monday, 5 October 2015

135. Hurray! Breast Cancer Will Improve Your Life!!

You've got breast cancer? Worry not.

Congratulations, in fact. Because here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to Transform Your Life.

Take our word for it. You go through cancer and you emerge on the other side a Better Person, or at the very least a person with a Better Life.

Healthier - because of that diet you've discovered, full of liquidised greens and purples and browns, which you will stick with forever. You now feel so lovely and fit! And you are thin at last!

More loved - what with all these people who've fallen over themselves to help and support you and tell you how precious you are. (In the spirit of Queen Victoria who survived several assassination attempts and observed, "It is worth being shot at to see how much one is loved.")

More worthwhile - because now you no longer fritter your life away watching cats on Facebook. No sir! You have started support groups and raised bucket loads of money for good causes. Not a day of your life is wasted anymore.

With less baggage - because cancer has focused the mind so within months of diagnosis, you ditched your husband. And your job. Oh, and you've started a university degree. You see, cancer has also made you:

More fulfilled.

Plus, you've learned how you can Help Your Children Through Difficult Times. You've started sewing Cancer Owls! Spread the word!

This is the kind of thing you read in magazines.

In this particular case, the October issue of a woman's magazine. It doesn't matter which one. I'm only blogging about this now that the issue of WomMag is safely off the supermarket shelves, so there is no risk of you rushing off to buy a copy. (Fortunately, none of my friends and acquaintances seem to have read it, as nobody commented "I saw you in Wommag," whilst loads of people told me "I read your letter in the Guardianlast year.)

A Wommag journalist interviewed me alongside seven other breast cancer survivors. As part of a special feature, my cancer year was summarised in 150 words and put out there alongside my photograph:

'Find your own way to help kids understand.' Irene Tuffrey, 52, London.

Why did I agree? Because, rightly or wrongly, I fancied that it might help some people to read about Owl. I knew 150 words is nothing (you've read almost 400 words so far) so I urged the journalist to include a link to this blog, for those who'd like to find out more. It won't suit all (read: most) families but it might help just one or two, I reckoned.

"Of course," she agreed. "I will."

But the web address wasn't there, just the paltry 150 words, so what's the point? Worse: it included several misquotes, including "quotes" of what my children allegedly said. (It starts badly enough in the headline: I don't use the word "kids").

Note to self: never agree to this sort of thing again, unless I write it myself or have editorial control.

I haven't dreamt up the messages about cancer making you more loved / healthy / fulfilled / worthwhile.

It's all there in the pen portraits of the seven other women. (Although there's no guarantee, we now know, that they really said what's written.)

In fact the one about healthy eating is printed in extra-large font with full details of the life-transforming diet book. I'm not surprised, as the interviewer was clearly taken by this. She told me all about it on the phone, hinting that I might like to try the diet too. I thanked her politely, saying I'm glad it helped Ms 'Make it the start of a healthier you' (that's the headline she got) but personally I didn't feel the need for a new diet.

(Between you and me, I'm just glad I can enjoy the old one.)

"I just need to find one more woman to interview," the journalist said.

"For some reason, I've only got younger women. I need to find someone over the age of 60. Do you know of anyone who'd be happy to share her story?"

As it happened, I did. I rang Choir Friend, who is in her early 60s.

"Well, yes, I don't mind," said Choir Friend. "But I don't really have a story. I mean, I had breast cancer, it was treated, it's over, I'm fine, and I just carry on with my life. It hasn't really affected me that much and I hardly think about it anymore."

Now that, I told her, is exactly the kind of story that should go into Wommag. I mean, how utterly reassuring would that be to other women?

Look everyone, it's possible to have cancer without it transforming your life.

No story to tell? Why on earth is THAT not a story? From where I'm sitting, it sounds like the best story of all.

So I emailed the journalist and told her as much.

"My friend," I wrote in my email, "had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy this winter. She says that she has nothing interesting to say because she doesn't think her life has changed at all, she just dealt with it and got on with it. Personally, I think that's actually a really important perspective: that cancer doesn't have to be a highly interesting and life changing event, but simply one of the many things that can happen to you!"

The journalist replied:

"I've just found someone to be my 60-something, thankfully but thanks so much for your help, I'm interested to find out why it's been so hard to find women in the older age group when there are so many of them going through diagnosis..."

Perhaps they are just more like Choir Friend, dealing with cancer in whatever way they can without feeling the need to have a New Life afterwards? Or perhaps they do have a New Life, but it's less glamorous, more full of aches and pains and exhaustion, and therefore of less interest to glossy magazines?

The 60-something in Wommag said (wait for it)...

"Having breast cancer transformed my life - for the better... within months of my diagnosis I'd left my husband, started an Open University degree and changed jobs... I've raised £120,000..."

You can see why Wommag liked her story better than Choir Friend's. They want Positive. Dramatic. Transformative.

Something to look forward to then, and no pressure, if you're a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient picking up Wommag in the consultant's waiting room.

But I wonder, now, who this is really written for. I imagine all these women reading this, the women who have survived breast cancer and feel that their lives are not better, but more difficult now. Why don't we read anything about them? It makes me even more regretful that my story featured in Wommag.

I want to say to those women: Sorry if this makes you feel inadequate, as if you've failed in some way, having done nothing special to cope with your illness. 

I feel uncomfortable nowadays, when I hear people say things like Hasn't she coped well with all this.

I have coped in the only way I can. So will you, when cancer hits you. It will be your way, no better and no worse than mine, just different.

I'd like to propose another magazine feature.

It goes like this.

Breast cancer?*
It's rotten.
It robbed me of my energy / faculties / sanity / bodily functions.

*Could easily be substituted for: Bereavement / Rheumatoid arthritis / Depression

Here are some pen portraits of breast cancer survivors.

  • Breast cancer hasn't changed my life. (Yes, well spotted, that's Choir Friend in the photograph.)
  • I had breast cancer last year and I'm still tired / achy / worried. But I mustn't complain because aren't I lucky? (Could this be Yours Truly? No comment.)
  • I never got used to my flat chest / reconstruction / new hair.
  • I haven't taken up fundraising / a new degree / a new job / a new husband. No... Instead, I've had to give up my volunteering job / sex life / hobbies.

The title of this fascinating feature would be:

WARNING: a sprinkling of breast cancer may not improve the flavour of life.

Editors, if you're reading this: I will provide my journalistic services for free. Plenty of material to choose from. Please form an orderly queue.

Friday, 18 September 2015

134. Celebrating my aunt = celebrating life

There is a general consensus that my newly sprouted curls are a Good Thing.

They are invariably welcomed with cheerful delight.

"Elk nadeel heeft zijn voordeel!" my Dutch friend observed, which amounts to Every cloud has a silver lining.

Silver lining? It's a veritable silver Halo-of-Hair, expanding week by week. At this rate, I'll be sanctified by Christmas.

Going round with HoH is like having a companion with me at all times, someone rather separate from myself, living a life that's entirely her own.

Goodness me! I see what you mean! How marvellous! say those of you who've kept up with my blog posts, especially the hairy ones.

Is she yours?! Not adopted or anything, or ordered from the hairdresser? ask those who haven't.

HoH and I went to Holland last week.

It was our third visit together, but this time was different. This was not just visiting two sisters and the odd friend, who have been well up to date not only with my own progress but also with HoH's birth and growth.

This was a proper family gathering, teeming with assorted cousins and cousins-once-removed. I hadn't quite anticipated how poignant that would be. Years (even decades) could go by without meeting some of these relatives, but then we suddenly kept seeing each other. There were three funerals in the space of a year: my uncle, my aunt, my mother.

How wonderful, therefore, to gather in celebration of my mother's last remaining sibling, my wonderful aunt.

It was 60 years since she entered a Franciscan convent. There we all were, in our cheerful outfits and not a handkerchief in sight except to wipe away tears of joy at the beauty of life.

Perhaps it was not surprising that I got so much attention, with everyone asking the How are you question and exclaiming over HoH.

Yes, I'm fine now. (Let's not dwell on the ongoing tiredness.)
Yes, I'm back into the swing of things.
No, I've never had curls before; no, it's not a perm; and yes, isn't it amazing?

It startles me to think that it's only been 15 months since I last met these lovely relatives, at my mother's funeral. I still had my old hair then, it was less than a fortnight after my mastectomy, and I still had all the chemotherapy and hair loss and radiotherapy and hair growth to come.

Blimey. No wonder HoH got such happy attention.

With my aunt at her celebration last week

15 months ago, at my mother's funeral

But the real attention should not got to my hair.

This blog post's title should go to my aunt.

She has had such a difficult year mourning the loss of three of her siblings. My sisters and I were not alone in having lost our mother. Almost all my cousins lost a parent in the same year. Aunt helped us all with the wisdom of the prayers she wrote in thanksgiving for her life, parts of which I've translated freely:

Let this be a day of meeting each other truly
With the tides of life in the background,
where happiness and sadness, fortune and misfortune colour our lives
constantly, like ebbing and flooding.

Life is giving and receiving.
It does not pass without pain and sadness.
I believe that everything that happens has a place and a meaning in the wholeness of my life.
I believe that life is:
To be and to become who you are
Letting others be and become who they are.
Trusting, whatever happens.

God's love is given through people, a gift as constant as the tides.
I have learnt that love is the only thing that counts.

Dear Lord, let us hear Your voice in the rustling waters of all our doings.
And teach us to accommodate the ebbing and the flooding.
Let us be formed and ripened by the grooves and channels that have shaped our lives.

My aunt as a novice in 1955

Amen to that.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

133. The VIP lounge revisited

Ah, the VIP lounge. Can I ever forget?

The chemotherapy chair
If you have followed this blog, then I bet you remember it too. In fact my observations written whilst sitting in my chemotherapy chair have worked their way up to the top of the "most read blog post" list, past my observations on the advantages of having cancer rather than depression (currently, and quite rightly, number 2 on the list) and my thoughts on my mother's grave (strangely, that one stands at number 3).

Yesterday, I found myself back on the chemo ward.

This is how it happened.

Despite working as a researcher at a university that sits in the hospital building, I haven't had much to do with the cancer wards before. But last month I was contacted by a film maker who wanted make a short educational film about cancer and learning disability for Macmillan Cancer Support. She was looking for someone with learning disabilities who could talk about what it's like to have cancer. Almost inevitably, she had found her way to my door (not many people specialise in this area).

"You want Amanda!" I said.

I have told you about Amanda before (long time ago, but worth reading again: she is a rather extraordinary woman). Amanda has learning disabilities and has recovered from cancer. The whole rigmarole: surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy.

Last week, we all squeezed into Amanda's flat. Standing room only. As always, she spoke eloquently of her experiences, remembering them vividly, even though it was over a decade ago.

Filming at Amanda's flat
Now here's the thing. When Amanda and I first wrote her cancer story, I thought it was a story about learning disabilities. That was nine years ago. But when I re-read that story on the tube on my way to her flat, I discovered it was a story about cancer.

Most of Amanda's cancer experiences could have been mine.

It made me cry.

In fact, during my chemotherapy treatment I'd been wondering how on earth she managed to get through it all. I needed an iron will to return to the dreaded chemo chair again and again. How much harder for people who may find it difficult to understand why they need to sit in that chair and be poisoned.

Amanda not only understood this, but she had the necessary iron will. I went to talk with her a few hours before the film crew arrived, because I wanted to know more.

Yet again, Amanda spoke of her mother who had died of cancer when she was young.

"I know it sounds stupid," she said, "but when it was really hard, I talked to my mother. I felt that she was there with me."

Only now do I truly understand that this is far from stupid, and far from strange. My mother, I told Amanda, was there too, at my bedside in my darkest hours, even though (or perhaps because?) she was dead.

Next up was me.

The film crew came to my office yesterday. I was willing to be interviewed (although much less of a natural screen presence then Amanda, which you will certainly agree with once the film comes out). But I insisted that there should also be a "real" nurse in the film, on a real hospital ward.

Which nurse? Which ward? I rang the hospital's learning disability nurse specialist. What would he recommend?

What he recommended was Lovely Nurse on the chemotherapy ward.

So there I was, last week, back in the VIP lounge to find Lovely Nurse and ask her if she was willing. I walked in with my new curly locks and my professional badge, feeling much happier being Staff rather than Patient. Would anyone recognise me?

Saviour Nurse did. Immediately. She looked up from what she was doing and rushed over, hugging me: "Ooohh, how good to see you, how nice of you to come back here!"

I was impressed. Different looks, different context, and it's six months since I had my last shot of chemotherapy.

Most other nurses did a double take. I could see them thinking... I know that woman from somewhere, but who is she? But it didn't take them long to figure it out. This is an excellent ward with excellent nurses. Lovely Nurse herself remembered me too. She treated me once, when I had to rush in with a suspected bladder infection.

And yes, she was more than happy to be filmed.

It was a rather different arrival-on-the-chemo-ward yesterday.

Instead of turning up with a supportive husband/daughter/friend, an undemanding magazine and a comfortable T-shirt, I came with a camera man, a film director and side kick, a colleague/actor/friend and a confident mascara-and-lipstick smile. It was only Amanda and Lovely Nurse that needed filming, so I cheered them on from the side lines.

Knowing the ward had its uses. When I spotted that there was a free corner in the VIP lounge (two patients in adjacent chairs had just left), I knew other patients might be waiting but there was a possible gap. Could we film there perhaps?

We could.

Amanda and Lovely Nurse in the VIP lounge

"What is it like," the film director wanted to know, "being back on this ward?"

"Fine!" I grinned. "Much nicer this time round. No problem at all."

So I thought. But then I had to rush into the Ladies with a sudden bout of nausea, retching into the toilet bowl.

"This is bringing back memories," Amanda agreed. "I feel... not upset, but strange. I have butterflies in my stomach."

Clearly, a cancer year is not easily erased. We enjoyed the experience, but afterwards we needed to sit down together with a cup of tea.

Even now, looking at that chair in the photograph at the top of this blog post, I feel faintly sick.

The only thing to do, we knew, was to laugh about it all. We had both brought our chemo wigs, just for the fun of it. We thought we might put it on a PowerPoint slide next time we give a talk about cancer together.

So here we are. Onwards and upwards.

Don't we look fetching in our wigs!

Less fetching perhaps in each other's wig... 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

132. A different kind of bucket list

I only follow one other blog. It's by Kate Granger, a young doctor who is now in the late stages of terminal cancer.

Kate has only written two blog posts since I signed up, but they are poignant. In fact the one from two weeks ago has stayed with me every day since I read it, and it has lifted my spirits, so let me share it in full.

The things I love about life…
This is my list. What would you put on yours?
My family & friends
Being a doctor 
Lazy Sunday mornings with no alarm clocks
Cuddles with my nephews & niece
My flute
Cherry blossom
British asparagus
Podding peas in my parents’ garden
Strawberries and cream
Crunching autumn leaves
Band practice
Exploring new places
Going out for dinner
Sunday roasts
Willow trees
Clean bed linen
Spa days
My kitchen
Afternoon tea

It's the clean bed linen that has me gasping.
This is a different kind of bucket list. It's not Things I've never done and I want to do them before I die, but Things I love about my life, and I want to appreciate them again and again before I die.

Savouring the little things in life, the things that make life beautiful.

It's not the big aspirations, the bungee jumps, the travels around the world (unless you're into that kind of thing of course), but the things that we may take for granted. The things we would miss most and the things we might not even realise we enjoy.

That is exactly what I would want to focus on if I only had a little time left. It's what I wanted to focus on when I was ill. It's what I am hugely appreciative and grateful for now. The Moonwalk or the trip to Iceland may well be on my list (as "Exploring new places" is for Kate) but they are outnumbered by the ordinary day-to-day things.

Clean bed linen, definitely. Not forgetting the electric blanket. (I know, I know, it's June, but aahhhh, the bliss of sinking tired bones into the warmth of said blanket.)

The feeling of water on my skin.

Playing a board game with my daughter.

But why wait until there's only a little time left?

When you are ill and tired, your list shrinks, but there is always something on it. I couldn't play a board game when I was coping with chemotherapy, but I still loved the electric blanket. And the daughter herself, without the board game.

Reading Kate's list reminded me to enjoy and appreciate these little things. The wind on my face. My husband opening a bottle of wine when it isn't even a Friday night, and getting two glasses out of the cupboard. Singing in the choir. Tulips. A tidy kitchen.

(Children, if you happen to read this: A Tidy Kitchen is on my list, one with a sock free floor and the margarine in the fridge, not next to it. Believe me: happiness will follow.)

So... what's on your list?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

131. HAIR!!!

Spot the difference.

June 2012

May 2015
There were, of course, various in-between looks. Like these ones, for example.
July 2014 (too long,
but is it worth going to the hairdresser
if it's all going to fall out anyway?)

July 2014 (yes, it is worth going...
The pixie cut, just before it all fell out)
But you can see why my hair has become a talking point.

Or, rather, an exclaiming point. People don't talk in normal Times Roman font when they see my hair. They talk in CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS AT THE END OF IT!!!

Because it looks nothing, nothing like it has ever looked before. I mean, seriously, quite apart from the rather startling greyness: THERE ARE CURLS!!!!!!

That needs at least - at least - six exclamation marks. I have never had a single curl in my life. This is how my career in coiffures started...
...and it was ever thus. If fashion dictated a more voluminous look (1980s, I'm looking at you), then a shelf full of hair raising products was needed to prevent the cat-that's-been-out-in-the-rain look, the one where your hair faithfully follows the contours of your head, clinging to it for dear life. (That June 2012 photo? Seems a natural look? Let me tell you, it kept the hair gel-and-blow-dryer businesses in comfortable profits.)

Nowadays, when you put me out in the rain, the curls just go curlier.

So here's the scenario.

You haven't seen me for a couple of weeks/months/years. This can go any of the following ways.

Option 1


Yes, that's right. LOVE, not just in capitals but in bold, and underlined.

ISN'T IT LOVELY! you say. You turn to others, all equally keen to comment.

Don't get me wrong, I'm joining in with gusto. I'm happy to have this conversation several times a week. (And I do.) Wouldn't you much rather discuss hairdos than chemotherapy regimes?

Plus, I genuinely want people's opinion. I'm all for Dutch honesty, which can, to the polite English person, seem to border on rudeness. But I now find that if you've had chemo-induced hair loss, even the English are finally unafraid of speaking their minds. Opinions abound, and I'll hear about them.

"Hm, I'm just wondering whether this is getting ridiculous," I'd say. "Perhaps I should ring my hairdresser?"

And they'd go, "NO!! LEAVE IT LIKE THIS! I LOVE IT!"

Or they go...

Option 2


I have some sympathy. I also rather liked it when it was short. More than liked: I loved the ultra-short look. (Hence my hairdresser suggestion. Wasn't the shorter-than-short look somewhat better than this poodle-like arrangement?)

The drawback: very short hair was (and still is) more high-maintenance than it seems. Not the hair itself, but the rest of me. Without the make-up and the earrings, the funky look (I'm using the most-heard vocabulary here) quickly turns into the old-man-look. And the trouble with make-up is that all too often I just can't be bothered.

More than once, supermarket checkout youngsters (it's usually youngsters) have squirmed with embarrassment at their mistake after I returned their greeting of "Good morning sir" in a voice that clearly didn't match my appearance.

One person went one step further, and said ACTUALLY, I LIKED IT WHEN YOU WERE BALD.

Too bad. I'm not going back there. Let me say that again: I! AM! NOT! GOING! BACK! THERE!!

Option 3


You may well ask. I am as startled by my new look as you are. This doesn't sound like a compliment (and it usually isn't - it's often followed by Option 2).

Option 4


This came from someone I hadn't seen since 2012, and who was unaware of last year's trials and tribulations. She clearly thought I'd been busy with the scissors and curlers.

The dilemma: What to do with it?

Keep it ultra-short? It's quite possible that I suddenly lose heart and call Andrew the lovely hairdresser in a moment of despair.

Let it grow? And grow, and grow, and see what happens? I'm intrigued. How will this end? When will gravity take hold of my curls?

"You looked more like yourself when you had no hair at all," a friend commented recently, and whilst this sounds bizarre, she has a point. I look in the mirror and I think, Hm, who does that remind me of? I definitely don't remind me of myself.

Shape it? Whilst it grows and grows? Because frankly, my current state of affairs feels like a carefully rounded hat.

Dye it? I'm not the dyeing kind, I tried it for a year or so but it was too much like painting the Forth Bridge. Having said that, my current shade of grey is rather startling and only this much removed from the Blue Rinse.

Whilst I am pondering these matters, it suddenly occurs to me who I am reminded of when I look in the mirror. No, it's not me.

Reader, I believe I have finally turned into Denise.

Me as Denise, August 2014