Season’s Greetings

It can be very confusing listening to a Scottish person speaking.  We use many words and expressions in their own unique way and often these are not abundantly clear.  For example, we go to the shop or supermarket for our messages.  Does that sound strange?  Well, it is not strange to us at all.  It simply means shopping, particularly our grocery or food shopping.  Another word we use a lot is “piece” and you would often hear talk of a cheese piece, a piece and jam (jeely piece) or be asked “what’s in your pieces today?”  To us, a piece means sandwich,. So we also have piece-boxes which are used for packed lunches.  Not quite like the tiffin pot which holds hot food and meals, the piece box holds sandwiches and maybe an apple!

One deliciously expressive word we use a fair bit is “greet”.  It has nothing to do with the broader English language definition of “to salute or welcome in a friendly and respectful way with speech or writing, as upon meeting or in opening a letter”  Oh no – we use it rather it as a colloquial term for crying or weeping and it also has the sense of complaining or grumbling.  It is not a flattering term.  Greeting is not the word we would use for a dignified, composed weep.   And it is none too sympathetic or generous.  The image conjured up of someone greeting is of a contorted face, scarlet and probably snottery, and a significant noise volume attached to it.  To have a greeting face is not something to aspire to at all, with its associations of crabbitness and grump.  (Crabbit being another wonderful expression in Scottish slang for grumpy or miserable).  For example, this description from the Scots Language Centre quotes the use of “greeting face” which is most definitely not a compliment.

So that is the greeting.  But what is the season?  Well, for me it is the season of memories, milestones, landmark days and anniversaries.  We are also on the threshold of Breast Cancer Awareness Month which in itself creates a considerable stooshie around the globe. (A stooshie being another wonderful Scots word for a commotion, rumpus, or row, or a state of excitement or anxiety; a tizzy).  And there is one serious stooshie on the horizon across the blogosphere and breast cancer world.  Thoughts on that stooshie are for another day, today my thoughts relate to that season as it relates to my own experience.

Today marks the start of this season.  For it was 23 September 2009 when I discovered the lump and life as I knew it took a turn for the very different.  The landmark days come hurtling at me after that, with October 2 marking The Day I Found Out, my Cancerversary.  That was the day I heard those life-changing, burned-onto-my-memory words “this is highly suspicious of cancer”. On October 5 I had my surgery, lost my left breast along with its tumours, a heap of lymph nodes and their nasty cells and gained Twang Arm.  Although I spent most of the day unconscious, it is certainly a day I will never forget!  On 21 October my portacath was implanted in time for the first chemo on 23 October.  Exactly a month after the day I found the lump.

So it is a season for greeting, remembering, reflecting and to a certain extent, re-living those traumatic days of October 2009.  Add to that the annual Big Check with the attendant scans, examinations and appointments and you have a very sensitive season indeed.

So please excuse me if I get a bit prickly this season…

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It’s that time of year again…. Landmark Days and Extreme October approaching rapidly

I have a chill in my stomach as I see the date on the calender.  We are rapidly approaching a time of year when I am dragged kicking and screaming headlong into a face-off with my encounter with breast cancer.

Firstly, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which has turned into a Pinktoberfest of every imaginable product marketed with pink ribbons and pink anything in many parts of the world.

Secondly, it is a period loaded with my own Landmark Days, that is, anniversaries of  significant cancer “milestones”.   The first one is rapidly speeding towards me and is now less than 2 weeks away.  That is September 23, the day I discovered “the lump” and the day that it all started.  Being diagnosed at the beginning of October is a cruel move and means that awareness stares me in the face even more than usual.  And just to add an extra bonus frisson, I will have my Big Annual Check in the middle of October.  The stomach churning game of “Hunt the danger signal” Just in case there was any in danger of breast cancer slipping my mind.

Last October my head was very firmly in the “I-can’t-believe-that it-is-already-a-year-since-this-nightmare-started-while-I-can’t-believe-it’s-only-a-year” space. It had been impossible to imagine the one year point back at diagnosis time.  The one year milestone was a time of intense and mixed emotions.  Now, 12 months, 4 NEDs, innumerable needle sticks, 360 odd Tamoxifen, at least a dozen passionate encounters with Capt Paranoia and 3 memorable adventures I find myself in a somewhat different place.

Throughout this year, as I have parted company with the phase of treatments and appointments you live your life around, I have been able to see things from a slightly more objective perspective.  I have also learned an incredible heap of things, some of which have shocked me and spurred me into shouting out.  And as I am in a different space, I have a strong feeling that the Pinktober month is also taking on a different shade.  It’s more like an “Extreme October”. There is a significant disconnect between the marketing Pink-everything in sight October extreme and the debate (or lack of it) around the need to progress in understanding breast cancer, especially metastatic and widely held beliefs such as the one that early detection guarantees cure.  I find there is another extreme between the excess of marketing in many countries and the total lack in others.  Last year I did not spot one single item of pink merchandise here, and in Thailand I saw evidence of the Awareness month in the hospital but not in the shops.

Last October my posts were mostly reflective and highly subjective.  I marked my Cancerversay by writing a letter to Cancer which probed the thorny personal relationship I had developed with cancer.  My Big Check came at the end of the month and I moved out of the month embracing a new phase.  I think this October will be different.  For one thing, I have learned a great deal from blogging peers about the limitations, shall we call them, of the pink campaigns.  I am far more tuned in to the debate and am learning uncomfortable truths.  The blogs I am reading and the friendships I am making are bringing me into a movement of questioning and challenging which I suspect will become even more vocal as the month wears on.  I have been intrigued to hear that there have been some “overtures” made to some of my snarky, smart blogging buddies to write guest posts on commercial sites.  I sense a counter pink movement this Extreme October.

In terms of Feisty Blue Gecko, I am forming a plan for how I will approach Extreme October posts, bearing in mind how much I love my spot on the fence.  I have a particular plan forming for 13 October which has been designated Metastatic Breast Cancer Day.  (Yep, one day – what a contradiction in itself).

I am intrigued to see how this Extreme October takes shape.