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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Granny Houdini

Granny sat on a train going into central London on Friday with two female Poles yattering away - zzh-zzh-zzh this - zzh- zzh-zzh that. Later she sat on a train coming out of central London with two male Poles yattering away; zzh-zzh-zzh this - zzh- zzh-zzh that. She loved them. Just now she loves all Poles. Because on Friday too it was a Pole - a woman doctor - who gave her the fabulous- FABULOUS- news. She can keep her hair. She can, after Australia, go home to her volcanic island - and her Beloved. She is not liable to such ills as heart trouble, osteoporosis, leukaemia, all of which can be side effects of the poisons used to cure cancer. She does not have to have chemotherapy.


The reasons are as follows; her tumour was not a common or garden tumour (of course not) but something called 'metaplastic.' Rarely seen in humans - at most 5% of all tumours, but there's argument about this - it is on the other hand common in dogs: Granny is clearly not only relatively unique - she likes this thought - but also a labrador at heart - or pug - more appropriately a pug given the way she is still snuffling from her cold. (She has always liked pugs; even if Stevie Smith did call one 'an obstinate old nervous breakdown.' She owed a black one once; the most eccentric and indeed neurotic animal on earth; but that's another story.) Whether canine or human the metaplastic demon has this in common; it is not susceptible to chemotherapy; or rarely. Also once removed its bearers tend to survive more or often than not. Given other factors - small size of offending article, her 'perfect health' (ha ha) Granny's chances of surviving 10 years with no further treatment are 75.5%. Her 24.5% chance of earlier demise (lets be accurate here) relates not just to cancer but to other causes such as walking under a bus, getting bird flu, Japanese encephalitis, old age, etc etc etc. Nothing new there.

'Chemo might up your chances by 1-2-3-4%' says nice Polish doctor. 'We can still offer it you if you like..' Granny didn't say 'up yours' to this. Doctor too nice, news too good, offer too obliging. But yes she declined it.


She feels like a character in one of those schlock serials - Tom Mix - Dick Barton - who ends every episode bound and gagged while strapped to a railway line with train approaching, being pushed off a cliff, approached by shark/cobra/man-eating lion, only to be rescued at the start of the next episode. Granny Houdini indeed. Too lucky to live might be the comment of some less lucky members of her family.

She has not escaped entirely unscathed. There's the little matter of her missing tit.... currently exacerbated by a painful swelling of the kind they don't warn you about before the operation - it will go away; but when? In the light of which her time is currently taken up trotting round London being given free - or far from free- advice by all kinds of alternative therapists. (Eat more protein; eat less protein; eat no carbohydrates at dinner; eat only ditto at dinner. Drink coffee; don't drink coffee. Drink 3 litres of water a day; drink 2 litres of water etc, etc.) But also being offered massage, aromatherapy, etc etc in a gently cheery centre designed for breast cancer sufferers, so painted in soft bright colours and staffed by similarly colour-coded women with equally soft voices. Good.

She has also, less willingly, entered the world of 'Mastectomy Fashion' - high cut swimsuits and sexy underwear with slots for plastic replacements modelled by young women clearly needing no such enhancements themeselves. In the light of her future reconstruction she is confronting a book called 'A woman's decision' which alternates more surgical detail than she wants to hear with the human stories of her fellow sufferers ('How cancer taught me to LOVE LIfE' etc); neither of these her reading matter of choice. Her desktop is covered with files containing endless pretty or not so pretty picture of reconstructed tits. Heigh ho. You may not know for instance that there is a man in Windsor who specialises in making bespoke rubber stick-on nipples - an alternative to having a nipple tattooed on. His house contains shelves and shelves of them. Granny remembers - most of you probably don't - that many years ago there was a television quiz called 'What's My Line' in which various grumpy or garrulous celebrities had to guess the often unlikely professions of assorted guests. She wishes they would revive it just the once and bring on this fellow. Or maybe not.

Anyway, enough. This is getting to be the medical version of page 3. She is as bored of the subject as you must be. Next time she writes, it will be, she promises, about something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Over: and OUT.

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