Saturday 8 September 2018

The Day Job

I haven’t written about cancer for a while. There are many reasons for this, none more so than the fact that I don’t have a lot to say, because I am *Stable Mable. I am a, ‘Strange Phenomenon’. I am an ‘Unusual Body,’ which, in this instance, is a good thing. I am, in short, insanely lucky.

And yet no one needs me to tell them that cancer is a heinous, unpredictable disease and there are many people who aren’t so lucky. Never have I been more acutely aware of this than this week, with the news that Radio Five Live journalist, Rachael Bland, has died of her cancer. Co-creator of the chart topping, hilarious, thoughtful, poignant, fantastically direct and gutsy podcast, You, Me and the Big C, Rachael, and her equally fabulous colleagues, Lauren Mahon and Deborah James, encouraged everybody to be upbeat and positive about her death.

But although I recognise that she has left behind the most powerful of legacies, I admit, the news has rocked me.

It's a reminder that we are so fallible, that cancer, in fact many diseases, are random and indiscriminate and that a treatment that's worked for one person, can be totally ineffectual for another. Cancer is not a 'battle' that can be won simply if we have the right ammunition. However, I do believe that there is nothing wrong with keeping that ammunition in a clean and nurtured environment, shined and polished so that if cancer comes calling or a rogue cell gets cocky, it's ready for it, ready to give its best shot at kicking it into touch.

We might miss, but I'd like to feel we tried. The ammunition I am most likely to pack in a corner, not pay it its due attention, is my immune system. Or rather, I'm forever tempted to deprive my immune system of sleep.

I’d been beavering away, life returning so very definitely back to a cracking paced normality after the knee buckling curve ball of April 2017, which I wrote about here

So cracking has been the pace that I admit to having taken my eye off the sleep monitor just a little.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am still a whole stratosphere away from my pre-December 2013 delinquency. Back then I prided myself - oh yes - on my ability to stay awake when all around were slumbering. It meant I could crack on in my study: just me the pc screen and a flood of ticks on the to-do list.  I’d finish with an indulgent hour of writing stories, followed by a languorous soak in the bath and the current book in favour, before dragging myself into a fulfilled and light-headed, 3am bedtime.

I felt lucky then, as well. My life was the next best thing to having magical 27 hour days and it meant I could have a lot of every bit of what I fancied because I had that extra tail end of the day that was denied to so many.

Post my primary cancer diagnosis on that fateful day at the end of 2013, my 27 hours had been concertinaed back into 24 and the extra hours of inertia the body's essential rehabilitation, came at a price.

I struggle to fit my own writing around the little cracks of time in the day that are left. Indeed, I struggle to fit the day job (oh, the irony)  into the cracks, and I do wonder if the added stress of never quite managing to achieve as much as I need to do to keep on top of everything, negates the benefit of the extra sleep.

Ridiculous, scoffs the hubbie. But he is a lark, a well-meaning, nothing is more important than keeping me alive, lark. Of course he doesn’t understand. Physically, he couldn’t do it. He is genetically programmed to stop work at 8pm at the latest and to fall into a deep and impenetrable sleep not long afterwards. To-do list or otherwise, larks sleep at night. That’s just how it is. If you want the lark in your family to catch a wild boar, you'll have to ask them to do it in the morning.

Ridiculous of course, but it’s not that easy is it? And it really isn't easy if you know you physically could stay up and answer the emails glowering from the inbox. None of us operate in a vacuum. One man’s, Sod It I’m Tired I’m Going To Bed, is someone else drumming their fingers, waiting for their reply, cursing the lack of response whilst muttering, 'Did they get it?' and 'Don’t they care?'. Or at least, that’s what I suppose.  

But Rachael Bland has given me a wake-up call, a kick up the bum, a reminder of my resolve. And so I have vowed that I will cover my ears and ignore the chimes to 'catch up'. I will shake away the image of steam puffing from people's ears as they spit and curse at my lack of response, and I will switch off, snuggle up, and get my sleep. After all, I owe it to those who aren't so lucky, to at least try my best.

Rest in peace, Rachael Bland, another brilliant person taken too soon.

*I stole that term from another fabulous Rachel, Rachel Ferry, currently NED, and she won't mind me saying, against all odds. 


  1. It's absolutely wonderful to know that you are "stable mabel and an unusual person/body. Who can deny it! However it cannot be denied that having cancer journeying along beside you is a tough call for anyone. Keep up the good work Jax, keep showing the pesky thing the door and sleep well. xxx

    1. Thank you, Lyn:D And I will do my absolute best!!

  2. Brilliant words Jackie and as positive as ever! And absolutely R.I.P. amazing Rachel Bland! xx

    1. Awwww, glad it hit the spot! Thanks, Antonia x


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