Make no mistake, going through chemotherapy is monumentally shit, which got me thinking the other day about how small things (as in, small elements of life, not, say, Kylie Minogue or dwarves) can become far more important than before.
For example, I was battling my way home on the tube last week, hair gently shedding onto my collar, and thinking that when Samuel Johnson said that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, he clearly never tried to get somewhere on the Northern line at 5pm with a carriage full of people who were apparently trying to break the world record for how much of my personal space they could personally take up, when I remembered that it was Friday and that’s when the Evening Standard magazine comes out. (For non-Londoners, the Evening Standard, or ES, is a free weekly magazine that you get at tube stations every Friday).
I love the Evening Standard magazine. The ‘out and about’ section of C-list celebrities eating canapes in various London locations, Grace Dent’s restaurant review, the ‘My London’ section at the back, the articles about east being the new west – I love it all. My only complaint is that sometimes it’s too short. Anyway, I remembered that it was Friday and it totally cheered my spirits, which made me think about other things that are getting me through this often bleak and apparently endless time. So, in no particular order, here they are…
Cerys Matthews! Jarvis Cocker! Huey from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals! If you look at these names and think ’90s pop stars’ instead of ‘6 Music presenters’ you need to find yourself a digital radio now and tune in to 6 Music forthwith. Yes, admittedly the music choices can go a little leftfield from time to time (the Postman Pat theme tune played on the steel drums, while Cerys enthuses wildly about ‘the cutting edge of world music’ can be a step too far) but it’s worth it for the sheer quality of the presenters and their music knowledge. I am also obsessed with John Cooper-Clark, gravelly-voiced Northern punk poet and as soon as you hear him intone ‘I married a monster from outer space’, you will be too. Whenever I feel low, I put on 6 Music and the general background chatter makes me feel better. God love the BBC.
The Saturday and Sunday Times magazines
Similar to the ES magazine (and actually published by the same people), I love the weekend supplement magazines. I actually have a specific order that I read them in (Saturday magazine, Saturday weekend supplement, Sunday magazine, Style supplement, Culture, if you’re interested). I don’t actually read any of the news, or anything as high brow as that, I literally just read the magazines.
Once, every newsagent in my local area ran out of the Sunday Times, which has given me a genuine fear of leaving it past lunchtime to buy one, and if it gets to 2pm on a weekend and I don’t have the papers in my possession, I get very edgy and slightly sweaty and start saying to Robbie, ‘WE MUST GET ME A PAPER NOW. WHY WON’T YOU LET ME HAVE THE PAPER’ (please note that Robbie has never once stopped me from getting the paper, and only gets very slightly irritated at the amount of space they take up in the recycling) and he usually gets me one, because he is nice and also a much calmer person that I am. Also because it is the most effective way to get me to shut up.
Can’t really explain this one quite as well to be honest, although asking anyone why they love Mary Berry is like asking why you would eat an entire tube of Pringles at once (the answer being WHY WOULD YOU NOT?)
There is something immensely comforting about Mary B, and I’m never happier than when watching Bake Off, or any of her cooking programmes, or anything to do with her, and marvelling at how good she looks for 80. In fact, whenever I watch her, I subject whoever I’m with to constant queries as to whether they can believe that she’s an octogenarian. And then I say, ‘I hope I’m like that at 80’ and then nod in agreement to myself. Sometimes I even do it when I’m on my own.
Since I’ve been having chemo, I’ve become much like Elton John (who once spent £293,000 on flowers in one year, and when questioned about it by his accountant, simply said, in what many consider to be the finest understatements of our time, ‘I like flowers’), demanding fresh flowers with menaces for my lounge. There’s something incredibly uplifting about having flowers to look at when you’re at home, battling through a chemical fog and I highly recommend splashing out on anything that cheers the spirits.
I’m not suggesting that any of these things make up for having to go through the total shitstorm that is chemotherapy, but I do think it helps to focus on anything small that cheers you up, whether that’s chocolate, the radio or looking at pictures of cats wearing tights and embrace it, whatever it is, and take any small moments of pleasure that you can.