Monday, 8 June 2009

Belt and Braces

Now that I’m all spruced up in my new compression bra and all juiced up on Morphine, I’m ready to entertain. And it’s just as well.

Flossie is already on the scene. Next through the door are my sister Miranda, my boyfriend Nick and my niece Eloise. Miranda and Nick have been buying up West London’s organic vegetable stockpile and juicing for Britain. It seems that they each have firm, yet distinct ideas about how juicing should be done. I take delivery of two flasks of juice. Eloise is excited to the point of collywobbles because today she is going to meet her cousin Amazon-Rainforest for the first time. They are both from one-child families. Eloise lives in Moscow and Australia and Amazon-Rainforest lives in Goa and the UK. I’ve been trying to engineer their meeting for a very long time. I’m truly delighted that it’s going to happen at last, even if it’s taken me getting breast cancer to bring it about.

Ben arrives with Amazon-Rainforest. She and Eloise take one look at each other and fall instantly in love. "Being cousins isn't funny," announces Eloise, "so why are we laughing?" Collapsing in giggles, they skip into the bathroom where Eloise shows A-R how to put dolls to bed in the bath.

Jamie and Iris arrive. They have agreed to take the little girls to Regent’s Park to play with Chilli and Hugo, the Chihuahuas. Off they all go.

Next in is Jean-Claude, Miranda’s husband. He has just flown from Barcelona, where he lives and works. I can tell that you’re beginning to suspect that my family and friends have some pretty complicated living arrangements.

Let me take a moment to fill you in. I am Australian but I live in London. My boyfriend Nick lives in Sydney. My sister Miranda is a diplomat. At the moment she and Eloise live in Moscow. Miranda's husband Jean-Claude is French. He is an advertising man and he lives and works in Barcelona. Jean-Claude is not Eloise’s father. Eloise spends her holidays in Adelaide with her father and his partner and two older daughters. When she's not in Adelaide Eloise visits our mother in Tasmania. Our mother moved from Sydney to Tasmania a couple of decades ago. My cousin Ben is a film producer. When Ben and his wife Sayeeda separated, Sayeeda moved to Goa in India. When Ben is not working he spends his time in Goa with his daughter Amazon-rainforest. Jamie and Iris are not a couple. Jamie lives at the Penthouse flat, Mayhem Mansions, Marylebone in a homosexual ménage à trois with Ted and Muttiah. Iris spends a lot of time at Mayhem Mansions for two reasons: 1. She and Jamie are both Chihuahua owners and 2. Ted cooks a lot of pies. You get the picture?

Antony arrives, with more flowers. Flossie pops out to the shops and returns with yet another gift for me – an Aveda face spray. I thank her and, to show just how useful this gift is, spritz my face.

On the wall by the door is a Perspex leaflet holder containing an A4 laminated card with graphic illustrations of the surgical procedure that I have recently undergone: the latissimus dorsi flap. If there is ever a lull in the conversation, Nick takes the opportunity to pass around the card saying "Look, this is what Lily had done." Most people, like me, cannot bear to look.

The park gang return. Eloise has fallen over and grazed her knee and by all accounts created so much hullaballoo that Jamie and Iris felt obliged to return her to her mother. The girls switch the TV on and settle down to watch Kung-Fu Panda, my new favourite movie. Miranda and Antony try giving me amateur reflexolgy. They work on one foot apiece, “to help you relax.”

It’s standing room only when the door opens and Mr Hadjiminas enters the scene. The look on his face turns from stunned to confused but nurse Anne quickly bustles in behind him. “Right-o,” she says, “everybody out.”

The gang traipse off to continue their party on the staircase or in the lift or somewhere. Mr H regains his composure and takes a seat. “We’ve got the lab report on the remainder of your lymph nodes,” he says, “they were all clear.” Suddenly I exhale and it feels as if I’ve been holding my breath for a week. “That’s great news, thank you,” I sigh, “so I won’t need chemotherapy?” “I’m afraid I will still be recommending chemotherapy,” replies Mr H. “But you got all the cancer out,” I rejoin. “Well,” says Mr Hadjiminas, “if there is any spread to the lymph system at all, then there is always a possibility, however slight, that it may have spread elsewhere in your body. We simply have no way to know. So the chemotherapy is precautionary. It’s sort of a belt and braces approach." “I see,” say I, “well I’ll have to think about it. I’ll let you know when I've made a decision.” Mr H gives me an ever so slightly exasperated glance.