The Fair Witch Project

It’s cold outside today and as I’ve recently finished my final OU course I’m amusing myself with some research. I began by exploring the retail markets in China, customer expectations for website/app design, usability and features. I studied user interface design during my post-grad but the module was primarily concerned with Western markets and I’ve been meaning to find out more about the Chinese marketplace for a long time.

Having accomplished that somewhat serious research mission I decided to try something more lighthearted and explored a subject I’ve been thinking about for ages – local folklore.  It’s almost Halloween so it seems fitting to brush up on my knowledge of the ghosts and ghouls that might skulk around the Worcestershire wilderness tomorrow evening.  I quickly established that there are many tales of the supernatural in this part of the world, enough to keep me occupied with folklore for a good few weeks.  My research also brought some unexpected news because it seems to indicate I may be a witch! Here’s the witch-finders checklist and the all too ghastly evidence of my sorcery:

10 Worrisome signs of a Witch in Worcestershire

1. Tends to be reclusive.  I’m never found in a crowd these days.

2. Has knowledge of herbs and plants. I know the herbs and most native wild flowers

3. Has a familiar in the form of a cat or toad. I have a cacophony of cats and a cauldron pond full of toads, frogs and newts.

4. Talks to the familiar. Yes, I talk to the cats, regularly, and I wait for them to reply!

5. Casts no shadow. I’m virtually translucent these days so any sunshine passes right through me.

6. Does not bleed if pricked with a pin. Ask the phlebotomist, it’s verging on impossible.

7. Makes curses. Fec, feckty-fec, fecking fec. It’s true, I curse a lot. Especially when subjected to number 6 above.

8. Has unusual marks on the body. Upper right quadrant, very unusual.

9. Ginger hair. The few remaining strands are all ginger.

10. Has a pact with the devil. It doesn’t come much closer than chemo.

All I can say is I’m glad people don’t get quite as upset about witches these days because I might find myself run through with a hay-fork and/or thrown in the River Severn.  That’s got to be worse than surgery and chemo!

Joking about chemo is my way of dealing with it but like my research into Chinese websites/apps there’s a serious side to this too. Many people feel frightened when they’re told they need chemotherapy treatment and it’s OK to feel frightened.  It’s an alien experience and any alien encounter is going to be a bit scary until you know what you’re dealing with.  However, some people also say chemo is just a poison and it doesn’t save or prolong lives.  I would encourage anyone who doubts whether chemo is beneficial to consider that not so long ago some people also thought the world was flat.   It isn’t.  Most normal body cells have a lifespan.  Bone cells live for 10 – 15 years, cells lining the stomach live for just a few days.  Cancer cells are different. They tend to grow quickly, they keep growing and unlike normal cells they don’t die.  Chemo works by inhibiting cell growth, interrupting the cell’s ability to reproduce and interfering with cell processes so that cancer cells receive the instruction to die.  Side effects occur because our current chemo drugs are largely indiscriminate, they affect normal cells too.  Normal cells will recover from this process but cancer cells won’t.  (If anyone still doubts the efficacy of chemotherapy, try searching google images for ‘fungating tumours.’  This is not something to invite into your life if you’re offered an alternative option).

I won’t lie and say chemo is a walk in the park because it isn’t. But the side effects are manageable and they’re temporary. Doing chemo is no time to be a martyr. Tell the medical team what’s happening and they’ll find ways to address it.  Keep a side effects log, score each issue and show the results to the medical team – it helps them understand the situation and mutual understanding in any scenario is the best way to achieve beneficial results. Untreated cancer is never temporary, it isn’t going to go away on its own and I wish people who doubt would hear this as a lot of unnecessary suffering could be avoided. I know it can be scary, I know surgery and radio and chemo can be scary, but I also know many people who wish they’d been offered adjuvant treatment beyond surgery alone.  Being a fair witch, I’d rather endure a cauldron full of chemo than make believe the world is still flat.

You can get through a cauldron full of chemo. Taking chances with cancer is a different story.