Being incognito suits me. I’ve never wanted fame or fortune, celebrity doesn’t really mean anything to me and money is just something I use to pay bills, put food on the table and support my son. Undergoing chemotherapy threw a spanner in the works; it made it impossible to remain anonymous. Passers-by didn’t know who I was, they couldn’t name me, but they certainly knew what I was. I was the person drawing pitying glances, puzzled stares or desperate attempts to avoid eye contact. I was the thing many people don’t want to name.
Cancer, embodied. A walking, talking materialisation of the scourge a lot of us dread as much as death itself. The dreading isn’t without cause – I know as many people dying of cancer as I do surviving it. Many are young, too young to go through what they’re going through and much too young to be facing death. They have no choice, they won’t be cured in spite of surgeries, treatments, living healthily or fighting to survive. They’re being cheated out of life by the biggest cheat I know.
Because cancer is a cheat and because it can resume its destructive course at any point I’m much more conscious of time. The red sand in the Wicked Witch of the West’s egg timer is never far from my thoughts; time slips by too easily. Every moment is precious, even the difficult ones. This year more than all the years that have gone before I’m making the most of every moment and that’s how I know I’m almost incognito again.
I’ve been able to get a hair cut, (it’s still boyishly short but at least it bares some resemblance to being styled that way), go out for a meal and go on holiday without turning heads, evoking whispers or sorry glances. Shop assistants no longer ask if I’m ok and I don’t look (or feel) like I’ll faint if I stand for more than a minute or two. I’m not a disgusting translucent yellowy-grey colour anymore either. I’m approaching normal although I’ll never be completely normal. There are scars but I don’t wear the cancer patient badges any more. I pass as a woman who let her hairdresser get scissor happy and that suits me just fine. It’s taken a long time and turned my whole life upside down in the process but I’m here and come hell or high water I’m not going to waste a second looking back. I’m almost incognito again. Long may that continue.