The Malignant Ginger

I'm Jojogingerhead, a 31 year old artist & musician based in Brighton (UK) satirically documenting the highs and lows of my secondary triple negative breast cancer diagnosis. Trying to see the light in a dark and scary situation without using the words fight, battle, journey or survivor.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

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Yes, that is me on a previous birthday. Sat on a toilet, holding a cake, with a stuffed toy pig on my head and a sparkler in my mouth.

 

Today I turn 32. Normally I love my birthday but this year it’s different. No birthday will ever be the same again and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Normally I wake up super early with butterflies in my tummy, check my phone to see who has texted and log straight in to Facebook to see who has posted birthday wishes on my timeline. Today I woke up super early with butterflies in my tummy but this time it’s a mixture of pain and nausea, a side effect from chemo. I checked my phone but it was to see if the hospice nurses have rung, they are coming to my house this morning to give me an assessment for pain management. I logged into Facebook but it was to see if any of the women from my cancer support group have replied to my thread about abdominal pain. Still, some things remain the same and I do feel excited, partly due to the morphine I shall hopefully be receiving later this morning, partly because I know my friends have organised a huge birthday party for me tomorrow but mostly because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY AND I’M STILL ALIVE!

 

Since my last birthday I’ve been diagnosed with cancer twice, the second time it has spread to my liver and is now deemed incurable. I’ve had 3 operations, 10 rounds of chemotherapy, 15 blasts of radiotherapy, 6 months of hormone therapy, shaved my head 5 times, been admitted to a&e 4 times, had countless appointments, biopsies, scans and procedures and taken more (legal) drugs than I care to remember. I’ve cried, I’ve been terrified, I’ve been in unbearable pain and I’ve thought I was going to die but I’ve also laughed and never felt so loved in my entire life. I’ve met some amazing people who I never would have met under any normal circumstances and I have loved those closest to me more than I ever thought I could.

 

Of course there’s the obvious thoughts flying round my head. Will this be the last birthday I ever celebrate, the last candles I blow out, the last cards flopping through the letterbox and the last booze fuelled debauched party organised in my honour? There’s still so much I want to do, so much I want to make, so many people I want to meet and so much love I want to give, of course I do not want this birthday to be my last.

 

So where do I go from here? I have hope. I cling on to this hope and pray everyday that my life can be prolonged for as long as I feel well enough to live it for. I have the present and the power to make it what I want. Most importantly I have the love and support of many wonderful, amazing people that give me the strength to carry on this hard slog. I’ve been told I’m brave and an inspiration but I’m no different to anyone else that has been thrown into a horrific situation beyond their control. We are all struggling, searching and striving to seek life in any form possible.

 

On my 32nd birthday, especially after the events of the last year, I feel like I should have something more profound to say than what I’m about to offer. Here are 2 versions of a poem I have written; the first from my 30th birthday and the second from today. I guess what I’m trying to show is that although my life has changed a great deal in the last year, deep down I am still the same silly childish me.

 

Today I turn 30 and I have grown to realise that…
1. I will never be a rock star
2. Drinking is fun, hangovers are not, the sense of impending doom and panic attacks are definitely not
3. Romenesco’s are possibly the most amazing vegetable in existence
4. Hairless animals are beautiful, especially sphynx cats and naked mole rats
5. Concentrate on the present, not the past or the future
6. It is okay to not wear make up, even if my piggy eyes and ginger skin are exposed to the hateful sun
7. Giving feels a million times better than taking
8. Peas taste as hideous now as they did when I was 3
9. People can be the evil spawn of satan but there are many more amazing good people out there, especially my mum and my friends
10. Ginger hair is a blessing not a curse
11. There is wondrous amazement to be found in the mundane (lost gloves, odd socks, soup strings and chicken bums to name but a few)
12. Jeremy Kyle and Robert Kilroy Silk would make a good man sandwich

 

Today I turn 32 and I have grown to realise that…
1. I will never be a rock star but I might be something altogether better
2. Drinking is not fun when your body is pumped full of practically every prescription drug under the sun, and panic attacks are a mere drop in the ocean compared to being told you have cancer
3. Broccoli, spinach and kale (cruciferous and cancer fighting) are now the most amazing vegetables in existence
4. Hairless women are beautiful, especially all of my Younger Breast Cancer Network friends
5. Concentrate on the present, not the past or the future
6. It is not okay under any circumstances to not to wear make up, my fat steroid face must be contoured and brows drawn on at all times
7. Giving feels a million times better than taking
8. Peas taste less hideous now as they did when I was 3 due to chemo destroying my taste buds
9. I pity those that are miserable and bitter and cherish the many more amazing good people that are out there, especially my mum and my friends
10. Ginger hair is a blessing when you’ve spent the best part of a year being bald
11. There is wondrous amazement to be found in just managing to stay alive
12. Any two men would make a good man sandwich with the current state of my love life

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6 Comments

  1. Melanie hemingway
    May 18, 2015

    You are an amazing and beautiful person. Profound things said and a little year shed xxxxxx Happy Birthday you deserve it

  2. Helen
    April 16, 2015

    Happy birthday Hun, us ladies couldn’t get through treatment without you. You say how the rest are feeling but don’t always want to say it or put it down in words x hope you manage to enjoy lots of cake xx

  3. Emilia
    April 16, 2015

    Hi JoJo,
    Happy Birthday and wishing you much happiness at your Love in
    Abundance party!!

  4. Kayleigh
    April 16, 2015

    Amazing beautiful woman! Happy birthday and all the very best!

  5. Angie Wilson
    April 16, 2015

    Beautiful piece of writing from a sweet, gorgeous, intelligent, fun, inspiring and all round wonderful human being. Happy Birthday Jojo. We sent you loads of love from us both and thank you so so much for writing and sharing this. Truly remarkable stuff xxx

  6. Shirley
    April 16, 2015

    Happy Birthday!! I have only been reading your blog for a while (my own daughter, Chloe who is 28, is currently undergoing treatment for invasive breast cancer) and your friends and family are right; you are an inspiration to others. Here’s hoping you manage to enjoy your birthday with your dearest friends and family.

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