As I type this today I can see, out of the corner of my eye, flashes of the navy blue fingernails on my left hand. The fingernails on the right hand are still bare, although I’m intending to get to them shortly. I’m not normally a wearer of any sort of nail polish but this whole cancer trip has blown “normally” out of the water, so what the hell. Yesterday, I went to a Look Good, Feel Better workshop at the Bathurst RSL Club* for women with cancer and the navy nail polish was in the showbag. As someone who can only be bothered with makeup in emergencies – weddings, job interviews – I hadn’t been hugely interested, but I signed up because I was worried about my eyebrows. Take all other hair, but leave me my characteristic thick black eyebrows! But noting that eyebrow loss is a common side effect of chemo, I thought I’d better learn how to draw them back on, if need be. As it turned out, I loved the whole workshop. We were lovingly tended by a team of volunteers in big red aprons, like Bunnings workers only kinder and gentler. I had a professional makeup artist, Kate, sit beside me to help dab, brush and smooth in. The light was dim in there, so we may have been a bit heavy-handed. Gradually, we were transformed from sickly, hairless beings to nightclub-ready party girls, all at 11am on a Wednesday morning. I tried on a blonde wig (instant glamour!) and a black wig (cartoonish) and a brown curly one that made me look exactly like Mum circa 1972. I sashayed out of there with brilliant red lips and a flowing turban. I popped in to the art gallery, saying hello to an acquaintance who smiled politely, clearly not recognising me. (Probably a good thing.) Anyway, now I know how to draw a pair of eyebrows.
I look good and feel better today but, just to balance things out, I looked wan and felt bad over the weekend and Monday. Once the steroids wore off after the last chemo session, I started getting searing pain in my joints and muscles, especially at the ankles, knees, hips and wrists. I could hardly sleep at night and during the day I lay around in pajamas. It was really vile. Dawn and Peter, up from Canberra, made meals and brought cups of tea. I’m so, so glad that I do bounce back after a few days. I’ve now gone into a frenzy – making hay while the sun shines – on my Waste to Art entry. I dragged a great swathe of clear plastic out of the shed, the stuff our new mattress had turned up in. I decided it looked like the “glistening membrane” of my cancerous peritoneum; I’d hang pieces of paper recycled from old journals on it; I’d stitch it to look like sutures, or maybe slice it to suggest surgery. My craft isn’t pretty but I’m never short of ideas.
*For my international reader (Jane), RSL = Returned Services League; their clubs have bars, bistros, poker machines and the Ode of Remembrance over the loudspeaker every day at 6pm. (My other international reader, Lisa, knows all about RSL Clubs!)
Photo of me looking good, feeling better by Steve Woodhall.