#G I R L vs C A N C E R: MAMMOIRS OF INVASIVE DUCTAL BREAST CARCINOMA
THE MONEY TOO TIGHT TO MENTION
Photography by Moeez Ali
As your gurl Yonce so wisely warbled – “I pay my own fun and I pay my own bills” – that’s right lovers, I’m an independant lady.
From flipping burgers at Fulham Football Club in order to fund my weed habit at the ripe old age of fifteen (sorry Mum) to a thirty-something rude gyal smashing the Social Media game at Radley I’ve never not been in work. And let me tell you I work hard. Like really bloody hard. I go at it wholeheartedly. With fizz.
Back in March – when I mullered my ankle during a hen weekend in Dubai, of course – I still hauled my arse up’t North with a rather fetching cankle to ensure our Manchester Blogger Event and Twitter Treasure Hunt were a-go. So when I caught a little bit-o tit cancer last year I honestly assumed that I’d be alright to work some if not all the way through my treatment.
What a twat I was.
Chemo kicks your arse like no other. It completely kiboshes your body up not to mention your mind. Everything hurts, tastes funny, feels exhausting and your brain function can best be described as fish food – flaky as fuck. I shit you not it took me an entire twenty minutes to remember the word ‘chips’ this week.
It goes without saying then, that when it comes to my cancer treatment and the workplace I’m currently not fit for purpose. But it’s all good though gang because having put in seventeen years solid graft and handed over a shit ton in taxes I’ll be economically okay. Right? Riiiiight?
Couldn’t. Be. More. Wrong. Cuz.
It’s not usually my ting to talk about dollar but the financial implications of a cancer diagnosis is a taboo subject and it’s one that needs covering in a big way. During the most traumatic time in your life, a time of complete crisis, you’d expect to be focussed on survival and not how you’re supposed to pay rent or other essentials like, you know, eat.
The fact of the matter is that the true cost of cancer goes way beyond health, it impacts every single aspect of your life. It’s one huge stress you don’t factor in on diagnosis. And one nobody should have to factor in. Full stop.
Having only been in my current role for around eighteen months I was entitled to three weeks full pay, three weeks that were kindly extended to eight by my employer. Eight weeks wages vs eight months of treatment. Now maths weren’t exactly my strong point at school but minus my hospital appointments and add on some annual leave I’m short by about six months pay ain’t I.
Woah reign it in. I know it’s a pretty shit set of circumstances but regardless how little or large, a company simply cannot continue to pay wages for all those unable to work no matter how much they’d like to. Believe me. They’d like to. And akin to most thirty-one year olds in this world taking out Critical Illness Cover wasn’t exactly top of my to-do list. Statutory Sick Pay it is then. Bugger.
Now obviously your next port of call in a financial storm is going to be the government. Surely I’m entitled to some kind of allowance or something having paid my way all my working life. Nope. Not a jot. Unfortunately the overstretched benefits system cannot cater for such a need especially, for those who are technically full-time employed. Even though I’m not working. Yes, it’s a fuckery.
For a person who prides themselves on standing on their own two tootsies seeing my financial security slip down the drain is a bitter pill to swallow. More bitter than my ever-changing taste buds.
Soz for being a massive Debbie Downer. It’s not all doom and gloom round ‘ere. Swear down. I’m actually a very lucky lass in the sense that I am without dependents, don’t have a mortgage – imagine having small people and property to take care of too – and if worst comes to worst Ma and Pa Mahon reside in London.
But I shouldn’t have to move back in with the parental unit. Course it’s comforting to know that I could but I didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose to be out of work because a mass of mutating cells decided to set up shop in my mammaries. My East LDN abode is my happy place. My independance. And it feels so awfully unjust that I might have to give that up when I need it most.
Enter my army of absolute dreamboats who threw me a muthafucka of a fundraiser which raised both the roof and enough funds to cover some of the cost of my outgoings. If it weren’t for those dudes I’d be lower than one of Nicki Minaj‘s slut drops let me tell you. Literally on my arse.
I’ve also been a bloody fortunate in that I happen to have a network of generous brands under my belt who have offered up a bounty of gifts in a bid to make me feel a little less shitty. To allow me to live a little during treatment. Granted a cheeky Nando’s, nipping to the pictures or a mani / pedi might not seem like a big deal to you lot but it’s proper poo not being able to afford a pick me up.
Because most of the time you’re just existing, making it through each minute.
I snigger at the term ‘Treat Yourself’ at the mo – “you should treat yourself to a holiday when this is over babes, you deserve it” – damn right I deserve it! I’ve never ever needed a break more in my little life but I can just about afford bus fare love, are you gonna foot the bill for my flights to NYC? Genuinely an overnight stay at the Ramada M40 may as well be an all-inclusive vacay to Mauritius right now. Despite the saying it seems that the world is in fact no longer my oyster. And that’s depressing.
Back to the start. Seventy-two hours after my shock diagnosis there I was, masterminding the designs and distribution of breast emblazoned slogan tees, I totes did it before Dior darling. Never one to take things lying down (stop it) I guess this was my way of facing this ass hat head on, of taking control and of occupying my mangled mind. It was also a method of becoming my own hero in all of this the only way I know how, by making a positive play on a particularly petrifying situation, and raising money for a great cause whilst I’m at it.
Four months, two paydays and six chemo cycles later this range of limited edition tees has come to mean so much more. It’s become a lifeline.
On an East LDN estate in December eight of my old school blogger babe dem came to my aid to shoot something spesh. This something. We laughed. We posed. We froze. We ate pizza. We chatted at length about the long old slog I was about to endure. Questions were asked. Oh so many questions. And I realised in answering them that it’s absolutely ridic we’re not more educated about the impact of the c-bomb. Especially as 1 in 2 of us will square up to the little sod at some point in our lives.
Rock yours to tackle the cancer taboo. To stop being so afraid to talk about the fucker. To encourage ya’ll to take responsibility for your bodies. And most importantly to save some bastard lives!
Because if you’re gonna give cancer the middle finger you may as well do it in red lippie and a sassy slogan tee eh?
Until next time… THE #GIRLvsCANCER T-SHIRT SHOP IS NOW OPEN. Come again.