Winston Churchill once said there is nothing as exhilarating as having someone shoot at you – and miss. I know what he means, though in my case the sniper was fate and the bullet a potentially life-threatening disease. I’ve just had a total hysterectomy for a pre-cancerous condition called complex hyperplasia – which, if left to its own devices, would have turned into cancer. It’s one of those paradigm-shift moments in your life when all the bits get shaken up and fall back into a different position. Afterwards, you know nothing will ever be the same.
It’s been a strange year. Several of my friends belong to the Cancer 2013 Club, with two hysterectomies in my closest circle, both for conditions more serious than mine, and a rather more remote male friend very seriously ill. What I had was caught very early, thanks to a combination of my gut-feel and the thoroughness of senior doctors in the NHS, but I still faced the possibility of dying (it’s a major op, after all), re-made my Will, tried to sort my life out, failed to come up with any good last words (it’s a bugger when you’re under anaesthetic), and realised that if I did die I was going to be really really pissed off.
Book coming out this month, The Devil’s Apprentice, second lead title for new YA imprint Ravenstone (spin-off from Solaris), another book going straight to Amazon/Kindle by way of experiment, Odd Essays, of which more later, and The Big Poetry Show, my special project for the past couple of years, actually about to happen. Yep, had I departed this life I would have been MEGA-pissed off, and would probably have come back to haunt everyone in consequence.
My conviction that I would become a bestseller and billionaires post-mortem has been slightly dented by finding myself still alive – but no question about the high. My last paradigm-shift was when my mother died, in 1995 – she was the person I loved most, and in death she gave me something, a strength or power, which helpedme deal with all the shit which came after. Now I’ve started a new phase and whatever happens, I’m on a different plane – in a different key – the colour of my soul has deepened in some way.
Meanwhile, I have a raging instant menopause with regular hot flushes when I start glowing like a radiator and the kind of hormonal headaches that make you feel your skull is being slowly crushed in a vice. (Fortunately, not too many of those.) But that is a minor technical detail. What matters is that I want a navel stud to cover my keyhole surgery (I’m a little worried that the dip in my belly-button has now become a hole through which, if I could contort myself to look down it, I would be able to see right into my insides) and I’m having a clean sweep with my possessions, selling or giving away all those things I kept because I might need them one day, when actually I know I won’t. For instance, why do I have half a dozen long coats when I only wear a long coat in freezing weather? Why do I keep an extremely beautiful black opal pendant for special occasions when I hate wearing anything round my neck? (I was probably Isadora Duncan in a former life.) Why do I have so many pearl ear-rings when I don’t wear pearls? And so on and so on.
I have already sold three coats and plan to give away the black leather with a small tear to a friend who’s always loved it. I’ll be photographing the jewellery so my ex-husband can put it on eBay – he’s very good at that – and ruthlessly denuding my wardrobe of anything unworn for more than a year. Should there be, somewhere out there, a weirdo male fan who would like my discarded knickers, send application with large cheque!!