Seven weeks since my last Taxol and my hair is visibly growing. Last weekend I had invisible white fuzz, this weekend the top of my head looks as if someone has coloured it in with a soft graphite pencil. My wig is now itchy and uncomfortable so I wear a headscarf all the time.
This week a kindly nurse at hospital complemented me on my headscarf, at least, I think that's what she said. The problem with dealing with cancer in Brussels is that I'm always feeling my way through a fog of French, only half following the plot.
Taking the chance that I understood correctly, I thanked her and explained that I can no longer wear my wig comfortably. Later I had a horrible thought. You see, I always confuse the French words for 'wig' (peruque) and 'parrot' (perruche) in my head and I wasn't sure which one I'd used. Had I told the kindly nurse that I can no longer wear my parrot? I'm not sure how I will face her at radiotherapy now...
Doing cancer in school-girl level French has certainly been an interesting journey.
I have a bit of a block when it comes to numbers so being asked for my birthdate or phone number sends me into a blind panic. (I send up prayers of thanks for the Belgian septante for seventy and nonante for ninety - what language comes up with 'four twenties and fifteen' as a convenient way to say ninety five?).
I have sat anxiously in hospital corridors waiting to be collected having followed the directions of the receptionist, wondering if I am, in fact, in the right place at all. (Did she say turn right or go straight ahead? Are they currently searching for me in a completely different corridor? How will I ever know?? )
I have given up trying to understand WHY I need to take medications and instead obsessively repeated everything in basic words to be sure that I definitely understand WHAT I need to take. (Er, was that twice or twelve times? What's the French for "Will I die if I overdose on this?").
And as for my hospital exercise class - my heart rate alarm goes off if anyone speaks to me while I am on the treadmill because I am concentrating so hard on understanding that I forget to breathe.
The worst is, however, when you have to go into that little cubical to prepare for tests and examinations. Did she say take off everything except knickers? Everything above the waist? Or was it just "Wait here to be collected"? Will I walk through the other door, stark naked, into a waiting room of clothed people because I misunderstood?? Scary stuff.
I guess there is always scope for misunderstandings in any language. This week, after my first radiotherapy, I sent out an update email to family and friends entitled 'Starting Radio'. The replies made me laugh: I'd forgotten that the world out there does not add a silent therapy to everything. Various friends thought I was make a guest appearance on a hospital radio station. Even more charmingly, one thought I might be starting as a DJ. As I am no-where near cool enough to be a DJ in any language, I was secretly delighted that he jumped to that conclusion.
In any case, if I end up on the radio I won't have to wear my parrot...
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