The advantage of a long post-Christmas break allows me to make myself selfishly available this week to celebrate the end to my friend’s daily trips to Brighton for radiotherapy sessions. Keen readers will remember Mildred’s filthy footprints back in September and will remember why this cancer was christened Mildred (thedragonflyjar.com/…9/08/bog-off-mildred)
Even if you have been reading between the lines since then, you won’t have learnt much about this inconvenient road block because my Oldest Friend (#friendyears) won’t have troubled you with the details. OF’s sister commented on this Pollyanna approach to both the lumpectomy and radiotherapy and I chuckled at the intertextual reference, believing it to be spot on… until I realised that when I repeated this allusion to anyone younger than 50, it just drew blank looks.
Since I’m about to launch back into the classroom after the long festive break, allow me to revert to type with a mini lesson on this childhood classic novel:
‘Pollyanna’ the 1913 novel revolves around – yes, Pollyanna – an 11 year old orphan and the ‘glad game’ that she plays. “There’s something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it,” Pollyanna opines. The game is to find something about everything to be glad about.
Lesson over. I’ve made it short as term doesn’t start until Monday and I don’t want to peak too soon.
I used to find Pollyanna particularly nauseating when I was a child (particularly because my mother kept asking why I couldn’t be more like her. Who had the grand idea of serialising ‘Pollyanna’ for a Sunday teatime audience during my difficult teenage years, anyway?). But it’s no good getting older if you don’t get wiser and I can now see Pollyanna’s merits. In fact, why has my good friend Lin-Manuel Miranda not rapped this story up for the stage? No, I’m glad he hasn’t, perhaps there’s a niche here for OF and I to sit on her sofa and rustle up some lyrics. Nothing too strenuous, we’ll just make the most of the quiet time while she’s feeling exhausted from kicking Mildred into oblivion and from being so positive.
Oh, OF’s gone; it’s only me sitting on her sofa. She’s running around clocking up steps on her Fitbit and checking her gin stocks are high enough for our post- Mildred celebrations. She’s glad Radiotherapy is over, she tells me, but to be honest she’s got bigger fish than Mildred to fry. Daily trips to Brighton have allowed her to discover new shops, meet new people and to use the commute to catch up on some reading and she’s glad about that, but she’s also glad that she’ll be getting back to work. She doesn’t like being the centre of attention.
Over our celebratory lunch OF gives me some blog fodder as she chuckles about some of her radiotherapy experiences. She’s proud that she’s now sporting some breast tattoos and boasts (uncharacteristically) that her lung capacity has improved considerably because you have to hold your breath while treatment is taking place. I wasn’t expecting her to tell me that at each session her boob had been marked up with a ‘felt tip’ to ensure that the the radiation beam hit the exact spot. I was expecting something more high tech. ‘It’s always a treat to look at myself in the bath afterwards, because you never know what colour pen they’re going to use,’ she remarks. ‘Last week, they had a new trainee who was given the job of marking me up. Poor lad, I think I was his first boob and his hand was shaking like a leaf. I told him to pretend he was just doing his geography homework with a sharpie pen and to imagine that I was his mother. Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned his mother… I haven’t seen him since.’
Even Pollyanna would have been tested by Mildred’s ability to outstay her welcome, but she would have been proud to see Oldest Friend kick Mildred into touch with such glad tidings. OF is like Pollyanna with jazz hands.
As I leave OF to start the drive back home, we test out some lyrics for our new blockbuster musical:
See how Mildred, an unwanted guest and a bore
Outstays her welcome, uninvited, becomes a snore
turns, runs and ducks as we lob back her spanner
See how 2019 greets our new dude, Pollyanna.
We’re not sure that ‘The Glad Game’ – a musical for the Pollyannas of this world – has got legs, but we’ve never let a road block get in our way yet, and OF’s new lung capacity means that at least she can blast out those big numbers.