Life is fundamentally the same. Or: The World didn’t give a fuck. Not a single one.

I was quite perplexed when I found that the world didn’t halt when I was diagnosed with cancer. The clock ticked on and on regularly and happily, the cats didn’t open an eye, let alone wake up, the cars still went past my house, I still breathed.

I had to realise that the world didn’t give a fuck. Not a single one.

Everything just went on as if nothing had happened. But for me the change was so
fundamental that ever since then I have been completely changed.

Or not at all.

In every single second I can feel that with the knowledge that I would be dead
by now, life can never be the same again.
This knowledge is too big to be ignored. Everything that I do, every breath that I take is other. It is as if I was two people at the same time.

Because on the one I,
I still go to work,
read to the kids,
love my husband,
listen to music,
drive our cars,
go on holiday trips,
brush my teeth,
make love,
take showers,
get wet in the rain,
wear socks,
shop clothes,
drink tea,
prepare lessons,
watch series,
vacuum clean the house,
love sunnny weather,
drink cappuccino,
don’t like spiders,
hate marking classtests,
dislike cold and rainy days.

But on the other I,
I now have hospital appointments all the time,
share more with nurses, doctors and hospital secretaries than with my own parents-in-law,
cost more than 1,000€ of medication every month,
have a hospital routine,
have a more relaxed approach to my pupils and work,
know that I look good without hair,

cannot listen to the radio anymore,
travel every month,
have lost my breasts,
wear dresses and skirts all the time to feel like a woman,
have a few more scars,

laugh far more than before,
am a very patient patient,

am a better mother,
have lost some of my best friends,
have a few new friends,
can’t stand ice cubes,
feel cold all the time,
don’t loath hospitals anymore,
love my husband even more,
am not afraid of chemo,
have not turned into a cynic.

So probably I don’t give a fuck either. Not a single one. And I will live happily ever after.

Yours, not at all regretfully,

Maid Manu.

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On the one you and on the other you.

Cancer is a real spoilsport. I thought it had impact on MY life, for the very simple reason that it had threatened MY life. But that was a thought by far too simple.

Obviously it had impact on other people’s lives even more so. But how is that?

Well, you people in my life.

On the one YOU, you seem to go on with my life as if nothing had happened.
You sit with me.
You talk to me.
You cook with me.
You eat with me.
You shop with me.
You smoke outside my kitchen.
You drink wine in my kitchen.
You go on trips with me.
You cycle with me.
You swim with me.
You text with me.
You celebrate your birthdays with me.
You go for a pee when I am in the bathroom, because this is what girls do.
You laugh with me.
You hang out with me.
You expect me to ensure that our relationship functions exactly the way it functioned before my illness.

Before, it seems, your life collapsed.

But on the other YOU, you expect me to be devastated.
You have lost your trust in my strenght.
You doubt my competences.
You place me in the centre of your attention.
You are wary of every single one of my utterances.
You watch me closely.
You blow up everything in my life to gigantic size.
You expect me to have changed.
You don’t believe my enjoyment of life.
You await my untimely death.
You hear my clock tick.

You want THIS to be over.

You are fed up with me.
You’ve had enough of YOUR ups and downs.
You want me to stop being in the centre of your attention.
You hate it when I have to go back to hospital.
You feel pissed off with my explicit need of you.

Your “What do you expect from me?” still burns and hurts.

I will not develop a depression for you to feel better.
I will not stop enjoying life, even though you think that’s strange.
I will not stop having an optimistic outlook on life although you consider this to be out of place.
I will not stop loving you because you are afraid to lose me and have begun to stop loving me for YOUR sake.

Yours, lovingly,
Maid Manu.

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Leave me alone.

Why I cannot let go.
I didn’t have a biological family. Simply didn’t have one. But I had friends who were like family. For decades. Now they are gone. In the darkest and in the best time of my life. How can I live without them?

People ask me if I still haven’t got over them. What can I say but “Not at all.”
I can hardly breathe.

There are days when I hate them so much that my head throbs. And there are days when my throat is tied up from the swallowed tears and the forced smile.

Nothing is as it was. Everything is as it was. I am devastated. Heart-broken. Completely lost.

Happy. Content. Comfortable.

I can never talk about my breasts, my scars without comments from others like: “But you’re alive.”

Why do people always have to say something? Is shutting up so difficult?
How can you know how I feel after 5 operations?

I cannot shave my armpits anymore, for two reasons. #1: The skin is too tight and in waves, so I would cut myself. #2: I get sick, feel like throwing up, when my husband tries to shave me, because of the damaged nerves.

I don’t want to wear bras anymore. Why should I? My left implant is like an apple glued to my ribs. It doesn’t need a bra. My right breast is virtually non-existent.

I look like Frankenstein’s monster. Parts of my back have been transferred to my breast, so now my breast looks like a quilt.

The scar on my back runs from my spine to my armpit.

I loved my back. It was beautiful. Strong, athletic, perfect. It’s maimed now. But hey, “you’re alive” should do the job.

I help others to feel good. I function. I am optimistic. I am positive. I live.

But if I utter the tiniest, weeniest bit of “I wish I had normal breasts and a whole back”, it’s the good old “be grateful” and “don’t whine/complain”.

I am THE incarnation of gratefulness. Gratefulness is my middle name. Even after five hours of surgery I didn’t whine, didn’t complain, but thanked every nurse and every doctor for every fucking needle they stuck in me, simply because they helped me.

I have nobody to talk to. My two friends that I shared everything with have left me.

I have to lie to my kids. I have to lie to my pupils. My load is so heavy, I’m bent.

On the inside I walk like a very old beast. I am no longer a proper woman.

The hormones I have to AND desperately want to take have put me through menopause. I am still young. My ovaries have shrunken, but hey, “You’re alive. Stop whining. Be grateful.”

Nope. I am alone.

So stop getting on my tits. I don´t have any anymore anyway.

Yours, lonely,

Maid Manu.

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K and S

I used to have two friends who were bulwarks of friendship and love. When I became ill they closed in and held me up. They kept me from drowning. Whenever my Ace of Base music was becoming too overwhelming, too loud, they would drown it out by normality. I could then share everyday thoughts with them and they with me. It helped me to stay sane. No, THEY helped me to stay sane. Their funny messages – K´s little chemo poems are legendary – made me laugh out loud. But also S´s heart-warming stories of Super S and Manu Croft manoeuvred me through the toughest times. Just like that. I remember moments of sheer greatfulness and joy even in the darkest moments whenever I thought about these two. They lighted up my life then.

How can I ever live without them? How can the earth still revolve when I don´t have them by my side anymore? I miss them dreadfully, but I have to grow out of them. Mum says about K: “Put her in an envelope and send her away.” She is absolutely right.

They fucked it up completely. S has turned out to be completely sick in the head. Her envy of my cancer took her over completely and brought out the heartless, mindless bitch in her. And K couldn´t bear the size of my problems. She so wanted to have bigger problems then me. How completely mental is this?!

I think I will never be fully able to let go of these two. But then, hey. I hope I have another 40 years to cry for them.

Yours, devastatedly,

Maid Manu.

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Imagine the music that you hate the most. Have it? All right. Now walk to your imaginary CD player and insert this musical CD. Switch on the player and set it on “very loud” and on “repeat all”. Remember to switch on the Dolby surround system as well. Sit down very uncomfortably in the centre of the room, preferably on a block of ice or a nail board. Sit there for 24 hours. Don´t move. Don´t go to the toilet. Don´t eat. Don´t talk to anybody.

Until 5 months ago, since my diagnosis, I was in this room, listening to Ace of Base for 19 months. Without a proper break. 7 months after the music had begun, when my friend of 16 years let me down, a second tune joined in. From then on I was listening not only to Ace of Base 24/7, but also to Free Jazz, which, for me, is hell. These two different kinds of music don´t go together well AT ALL. Shortly after, my from then on former friend of 19 years tuned in as well, offering Oasis AND Radio Head in a crossover of the genre “Fuckheads joined up for suicidal self-indulging bullshit”.  Fuck me. No, fuck them. Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head.

In order to keep at least half sane, I had to listen to music that I love REALLY loud, preferably constantly the same music, in this case Eros Ramazotti´s NOI from 7am to 7pm. Then, when the kids were in bed, I switched on the TV and watched my favourite series AND worked at the computer at the same time. At the computer I prepared every single school lesson that I had to teach the following day between 2 and 4 hours to keep my mind focused on something good, something that I had influence on. Then, around 11 pm, I went off to bed, switched on the CD player to listen to the same audio books over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over … again. I woke up between 2 and 12 times, lay awake between 2 minutes and 2 hours, and listened to the same audio book over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over … again.

The next morning I woke up and it was Ground Hog Day – again! Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Ace of Base, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Free Jazz, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head, Oasis AND Radio Head.

And then? Guess what? 7 am to 7 pm: Eros Ramazotti´s NOI. Then, when the kids were in bed, I switched on the TV and watched my favourite series and worked at the computer at the same time. At the computer …

This held true for every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day of my life for nineteen months. And yet I was grateful for every single one of these moments, because they meant that I was still alive.

And suddenly, five months ago, the sickening music stopped.

Yours, no longer haunted,

Manu Maid.

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