The following is an extract from ‘Bad Hair Year’ by Bambi Smyth. It’s a memoir that explores the experience of being diagnosed with two different types of cancer within a 12 month period. You can buy Bambi’s book here.
My friend Sam has invited me to the Portsea Polo Tournament, where in turn we are guests of one of the sponsors who have an open-sided marquee, replete with champagne bar and overstuffed leather Chesterfields, with waiters hovering about offering mini quiches and baby ice-creams cones. It’s frightfully glamorous and quite the place to be, and indeed I’ve never done it quite so stylishly.
But rather than being thrilled by the experience, I feel like an empty shell behind a smiling face.
I watch the parade of young fillies – the two legged kind – stalk past me clutching their glasses of whatever it’s hip to drink these days, and I listen to the high-pitched laughter of Ladies Who Trill. I can smell the Chanel from over-tanned bosoms, not unpleasantly mixed in with the scent of horse manure as it’s kicked about on the field by thundering ponies costing around $9000 a hoof. I watch it all as if I’m on another planet, and I simply can’t fathom what the point of it all is.
Here I am facing the direst situation of my entire life, and I’m sipping Bollinger. I mean, I don’t want to sound ungrateful – and indeed, I should be lapping up the absolute fabulousness of it all – but I’m finding it exceptionally hard right now to be particularly positive. Because really, how can I be happy when my latest acquaintance is a neurosurgeon? On the wrong side of the operating table?
Within half an hour of arriving, I’m thinking of going home and leaving all the hob-nobbing and the trilling and the bottom-watching to those people who don’t know they’ve got a four centimetre bony lump in their head, and an even larger unidentifiable tumour right behind it, which may well be plotting its evil war strategy even as they reach for another prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spear.
But just as I’m about to make a run for it, a tiny eight-spotted ladybird suddenly settles on my knuckle, and proceeds to have a bit of a walkabout. I’m mesmerised. Indeed – I’m in awe that such a tiny being, which could easily be squashed flat if I so chose, is quite unperturbed about how fragile her life is. She’s living completely in the Now, where all that exists is an interesting patch of skin that needs exploring, and which she is doing – fearlessly. She has the sun on her back and a gentle offshore breeze in her face, and she is in all probability as happy as a ladybird ever gets.
Bambi’s strength is truly admirable. Here are some other women the Mamamia team admire. Post continues after video…
And it’s with this precious realisation that I make an immensely important decision.
As much as possible I too am going to live in the Now, and see what’s right in front of my face, rather than worry about what’s behind it. To feel the sun on my back and the wind in my hair; to live my life to the max. I’m not going to let a perceived threat bring me to my knees before it’s even formally introduced itself. For sure I’ll take this whole health issue very seriously, but I’ll also make a promise to myself that in between the medical consultations and whatever ultimate treatment is required, it will be pretty much business as usual. Why worry about tomorrow if it hasn’t even arrived yet?
‘Would you like a top-up of champagne?’ asks a ridiculously good-looking waiter with long black shorts and a pale pink polo shirt.
‘Thank you,’ I reply, beaming. ‘Of course.’