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The New Normal

The New Normal Alison Napier is 58 and was diagnosed with a Grade 3 breast cancer in June 2016.

'Grief! Why are people baking bloody Victoria Sponges and cupcakes to pay for a MacMillan nurse? Aaaargh!

There are a thousand surgeons and multi-disciplinary teams on alert when it's a curable dramatic cancer. If it's quiet and sad and terminal we have a bloody coffee morning.' It is advert time and I forgot to mute. 'Don't go getting yourself all aeriated now,' wisely counselled Nurse Beloved, not looking up from her computer game.

Money confuses me, particularly public money.

Unless I am wrong, there does not seem to be a genuine shortage of it in UK plc, the fifth richest economy in the Entire World. Poorly distributed, but plenty there. A quick scan of recent headlines tells me the following: Amazon paid sixpence, two marbles and a dusty caramel in tax to the Irish government. The 6th Duke of Westminster died leaving an estate of maybe £9.9bn and his heir will probably not have to pay lots of inheritance tax (at 40% amounting to £3.74bn give or take) because it is held in trusts and offshore places. Allegedly. Trident will cost at least £205bn to replace according to CND (or £17.5bn according to the always canny and veracious MoD) and the current nuclear version has failed to prevent any of the recent horrific atrocities in Europe.

And that's why I am indeed aeriated.

Because if I add together the unpaid UK taxes of Amazon and its chums, even just one legally avoided inheritance tax and the lowest estimate for Trident I get £13.75 billion pounds. And that is an awful lot of Victoria Sponges, and more than 370 times more than the £37 million raised by Children in Need last year. I know. Calm down, dear. But where's the fun in that. Hashtag Headache. Why it is saintly and noble to wear a pink ribbon and bake a pink cake and embarrassingly ungrateful particularly as a cancer sufferer ('Quiet there, blogger at the back,') to question the ethos behind the campaigns, and to wonder why, when there is clearly no lack of cash in these sceptred isles, the terminally ill are relying on a recipe donated by Kirsty Allsopp for Key Lime Pie and a non-biodegradable silicone charity wristband made in China to secure dignified end of life care?

Earlier this year the World Health Organisation gave coffee a clean bill of health, saying that it did not cause cancer after all, and all the Coffee Morning bakers and hostesses and hosts surely dodged a bullet and a lot of unfortunate press.

So in the years between 1991 and 2016, a mere quarter of a century, coffee has been rehabilitated. Don't give up, bacon. The jury is still out on sugar as a possible carcinogenic, at least until after all the coffee and cake events.

And it's not just terminal cancer patients having to rely on charity to be able to provide a highly skilled professional to support and care for them at the end of their life. Like many I winced when the rich earnest pop singers crooned, 'And there won't be snow in Africa...' (Duh, the Atlas Mountains? Kilimanjaro?) and, 'Where nothing ever grows.' Oh for heavens sakes. Nothing? Ever? Really? Of course when I'm not being aeriated I know there is another side to this story. I may not understand why the government will not fully fund all the end of life care that is needed, leaving charities to the mercy of public generosity and the whim of public opinion but shouting about it will not change anything. I will be grateful that I have a socially acceptable illness that the public are happy to support financially. It would be different if I were an unkempt aggressive homeless drug user for no one bakes cakes for them.

And who benefits from discouraging us from asking the difficult Why questions, encouraging us instead to take part in undoubtedly highly organised and successful celebrity and media-backed fund raising events, as if there were no alternative, and it was all just a bit of a lark?

People I have a huge respect for take part in these events. Five years ago a fabulous former work colleague was instrumental in successfully halting a royal cavalcade in the Highlands with a line of 8000 bras strung between two East Sutherland villages, with volunteers in pink cowboy hats stopping traffic and rattling buckets. Charles and Camilla donated £30 (between them!) to the Breast Cancer Unit in Inverness. People getting together, meeting their neighbours and making new friends, sharing food, forming a common purpose, how can I possibly get aeriated about that? Eating together even reduces obesity!

So I will stop, my chemo-fogged argument has suddenly entirely consumed itself and I will just be pleased to have got it off my interestingly scarred chest.

Alison Napier

Alison is a social worker to trade and is also a writer. Her short stories are published in many collections and anthologies in both Scotland and England and her non-fiction has appeared in a variety of national newspapers and journals.

She lives in Perthshire with her partner Susan, enjoys her allotment on an island in the River Tay (regrettably prone to regular flooding…!), cooks once a week for a lunch club for older people and plays the recorder with a fine bunch of friends in her spare time.

This blog was originally written for and published on OAPSchat - a website for Optomistic and Pro-Active seniors.

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