Friday 17 July 2009

Guest Blogger: Miss Glory Pearl

I remember the moment last summer when I discovered my mother had kidney cancer. I remember my heart falling from my chest and hitting my stomach with a thud. I remember the flash of abject fear that suffused every cell with dread. And I remember fighting back the tears, swallowing the grief and trying to control myself because this wasn’t about me, it was about her, and I had to be strong.

I sat at my desk, phone in hand and listened as she told me everything. It seemed so cruel; only in the last year had our relationship approximated anything normal and now it was to be tested again and, who knew, even taken from us.

Cancer, the ‘Big C’, is a byword for suffering; a cruel disease that eats us alive and whose rapacious grief devours the lives around us. I heard the fear in my mother’s voice and I heard the fatalism. The second, I challenged. The first, sent tears stinging to my eyes.

That conversation was a catalyst in so many ways. For a short time it brought us closer together. Treatment on the NHS was painfully slow and frustrating and I found myself growing angry at my mother’s ‘don’t want to make a fuss attitude’. Colleagues would ask how she was and I would say that I didn’t really know because I was pretty sure she was keeping things from me. But that didn’t stop the dynamics of our relationship shifting back along similar lines to those that had marked my childhood; where she was the one that mattered and a whole conversation could be had without one question being asked about me, or me ever saying how I was feeling.

How I was feeling was an interesting question. My mood sank steadily and by the end of the summer a deep depression engulfed me. I felt useless and guilty and a total disappointment. At work, my manager grew angry with me; he’d already been pretty pissed off that I’d had time off to go and care for my mother after her surgery, and instead of thinking he should go fuck himself, I felt culpable and scared.

I, too, sought medical advice and was diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Mood Disorder – or manic depression, if you prefer. The effect of the diagnosis was akin to a landmine detonating under my identity and the sense of guilt and failure intensified. How, in all conscience, could I tell my mother of my illness when she had so much to deal with herself? Of course, inevitably, I had to tell her, because I wasn’t at work, and because my cognitive function was so impaired only a fool could think I was okay.

As the leaves fell and the days grew shorter, I worked my way through the canon of anti-depressants, dutifully checked in with the doctor every week, and felt equal guilt and gratitude for the good friends who surrounded me. Everything scared me. Everything. But some force propelled me along to a local burlesque show and in the interval I asked the compere if there were any open spots.

It was the first week in October when I first took to the stage as Miss Glory Pearl. That night, more than all the drugs and the therapy gave me a sense of myself again. I was utterly terrified, not least because my medication slowed me down and made me clumsy – two things you don’t want as a pole dancer – but I got through it and the audience loved me. My best friend cried, and I cried, too, because despite all the shit and the trauma, I did it and did it well.

From that point on, my recovery began in earnest and I discovered something I was born to do; take my clothes off in front of strangers and make them laugh.

Miss Glory Pearl creates genre-defying acts that blend classic burlesque, pole dance, static trapeze and aerial hoop with humour, sparkle, and a healthy dose of British self-deprecation. She teaches exotic dance for Cardiostriptease in Kent and performs regularly on the UK cabaret and burlesque scene, introducing audiences to Burly-Pole, her unique fusion of two great traditions. She has also performed for Burlesque Against Breast Cancer.

You can read more of Puss at The Pole Affair


  1. frequently go uncounted the additional victims of cancer - the families of those stricken with it. But you seem to have found yourself in that moment of adversity.

  2. Interesting sidenote to your honest and moving story: your voice here is different--perhaps because it's more summarizing than in-the-moment--than in your blog. I enjoyed this perspective, honeybear.

  3. Here and on your own blog, you are one eloquent lady....