Green With Envy, Not So Much | Extract — Might Make You Smile

Green With Envy, Not So Much... is taken from Might Make You Smile by Brenda Burling. This story was contributed by the book by Michelle, a woman who fought hard against Ovarian Cancer. One of our favourite stories from the book, this one really does represent everything that Might Make You Smile is all about. 


Michelle was late for work. It didn’t seem to matter how much earlier she set the alarm, time appeared to elude her. She could have blamed it on the effects of the chemotherapy treatment for her ovarian cancer, but she never did. Sometimes she just didn’t feel like herself, but she managed to shake that feeling by the time she got to the office.

Working was not for everyone who was experiencing life with cancer, but for Michelle, it was important on many levels. It was something she had always done – been a hard worker – so when she became ill she tried her best to fit in work around it and the subsequent treatments. Unfortunately, the cancer returned on an almost annual basis and each time Michelle dealt with it with a renewed stoicism. She often liked to joke that her husband had a new woman every year for probably the last five years. The chemotherapy treatment had meant the loss of her hair, but each time it had grown back it had come through a different colour and texture, it had been straight, curly, thick, and thin.

Michelle had found wearing a wig something that had become a bit of a routine; as had remembering to pencil on eyebrows every morning. She often felt it was the eyebrows more than anything that completed and framed a face, giving it definition. After all, with so many different hairstyles and accessories that could cover a head, hair sometimes went almost unseen. Hats, scarves, and headbands all aided in covering or filling in what was actually on top of your head, but eyebrows are just there on the front of the face and taken for granted, but definitely missed when they are gone.

Michelle looked at the clock once more, again it had lurched forward dramatically, and she was definitely on the late side now. Quickly, she penciled on the well-practiced arch over each eye. Grabbing her shoes, and her favourite bag, she made a dash for the front door.

The railway station was abuzz with the low rumble of commuters; who were waiting to be crammed like sardines on the train to Liver- pool Street Station. There were many familiar faces, and all were smiling in Michelle’s direction as she boarded the train. She was fortunate enough to get a seat sitting opposite a middle-aged man reading the daily newspaper. He acknowledged her with a nod and, with what Michelle thought was a quizzical look. She wondered if he thought he recognised her from somewhere, but he certainly didn’t seem familiar to her.

The train finally pulled into Liverpool Street Station. Michelle could feel her mouth becoming dry, as often happened; another side effect of the drugs used in her treatment. She needed to buy some water and a packet of chewing gum, she knew this would help alleviate the problem, so she headed for the nearest newsagent. Standing in line waiting to pay, Michelle was becoming increasingly aware of people’s stares. Strangers were looking in her direction, their gazes lingering just a fraction too long. She was beginning to feel a little self-conscious and checked her outfit. She was wearing a smart business suit, check; no holes in tights, check; matching shoes, check; nothing seemed out of place.

As soon as she reached her office building, she headed straight to the ladies' toilets. Under the harsh, bright lights, it became gloriously obvious to her why her appearance had caused so much interest. As expertly as her eyebrows were drawn on, there was one small detail she hadn’t noticed while hurriedly doing her make-up that morning. The pencil she had used was not her usual soft brown shade. No, today she was sporting what could only be described as an almost metallic emerald shade, with plenty of sparkle. It was fair to say she would not have looked out of place as an extra on any science-fiction blockbuster film set. Laughing at her reflection, she promised herself she would pay more attention when applying her make-up, especially in the gloom of early mornings.

About Might Make You Smile

Might Make You Smile is a collection of short stories based on real events from real people living with or recovering from cancer. Written by Brenda Burling, with help from people all over the UK, Might Make You Smile is far from your typical book about cancer.  Mainly because the focus here isn’t on the disease; it’s on the people. Might Make You Smile tells the stories that you don’t often hear. From getting funny looks on your commute because your eyebrows are green, to losing your wig and even getting your nipple shot off with a foam dart; Might Make You Smile really does cover everything. Often funny and always heartwarming, Might Make You Smile is the book that demonstrates that even The Big C comes with a sense of humour.

Talking about the inspiration for the book, Brenda said: “The idea for Might Make You Smile came to me whilst listening to friends telling me of their experiences during cancer treatments,” Brenda says. “When a very close friend was diagnosed at the end of 2015 I knew I had to write the book. I had no idea how the concept would work other than a gut instinct and the desire to make anyone affected by cancer feel connected through sharing the experiences of others.”

10% of proceeds from sales of Might Make You Smile will be donated to the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity and Brenda is excited to be helping a cause close to so many with this book. “The Helen Rollason Cancer Charity has helped so many people I have spoken to and Brafternoon was closely linked to the charity too”. Brafternoon – a support group close to Brenda’s hometown in Essex – have been huge supporters of the project. Brenda has been involved with the group since finding out about them whilst helping a friend. “I already knew Anita, but discovered she also ran the Brafternoon support group and I took my friend along. Whilst there I announced my idea to the group explaining I’d already got some stories and would they be interested in contributing? Again the response was amazing.”

About the Author

Brenda Burling is a prolific author, columnist, and guest speaker who also manages to find time to regularly write a blog. She lives with her family and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Steve on the Essex / Hertfordshire border; an area she feels has helped to bring about some of her best work.

Might Make You Smile is Brenda’s fourth book to be published and the first to be published by Matthew James. The idea for Might Make You Smile was inspired by the struggles of so many loved ones and close friends, who have battled with cancer.