Gorgeous, but sarcastic wife’s parents flew back to the UK at the weekend. Another year ticked off. We are not alone in experiencing this, it seems that half of Australia have relatives overseas, and face the prospect of intermittent tearful goodbyes at the airport. With ageing parents, one is never too sure if it’s “hasta la vista”, or “adios”, which makes it harder, especially for wifey, and the kids. I seem to be immune from the sorrow that follows the departure lounge goodbyes. It must be my coping mechanisms working hard to look after me, perhaps helped by 20 years being a nurse, and having already lost my own parents. Part of me thinking I’m immune, another part knowing I’m not, but stubbornly and subliminally refusing to accept it. Cognitive dissonance, perhaps, defensively protecting my mind. I remember flying over to England to see my father when he was terminally ill, and as I stood on the doorstep to leave for the airport after a difficult two weeks, I gave him a hug, and we both said “see you” despite us both knowing it was the last time we would ever see each other. The same as any other goodbye. That moment is etched in my memory like a tattoo, a scarred, still tender, wound that never heals- I should have recognised it for what it was and tried harder.
Hope… Hope must have been the reason that we skipped the opportunity to acknowledge the truth. Hope that the terminal cancer maybe would not prove terminal, or at least would take longer to travel to the inevitable melancholic end of the road. The terminal illness terminus. Hope that I may have been fortunate enough to experience a monetary windfall, and could give up work and fly over as often as I needed. Even hoping that dad could recover and visit Australia. My greatest unfulfilled wish. I was planning on flying him over and pictured him and I having a motorcycle ride on the coast in the sun, shorts and tee-shirts, reminiscent of the seventies. This time him on my bike, rather than me perched on the tank of his 1950s Triumph. A barbie on the beach. A chance to witness all things Australian. A chance robbed by the devious, sneaking hand of cancer. Cancer that I now, myself, experience. Cancer that took my mum, dad, granddad, nan and even my fucking dog, when I was 8 years old. Cancer that maybe toughened me up enough to now not bat an eyelid at the thought of a teary good bye at the airport.
Golden retrievers are prone to cancer. My parents got a puppy around the time I was born. The puppy was my constant companion throughout my childhood years. A lovely natured intelligent doggy, that made me happy. Until he died in the garage, one summer evening, when I was eight. I should add that he normally lived in the house, it was only his final hurrah that took place in the garage, to give him peace, away from us children. Another memory etched on my mind is my dad digging a grave in the back garden, on a balmy summer night, in which to bury the dog, whilst my sister and I tried to get to sleep in our bedroom, just a few feet away. The crunching, rasping noise echoing as the spade sank in the soil. Funny what you remember as a kid.
I get diagnosed big C and the kids have been badgering to get a dog for, like 4 years, my resolve slips and the next thing I know there’s an cute, overweight eating machine sat on my sofa. A 10 month old Golden retriever puppy lands in our life.
The dog was surrendered by a Vietnamese family to a south side puppy rescue place. We don’t know why. He was fat and getting fatter, so you could draw your own conclusions, but I decided that he was too easy to feed and too hard to exercise, and that must have been the reason he was given up. Anyway, he is with us now. A new beginning. The thing about a rescue dog, is that you don’t really know too much about the history. How well he has been trained or socialised. Our dog will do anything for food, but not much else. Ever the lateral thinker, I even tried Vietnamese commands.
ngồi is sit
ở lại is stay
ngăn chặn những đứa trẻ is stop humping the children.
All to no avail. We had to start from scratch, but he is steadily getting there. Still a bit fat but on the correct road. We called him Stuie, after my dad. Not because he was a bit fat, and only works for food, I hasten to add. So my doggy and I have built up a really nice, playful relationship, and he has helped me through the cancer journey. A constant companion. He is always there, always happy to see you, always happy to steal your dinner, and occasionally hump your face when you’re reclining on the sofa. He getting better trained by the day, and when he is finished, I have the elaborate plan of wearing sunglasses inside and taking him everywhere that dogs aren’t normally allowed to go.
I wasn’t allowed to take my dog to the hospital the other day. It was scan day. Super Hospital were very accommodating, and jiggled all my appointments around so I could attend them all. First up, whole body bone SPECT scan. I am called in by a lovely clinical scientist, who happened to work in the same hospital as me in Sheffield, England, 10 years ago. What a small world. She inserts a cannula and injects me with technetium, which is so unstable that it doesn’t occur naturally, and has to be obtained by other means. The other means usually being scraped out of spent nuclear fuel rods, but it can also be gathered from the fallout from an atomic bomb, if one was so inclined. It whizzes around my system, and will park itself up in areas of my bones that have increased activity. Such as broken ones, or new cancer sites, otherwise known as metastases. Remember back a few entries ago? The cells of your body lose the ability to follow the map and grow randomly. Now whilst that is bad, it could be worse. If the cancer cells stay where they are, then yes you have cancer, but as long as it is discovered and removed, you will probably be cured. If undiscovered and not treated there is a chance that the cancer grows so much, it escapes from where it started. Little bits get in your bloodstream or your lymphatic system and float around your body to eventually start a new cancer colony in another part of you. You could even, if you were really unlucky, have your cancer treated, but a tiny little bit escapes and hides until it makes an appearance later in life. That’s why they offer people radiotherapy or chemotherapy after surgery, to make sure nothing is left behind. For mum and dad, they were both unlucky enough to have their original cancers treated, only to find out a few years later it had popped up somewhere else. Lung and brain for mum, and lung and thymus for dad, which ultimately proved un-survivable. Different cancers are more inclined to spread to different areas. Prostate cancer, on par with Stuie, likes bones, hence the bone scan.
So nuked up, and ready to go, I’m sent away to the coffee shop. The renowned anti-oxidant properties of a white chocolate mocha and macademia slice pitted against the six hour half life of the isotope. After a couple of hours, it will be in all my nooks and crannies and ready to cast the runes on my future. Technetium Tarot. I sit, banging away on my Ipad, in the hospital cafeteria, oblivious to my surroundings, lost in my blog. I become aware of an entity approaching me. I look up. A lady in a tea cosy hat, wild eyes, a massive graze across the bridge of her nose, and outfitted by the tailors at Vinnies, approaches my table.
“I’ve seen you before” she aggressively tells me with a wisp of a German accent.
“Yes, I have” she continues, even before I have the chance to deny any prior interactions.
“You. You work here” she tells me.
“Madam, I most definitely do not” I retort.
“You. You…..You fucker!” she says.
“Eh? I’m a patient” I try for sympathy, and wave my cannula and wrist label.
“You are bastard well not” she says, her aggressive diction at odds with her outwardly friendly appearance.
“Stop! That’s not even a phrase” I laugh.
She sits at my table. As it happened, I was in the process of packing my bags, and getting ready to go for my next scan, so I simply got up and announced my desire to relocate, due to pre-existing appointments.
“You don’t, you bastard, mwha ha ha” she says.
I’m struggling to comprehend just WTF is going on at this point. Maybe I upset lovely scientist 20 years ago in Sheffield. Maybe I copped off with her at university, and she’s been holding a grudge all this time. She finally got her revenge and added a substantial dose of LSD to her injection, and is quietly chuckling to herself as I experience the payback she waited for so long to deliver. An afternoon of bouncing around the hospital, ripped off my tits and radioactive.
The old lady’s manner is certainly mildly aggressive, but I’m not afraid. I’m over a foot taller than her and at least 40kgs heavier, and unless she is packing a firearm in that tea cosy, I’m safe. I say mildly aggressive because she is not shouting and carrying on, but just talking at the usual conversational levels, but with threatening, x rated content, whilst smiling through a bashed up old lady face.
As I walk away there’s a final “Mwha ha ha…..Cunt.” And I’m on the escalator and leaving Mrs Mephistopheles to her own devices, happy that she doesn’t follow me, and slightly guilty at feeling only a fleeting concern for those left in the cafeteria, who potentially are next on her hit list.
Still wondering if I am under the influence of something, I make it to the CT scan. I walk in and, I shit you not, a dwarf walks out carrying a trumpet. Now, I’m not sure about you, but having just had the pleasure of the company of the German Devil Woman, to see a little person with a trumpet, just seemed a tiny bit out of the ordinary, and further reinforced my belief that I was suffering some sort of adverse hallucinogenic reaction as a consequence of my injection. Best way to fix that? Have another injection. Luckily, I already have a cannula, and so I get sucked in to the giant donut of the scanner and the technician injects me with something different. CT contrast. I don’t even know what’s in it, but about 10 seconds afterwards, I get the feeling that I pissed and shat myself as my whole body flushes, concentrating on my groin and arse crack. I was a little worried, that I may have, without noticing, let out a little fart and followed through big time. Luckily, it soon passes, and I’m let go to the next visit of the day. The education session. Which I feel deserves it’s own entry.