February 25th 2018
Sydney Australia 1961 – a true story.
I’d just been called back from New Zealand where I’d been enjoying a short holiday.
A telegram had advised me that my Mum was deadly ill in a Sydney hospital, and I walked into this small ward where there were six women and I couldn’t see Mum anywhere, but over in the corner was a dreadful apparition of what looked like a skeleton lying in the bed. It opened its eyes and I realised to my horror that it was my Mum.
What sort of expression do you try and keep on your face as you walk over there. She saw me and smiled a smile that only a Mother’s love can bring. I wish she hadn’t. She told me in our short conversation that the nurses wouldn’t allow her a mirror. She also said she wouldn’t be here much longer, but that she would not be crossing right over. In my youthful innocence, I asked what did she mean. She told me that she refused to spend the rest of eternity under the control of a man or God who would “do this to his creations” and she pulled the blanket down.
This dead creature with only a smidgen of life left in her eyes, was not my Mother. I could only walk away with the Heavens trembling in fear at my rage. I’d cast God out of my life’s journey thirteen years previously when I was seven and therefore becoming old enough to think. I’ve not seen or heard of him since and neither wish to. The anger prevails.
After that visit, I was sitting in our little house just wondering, and the water pipes in the ceiling gave a bit of a knocking but they hadn’t before and they haven’t since. A few minutes later I got a call from the hospital that the cancer has got too much for her and she’d left us. But I’d just been told, hadn’t I. A couple of days later, I investigated the water pipes and found they didn’t go into the ceiling at all.
The rest of the century also passed away, and it was halfway through September 1999. General society around the world was starting to worry that it was near the end of the millennium and was the world going to end and was this Armageddon and was Jesus going to…and so on. Me, I was sitting on the end of my bed one night before retiring (September 16th, actually), just running my hands over my torso massaging the aching muscles. I felt a bit of a pimple just below my right nipple. But there was nothing there to squeeze. Just under the skin, a little lump about the size of a small pea and not painful at all. But well, it shouldn’t be there and like a rattle in the exhaust pipe of a car, it had to be checked out to see what it was. It couldn’t be, you know, breast cancer because men don’t get breast cancer, do they.
So down to the outpatient’s at Wyong hospital first thing next morning. first thing next morning. The repeat was not a mistake. The doctor took one look and sent me straight to my family doctor to get a reference to see a specialist. “But I don’t have a doctor, I’m never sick” “So go to any doctor and get a reference” A few days later, a visiting American specialist gave me a pain deadening needle that didn’t stop the biopsy needle feeling like six inch nail being rammed, sorry, inserted just beside the right nipple. Not once but three times. Ouch ouch and ouch. Thankfully. I knew enough about do-it-yourself hypnosis to allay anymore of the expected pain.
It took another four weeks to confirm that it was a malignant tumour, and just three days later, I was minus my entire right nipple and some surrounding pectoral flesh, and it looked like a zipper because they’d stopped using fishing line by then for stitches. The entire wound looked like it had been stapled by ordinary but large paper staples at short intervals along its six-inch length, and a strange looking piece of sticky tape covered the whole length and width of the wound. Strange, they was no blood, no pain, no body parts, nothing. Not there, anyway.
Just before the operation, a nice lady doctor told me that breast cancer can spread, and it usually goes to the glands in the armpits. So the surgeon recommends (she said), that the armpit be opened up and the lymph glands there be checked for any cancer spread. It seems that if the cancer spreads there, it can spread to the rest of the body, and would you prefer gold or silver handles on your coffin. The choice was entirely mine – about both lymph glands and the handles I guess – and I signed the paper just where her finger was pointing to. Silver handles? Forget it. Let’s go out with a bit of class. Checking my body out after the operation, the thought occurred to me that perhaps I should get the other side as well, so it would balance up. Later on in life, if I needed either heart or lung work done, they could undo the zipper, go on in, repair the plumbing, and then just zip me back up. Interesting mind-set, but a man wearing a black gown and hood, and holding a scythe was in the dark corners, upsetting realistic thoughts a little. The wound in my armpit was a different scenario.
This was an invasion which interfered with the lymph drainage system. A very small diameter plastic tube about five feet long had been inserted into the armpit wound that involved the lymph gland. The other end led to a small plastic bag like the one you put your lunch in. Small amounts of blood and waste products drained from my armpit into this little bag. Much like my body was my house (which it is) and the bag was a septic tank. I didn’t look too closely. ok? A couple of days after the operation, I was out of bed and wandering slowly round the ward seeing what mischief I could get up to. It seems that the Wyong hospital had only one male mastectomy (breast cancer) patient a year, and seeing as how this was the millennium year, what else could I call myself, but the Millennium Mastectomy Man (fanfare please). Males account for only one or two, percent of all breast cancer patients, so I just snuck in there. And that was the end of it. No chemo, no hair loss, arm swelled up a bit for a bit, but nothing else. Maybe because I had it cut out as soon as I found it. Maybe because I had it cut out as soon as I found it.
That’s another deliberate repeat. I was in the hospital for six days and on the last day, a patient was wheeled into the ward. I was told he had bladder cancer and nobody was insensitive enough to discuss the weight distribution of different sized handles on large wooden containers, but I wandered over and had a chat with him. The previous night, some terrible cries of despair had been coming from his dea – er, his hospital bed and it seemed that the wonderful women adult nurses, four of them, had done some needful if not so terribly painful work on him. They had to actually repeatedly flush his bladder through the obvious opening and his cries that he didn’t need this sort pain at his age were blood curdling. Stephan King couldn’t come near to describing the cries of despair.
I felt deeply grateful for my dear little painless breast cancer. I’d been let off lightly. He’d been told he had only a year to go. I’d been told he had more like two weeks. He then said that he was 81 and I brought a bit of lightness to the scene by exclaiming that I hoped I lived that long, and what a wonderful life he’d had at least until lately. I then mentioned that although he was seemingly relaxed in bed, deliberately relaxing thoughts can sometimes reduce some pains even a little bit more. I stated that it has brought a bit of relief to my own problem (which I didn’t bother him with and that if he would like to talk with me about it, it might assuage the dreadfulness that his body was inflicting on his mind. I lay my hand on the bed cover and as he went to hold my hand, I asked him to hold my wrist instead, so that he could feel the slow steady very purposeful beating of my own heart – it was very purposeful to me, anyway! I took him through the levels of hypnotic trance to the state I now know as somnambulism…
(I didn’t know the language in those days – I just used to do it!). I then wrapped his mind in love and took him home to Wyee with me, to a wonderful tiny space at the front of my front lawn where I’d planted some Australian native trees and where a local female Wallaby (a small type of kangaroo) used to rest with her little baby wallaby. Perhaps it was a special place, The grass was thick, it was soft, it was green and cool, with the shrubs shading it from the hot summer sun. I kept a large dish there with fresh rain water from my water tank for any visiting animals and native birds. I told him that he could leave the worst of his pain there, that it would be spread out amongst the nature there by the nature there, and that if the pain ever got too great he would need to gently think only of the words “relax now” and he would return to that place of peace. and re-create the painless existence that he knew there. When I brought him back to the hospital ward, he reluctantly opened his eyes not wanting to return and the tears streamed down his age-lined cheeks. He looked at me with wonder through those tear-reddened eyes, and asked me who I was, that I could take him to such a wonderful place.
It was time for me to go home the next day, and on my check-up visit a couple of weeks later, I was told that a few days after I left, the affliction had grown just too much for the lovely old man, and he’d left us. But it was strange, the nurse said, that as the last few days passed, he seemed to not need so much attention, so much pain medication, and when he finally went, a most wonderful, peaceful look came to his face. As is my want, I said nothing.
What would I know about these things. Only Mother Nature knows and she knows naught about aught. I often see the wallaby (now with her second child), standing there just … just looking, and I sometimes wonder if the shadows down in the little place are the trees in the wind, or a dear old man who found his own peace in Eternity.