It was about 1947 in Bethnal Green, one of the tougher parts of London in those days. I was a very small boy and we lived, my Mother and I, with her parents in a small one-bedroom flat, I'd just been told that my Grandmother (who I thought was asleep in the next room), had died. I realised that her body was only about two feet away just the other side of the wall where I was sleeping. A bit scary for the imagination of a small boy---was she going to reach through the wall and grab me? Some years later that I learned that she had died from cancer and we come forward to 1959
I'd just been called back from New Zealand where I'd been planting my Eternity amongst the local Ladies.
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 about 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 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 and quite frankly,
I wished she hadn't.
She told me in our short conversation that the nurse wouldn't allow her a mirror, and after that visit, I was sitting in our little house in No.2 Hough St. Bondi Junction having a bit of a cry, and the water pipes in the ceiling gave a bit of a knocking, but they hadn't before and they've never knocked since, and a few minutes later, I got a call that my Mum had just passed away, the cancer had got too much for her.
A couple of days later, I investigated the water pipes and found that 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
millenium 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 edge of my bed one night before retiring, (September 16th actually) and 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 outpatients at Wyong hospital first thing next morning. first thing next morning. That repeat was not a mistake. The doctor sent me straight to my family doctor to get a reference to see a specialist "but I don't have a family doctor, I'm never sick".
"So go to any doctor and get a reference"
2) A few days later, a visiting American specialist gave me a pain deadening needle that didn't stop the biopsy needle feeling like a 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 unexpected pain.
It took another four weeks to confirm that it was a malignant tumor 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 don't use fishing line for stitches anymore.
The entire wound looked like it had been stapled at short intervals along its six inch length, and a strange looking piece of sticky tape covered the whole length of the thing.
And, strange, there was no blood, no pain, no body parts, nothing. Not there, anyway.........
Just before the operation, a nice lady doctor had told me that breast cancer can spread, and it usually goes to the glands in the armpit. 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 could get to the rest of the body and would you prefer silver or gold 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 over after the operation, the thought occured to me that perhaps I should get the other side done as well, so it would balance up. I'd have a zipper on both sides then.
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 thought 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, and 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.
A couple of days later, I was out of bed and wandering slowly round the wards seeing what mischief I could get up to. It seems that Wyong hospital had only one male mastechtomy patient a year and seeing as how this was the millenium year, what else could I call myself, but the Millenium Mastechtomy Man.
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.
3)The previous night, some terrible cries of despair had been coming from his dea...er, his hospital bed and it seemed that the wonderful adult women 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 of pain at his age were blood curdling. Just so terrible.
Stephan King couldn't come near 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 at least a little bit.
I stated that it had brought a little relief to my own problem (which I didn't bother him with) and that if he would like to talk with me a little 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 heart -
it was very purposful 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 used to just 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 kangaroo) used to rest with her little baby wallaby. Perhaps it was a special place. The grass was thick, it was soft, and 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 the 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 became 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 existance 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 two 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 by, he seemed to not need 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 cares 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.