I’ve never been much of a joiner or activist or raiser of funds. I have always found it hard to connect with the needs of the ‘greater community’, but when it comes to the small & personal, I have always been the gal you can count on. When my friends are sick, I’m the one who makes sure they’ve got enough home-cooked dinners in the freezer to last a couple of weeks. When someone I care about is in dire financial need, I’ll happily give them a guilt-free gift to see them through the rough spot. These are situations I have been able to see and therefore, empathise with. Your ‘big breakfasts’ and your ‘red noses’ et al, are all very noble and worthy, but I have found it hard to muster up enough… whatever it is… that is needed to participate. Until I got a wee smack in the face. Followed up by a good wallop to the head.
My husband had this weird looking thing on the back of his neck, so I harangued him over and over again to go to the doctor, which he promptly ignored, of course. But he was keen to go overseas with a mate on a Vegas & Rollercoaster tour of the US, so I bribed him; if we went to the doctor, I’d agree that he could spend a good chunk of our savings on the trip. Harsh, maybe, but necessary. So off to the doctor he toddled – doc gave him a cream, and that was that. And then one evening about a week later, we were sitting around with a few friends having drinks and I joked (with a little venom, I’ll admit) about how long it took him to get this stupid neck thing checked out. Someone asked him what it was and my husband oh-so-casually replies, “cancer”. My heart scrunched itself into a teeny tiny rock-hard nugget and clawed its way into my mouth, and a raging knot of fury bound my skull so tightly I thought it might explode. “Cancer? Seriously, what the fuck? You never said anything about cancer.” Turns out it was actually skin cancer. And he thought I knew.
Slap number two came about a month later when I got a call from my Dad inviting me over for family brunch. We were all attending a baby shower later that afternoon so I knew this get together was some sort of bad omen. When we sat down and Mum started to talk but couldn’t because she began crying, Dad took over and my suspicions were confirmed. Mum had received confirmation the previous day that she had cancer in her salivary gland; a rare and unusual thing (just like my mum). As a practical person, I immediately moved into “organiser mode”. I cooked, I took care of shit and generally focussed on the doing of things. Admittedly I didn’t sleep for several days, but I still just kept moving – except for one brief afternoon when I was home alone. I buried my head into my co-dependently affectionate dog’s silky white hair and cried my heart out.
Both my husband and my Mum had very successful surgeries and are now fine. Mum is due to start radiotherapy in the next week or so, just to be extra-careful. So all’s well that ends well.
But you know what? I really wish we didn’t have to go through it at all. I wish my Mum never had to feel scared and uncertain. I wish the brand new cream had been strong enough to keep my husband from having to get a chunk chopped out of his neck. But I’m grateful for the nice lady who made my husband tea while he waited to see the doctor, that we live close to a cancer treatment facility and everything was quick and easy, and the speed at which both of them got treated. I’m glad that something made me care a bit more about cancer research, because when I was asked to do the Cancer Council’s Relay for Life, I didn’t hesitate.
By walking a few KMs, something I’m quite fond of anyway, I will get some dosh together from the people who know me and care about my family and me and that money will actually make a difference. I know it’s not a lot but I can vouch for the fact that it matters. According to the Relay for Life website:
• $20 can help train volunteer cancer survivors to support other patients. • $50 can help us train a staff member for the Helpline (13 11 20). • $100 can help us to provide resources to health professionals to assist them in treating and caring for their patients. • $250 can help fund cancer support groups for cancer patients. • $500 can allow a research team to purchase tissue samples for use in investigating the causes of cancer, as well as potential treatment options. • $1000 can assist us to fund clinical trials, which test new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
So to the lady who made my husband that cup of tea, thank you. It mattered to him. For the radiologist who listened to my mum and calmed her fears, thank you. The least I can do is help to ensure there are enough resources for everyone who need them and to do my part towards making things easier in the future.
And if you can, please think about my awesome mum for just a minute today. Send her some good vibes for when she starts radiotherapy, because while I’m not a very spiritual person, I do think there is some kind of power in the collective conscious, or subconscious, or whatever it is.
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