Tag Archives: cancer

Stop Sign – Friday Fictioneers 13th July, 2022.

“Stop, Jane! You’ve gotta stop!”

Yet, Jane couldn’t take her foot off the accelerator. She’d said nothing to anyone, but lately she’d been considering driving over The Gap.

“What do you do for self-care?” Her therapist asked, knowing she was on the brink.

“Self-care?” Jane exploded. “@#$%!! I don’t even exist. I’m squished in between Stuart, the kids, work, Mum’s stroke, Dad’s cancer. I’m driving to appointments, soccer, ballet and then there’s church. Busy, busy, busy!”

“I’m prescribing you a week’s holiday. Before you say you can’t go, please consider what will happen if you don’t. You matter too!”

“Do I?”

…..

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

For so many of us, it’s impossible to stop and get off the treadmill, but there can come a point where too much activity and no rest reaches breaking point. It’s important to consider things the rests which are inserted into music, full stops and commas inserted into sentences and if you think back to when you were first learning to write, putting that all important finger space in between the words.

The Gap, Watson’s Bay, Sydney.

I hope my story this week isn’t too triggering for anyone. If case you haven’t heard about The Gap in Sydney, it’s an ocean cliff at Watson’s Bay which is infamous for suicides. So much so, that if someone’s going through a rough time or having a particularly bad day, they might say: “I feel like jumping off The Gap”. However, it’s generally used to let off steam, and not as an expression of intent.

The flipside of this story, is that much has been done to try to reach or help those wanting to take there life. In particular, there was Don Ritchie, who was known as the Angel of the Gap. I encourage you to read his story and it’s interesting how far a smile can go towards saving someone’s life. It’s really something to keep in mind!

Personally, I see this as a good news story, because Jane is very overstretched but she is seeing a therapist which is a help and she is releasing much of the inner tension she’s been holding back.

About a month ago, I actually did a two day course in suicide intervention run by Lifeline who run a telephone crisis line here in Australia. I have been a first responder and I was surprised at how well I actually handled the situation. However, I wanted to skill myself up. Be prepared.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Unforeseen…Friday Fictioneers -15th June, 2022.

“Everything was meant to be okay. Not this.”

Despite her family history, Ebony had faith in early detection, and regular mammograms. Then, came the diagnosis .

“I’m going to beat this!” She wrote in her journal every day. However, grit and determination were no match for bad luck. The cancer had spread. She was only 28.

Arriving home, she found roses and a “Get Well” balloon from Mike on the doorstep. She’d told him it was long covid.

Ebony had no idea when the knife came from. However, the balloon was found later with forty stab wounds and was unresponsive.

…….

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Last year, two close friends of mine died of breast cancer, while my sister-in-law was fighting a rather gruelling battle with it and facing obscure complication after obscure complication and a run of very bad luck. One of those friends never told me she was sick and I found out after she’d died. The other was seemingly cancer free and after a gruelling eight year battle, the cancer came back with a vengeance and she was gone in a week. It was like one of these fierce Australian bush fires, and it consumed her. They both had teenage children, and the loss was obviously focused on them. However, grief rippled out. They were much loved, and it’s still so hard to believe they’re no here.

I hope you’ve had a great week!

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ We’d love you to join us!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Anything For Love…Friday Fictioneers.

Bill drove up the back paddock, and parked his ute. The cancer was raging, and the Doc was barely keeping up. There wasn’t much of him, and the end was coming faster than a speeding locomotive. Now, it was only a question of when, and on whose terms.

Of course, Bill knew God wasn’t the only player involved. Those doctors could do a better job of extending his lot than the power of prayer – even if the priest disagreed.

However, just as Bill was about to cast his vote, the dog jumped up on his lap.

Anything for love.

…….

Rowena Curtin 100 words. PHOTO PROMPT © Bill Reynolds

My response to this week’s prompt was fueled by various conversations I’ve had with people close to me about the end of life. One friend dreads having a stroke and ending up incapacitated, and vows he’s going to head into the bush and take matters into his own hands first. a couple of friends and relatives have had dashed his melanoma and other cancers where bits keep getting cut off to the point where they feel they’re barely being held together, or have anything left. Some people reach this point and will do anything to preserve life, while others pull the pin. They might not take drastic action. It might be as simple as refusing further treatment and issuing a “nil resus” order. I’ve had a few close calls and I resolved to do whatever it took to stay alive. My kids were young and needed two parents at least in an ideal world. Meatloaf’s epic song “Anything For Love” became my song. I would do anything for love, but I did wonder where my limits would be. I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. I recovered and got back on my feet.

RIP Meatloaf

For those of you who know me, you’ll also appreciate that I had to add a dog to the picture. We have three dogs at home: Lady Border Collie x Cavalier, and Zac and Rosie who are brother and sister border collie x kelpies. You often see a working dog out there with a ute.

Rosie (left) and Zac when they were younger.
Lady with the kids a few years ago.

Anyway, I hope you’re all well and having a good week.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st November, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, it feels like I’m needing some kind of snorkel or perhaps a kayak to connect with you through the heavy rain which is besieging us at the moment. I’m not complaining yet, because I’m probably so used to being in lockdown that being indoors due to the rain doesn’t feel like such a big imposition as it used to. I am also older, and finding the comforts of home much more alluring than I used to.

How has your week been?

I hope it’s gone well!

Geoff with his birthday loot including the five free McDonalds apple pies our daughter brought home from work after working the closing shift.

Yesterday, was my husband Geoff’s birthday. We had a very low-key day, after a stressful week and ordered Indian takeaway, rather than braving the crowds and potential covid risk at the restaurant. That, however, meant clearing the kitchen table for us to sit down. OMG!!! That was an effort. I don’t know how things are with your kitchen table. However, ours seems to fill up with all sorts of detritus, which on a good day might be stacked carefully into neat piles in descending height order. However, on an average day, stuff just gets pushed up the other end, and the sedimentary layers buckle to form unstable mountains and inevitable avalanches onto the kitchen floor below. Just to compound the chaos, our cleaner had to stop coming because she hasn’t been vaccinated and they couldn’t provide a replacement. That certainly hasn’t helped.

A miracle- a clear table

Anyway, by the time the takeaway arrived, the table was clear, cloth in place, and table set. What more could he ask for? Presents, of course. Well, I had them sorted too after wrestling with the crappy wrapping paper which wouldn’t allow the sticky tape to stick and so I had to use the stapler in the end. You can just imagine how that turned out. Indeed, it reminds me of when I managed to end up sideways on zoom during the week when the dog pressed a few buttons on the keyboard. Boy, was that humbling. I was asked to mute myself while we went in to watch the video and I had to apologise. Can’t find the mute when I’m stuck sideways like this and the host kindly muted me instead. Welcome to my chaos.

In addition to the chaos, the last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for some people close to me, and I absorbed their tragedy very personally. Indeed, the shock hit my physical body like being rammed by a truck. Since then, a different friend has has a micro-stroke or what is called a TIA, another friend has a tumour in his colon, and another friend who had gone off the grid has resurfaced which brought me absolute joy, although her harrowing tale was very distressing. My husband half-joked to stop answering the phone. I didn’t but Friday was a busy day, and I’m not in the psychology business or a doctor. I’m just garden variety me.

I don’t feel that I’m of an age where your friends start dropping like flies, and I certainly recall my grandparents telling me that all their friends had died, or they were going to funerals all the time, and the reality of that didn’t really sink in back then. However, there is that progression through life…children’s birthday parties, 18ths, 21st’s, weddings, births of kids, for some divorce, and as the zero birthdays start to add up, it’s inevitable that we’ll end up at funerals…the last stop on life’s journey. Not that I intended to get all morbid on you. After all, my friends are doing well. One is recovering and the other off to surgery so nothing too worrying there at this stage. It’s just that all of this has made me think.

flannel flowers

Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep myself on the straight and narrow. That’s involved trying to ensure I get regular exercise, and extricate myself from my writing/research to get outside and absorb the expansive coastal landscape right on my doorstep. I went on a walk to the Mt Ettamalong Lookout. The flannel flowers were still out and waving their pretty faces in the wind while I was there. There was quite a blanket of them, and they just looked magnificent. I continued on to the lookouts, which I found so healing after recent events. I don’t know what it is about looking out over a steep cliff and across the water at an expansive view, but it was absolutely breathtaking.

The view across to Pearl Beach

I also went on another walk at the Mt Penang Gardens up the hill at Kariong. The garden here have quite a mix of native and overseas plants, and so much to scintillate the camera lens (or my phone in this instance). I didn’t come across too many labels identifying the various flowers and so you’ll just have to enjoy their visual appeal without knowing exactly what they are.

Since I missed last week, I’ll also mention that Geoff and I went out for dinner at nearby Terrigal Beach last weekend, while we were taxiing our daughter and her friends around.

Anyway, that about sums things up. How has your week been? I look forward to hearing from you.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

Weekend Coffee Share…27th October, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How are you really? Are you fine and everything’s going along with the flow? Or, are you a bit like me and a few of your own cogs aren’t quite moving smoothly and those around you are doing it tough?

That’s where I’m sitting at the moment. I haven’t got my own house in order, but I’m being much more constructive helping a few friends who are doing it tough and it’s so much easier to see the necessary steps for them, but so much harder for myself. I’m staring too close to it and it’s gone a bit blurry. Actually, it’s not really my stuff I’m trying to get sorted. It’s my son and his choices for his last year of school. He wants to do sound engineering when he finishes up and has a good aptitude for it, and he’s gaining good experience at Church, especially when you consider other options have closed down. He wants to put his foot down on the accelerator and get on with it. I’d just like him to slow down and finish school. Have another year before he heads out into the big wide world. I am trying not to blow up like a firecracker and am saying very little, while I try to do my research and get my head around what he wants to do.

Meanwhile, I took my elderly neighbour to the specialist today. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which had got into his bones. He’s 90 so we know he isn’t going to last forever, but we love this couple dearly and they have always been a second set of grandparents to our kids and were such a help when they were small. Now, it’s our turn to look after them. They said they were right, but I said it’s always good to have someone else to listen and take notes. Moreover, as you’re probably aware, I’ve been through a bit medically so I’m well versed on these things. Well, at least, I knew to take pen and paper and write everything down. I could work out what was important later. It was also good that I could drive them there, and take that pressure off. It was only later on tonight that the reality of his situation really sank in and how incongruous it was that we were talking through cancer treatment very matter of factly. No tears. No emotions. It was business. This is what needs to be done. However, there are emotions and it’s only now that I’ve stopped for the day and am unwinding for bed, that the reality has sunk in. By the way, it’s no trouble to be there for them. It’s just what you do. Besides, my grandparents’ neighbours took very good care of them We were living 1000kms away and couldn’t be there for them in that day to day way. In fact, I don’t think I ever drove any of my grandparents anywhere. So, this is rather nice and while we were waiting, I listened to his stories. They both lived through the London Blitz and were also sent away to the countryside as children were. They’re a fascinating couple, and they walk down to the local shops together, and are so sweet. You rarely see a couple still living at their age, let alone walking around and still living in their own home.

Tomorrow night, we’re going to a friend’s birthday party and I’ve offered to make the cake. I’ve been having better luck of late, H owever, I’m concerned about how this cake is turning out. I’ve made a caramel mud cake with caramel icing. I’m hoping it’s okay. My friend lives in a pole home perched high upon pillars like telegraph poles and set among the gum trees. He calls his place: “The Treehouse” and its beautifully decorated with vintage and antique ephemera and he’s a fabulous host, especially when you bring the food and cake. So, so his cake, I’m wanting to build a treehouse. Fortunately, I have a mould for a small chocolate gingerbread house. I haven’t used it before but I’ve poured in the chocolate and I’m just wanting for it to set. I’ve also got ini Violet Crumbles and chocolate sticks and I’ve going to set up an invading hoard of Tiny Teddies. It’s going to be a lot of fun assembling all these ideas. I’m just not quite sure how we’re going to transport it there and whether to assemble it there. Finger crossed it works out well.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing on with my research and it’s taking shape, which is a relief. I have so many stories but am getting them structured and it’s all heading the right direction.

Anyway, I’d better head off and get to bed. I hope you’re going well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Dying Diva…Friday Fictioneers: 2nd Feb, 2018.

“They’re not getting these!” Grandma  snapped, clinging to her diamond earrings. “Chopping away at me like I’m some sort of bonsai… Enough is enough!”

Catherine was determined to keep her ear lobes, and she sometimes wondered if that’s all she’d have left after the docs had finished chopping away. The virulent melanoma had spread its poisonous ugliness through almost every vein, artery and cell. There wasn’t much left of her anymore.

Yet, she hadn’t forgotten who she was… Madame Butterfly. She might not be able to walk anymore, but she still had her wings and she knew how to fly.

This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted b y Rochelle Wishoff Fields. We are required to write a 100 words in response to a photo prompt. This week’s photo is © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Have you ever been in a difficult spot where you felt everything was being taken away, but you took a stand. Drew a line in the sand, which you wouldn’t cross? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Back in my 20s, I refused additional brain surgery, largely out of concerns about losing my hair. They’d already hacked hair off the back of my head and this time, they wanted to put a probe in the front and shave more off. I’d had enough. Lucilly, I recovered without the additional surgery and ended up with a full head of hair.

xx Rowena

Wrestling With Adversity.

As much as I appreciate inspirational encouragement, it can also be more than a bit annoying and downright depressing when you’re dealing with a situation which isn’t going to change. When no amount of positive thinking is going to turn back the clock and undo what has happened.

“I can do anything? Hello!!!!! Who are you trying to kid? I know I’m never going to Climb Everest and I’d be lucky to climb up those stairs so don’t give me that !@#$!!”

There are some things that no amount of motivational hype are ever going to change. These take you down a very different path where you’re living or more likely, wrestling, with adversity. You’re neither winning nor losing but the two of you are engaged in an incredibly heated battle. It’s such an intense, close fight where it takes everything you’ve got just to stay put. Nobody has any idea how this battle is going to play out. Who is going to win and who is going to lose. It’s neck and neck.

This is what I call wrestling with adversity. While it is possible to overcome your struggles and setbacks, that’s not to say that it’s easy or a one way journey. It’s more a case of wresting back and forwards with your opponent. However, through this process you not only become a stronger and more strategic fighter, you also come to appreciate who or what you’re fighting for. What is most important to you and how to embrace and hang on to that despite your adverse situation.

So, ironically, that thing which all but kills us, also ultimately I believe, helps us appreciate life more in the longer run. Faced with losing our life, we see things so clearly, almost illuminated, and we know what matters. Maybe, I shouldn’t talk in the plural here and only speak for myself but read books like Tuesdays With Morrie, it soon becomes apparent that I’m not the only one who sees things this way.

So, when it comes to adversity, you end up with something of a double-edged sword. The very same thing which cuts you down and almost destroys you, seemingly slices off the dead wood and helps you live life more fully. I wouldn’t go so far as saying we’re better for our struggles because some losses are just too awful but there’s something powerful in it that we don’t always appreciate or understand.

I have been wrestling with my auto-immune disease again this week. Yet again, I was reminded about just how comprehensively this disease has moved in and taken over my body. Quite frankly, I was angry. Pissed off. Wanted to tell it to take a hike, which, of course, I can’t. I could’ve told it a hell of a lot more too. Instead, I poured that angst into my pen and carved my frustrations into the page. Catharsis…It’s such a wonderful thing. You feel so free once you’ve released all that toxic junk.

I wrote  this poem while I was on the train. It’s quite a long trip to my dentist, who is located in Kirribilli in the shadows on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and an ambitious stone’s throw from the Sydney Opera House.

Right from when I was first diagnosed, I viewed this illness as a possessive stalker. However, in this most recent poem, I pushed the analogy right over the edge describing a forced, violent marriage where there is no escape but then just as suddenly as he appears, he is gone without any explanation and no idea if or when he’s coming back.

You see, like other auto-immune diseases, dermatomyositis has flares and goes into remission and isn’t a constant. Indeed, is anything but. It’s like living on a shifting carpet and nothing is predictable.

This is true of so many medical and other issues we face. Just when we think they’re gone and problem solved, they’re back with a vengeance as if to remind us that no matter how far we run or how well we hide, there is no escape. They will be back.

However, no matter what we are going through and how unique our situation might be, we must remember that we are not alone. That while each of us has our own journey and some of us well and truly take the road not travelled, that there are overarching commonalities which bind us together. Once I realised I wasn’t alone, half of the battle was won…especially once I appreciated that just because bad things happen to us which aren’t going away, that we don’t always have to feel bad. Rather, we can still appreciate the good which survives alongside the bad and that it is just as much a matter of where we focus our gaze as what happens to us. It might be a cliche but it’s not just a matter of what happens to us but also how we respond. For one person a set back is perceived as a challenge but for someone else it’s the end of the world.

This has been a difficult place for me to reach.

I know what it’s like to fall straight down. Land in the mud and keep sinking and how hard it is to swim through that same mud, desperately trying to get back to the surface. I also know what it’s like to stop fighting and feel myself drowning but someone has always helped me get back to the top. That might be by physically bailing me out but most of the time, it was their love which saved me. Mostly, that’s been the love of my family and my friends but I’ve also been very deeply touched by the Love of A Stranger.

Perhaps, you’re still floundering around in that mud not knowing if or when you’re ever going to get out. If so, I’ll throw you a life buoy and encourage you to keep fighting. I have been there. Been cynical. Lived with a disease which stubbornly refused to give in to treatment and things weren’t looking good but 9 years since my diagnosis, I am not only still here, I am making the most of a different sort of life. Not what I’d planned but I love and am loved. While I’ve always had my writing and photography which are fantastic outlets for dealing with adversity, I now have this online blogging world I can access from home and I have become a citizen of the world.

Heart Hands red heart

If you are struggling, know that I hold your heart in my hand and wish you well. Please keep putting one foot in front of the other and even if you only change course by a few degrees, as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will indeed end up somewhere else. You will be in a different place.

I also encourage you to find out more about neuro-plasticity and how even changing what and how you think actually changes the very structure of your brain. This isn’t wishy-washy hype but actual science. Well-respected Canadian Psychiatrist Dr Norman Doidge addresses it in his two books: The Brain Which Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

Things may not be the same but please never, ever give up! Keep trying to find your way out.

Love & God Bless,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

The Masked Intruder.

You creep…
a foul, odorous gas
permeating
my each and every cell,
even creeping in between
the fibres of my bones.
Splitting my very atoms
to build your sovereign shrine
within each cell…
a nest to lay your poisonous eggs.

Catastrophization turned real,
blasted invader!
You can’t even leave
the smallest little part of me
alone.
Penetrating deep within my DNA,
you lurk beyond the microscope.
No one else can see you
but I know that you’re there.
A Machiavellian villain
purring like a cat
toying with its prey,
you enjoy my pain
and laugh.
You bastard!

What am I supposed
to call you?
How can I figure out
quite who or what you are?
You might have a name.
Be something out of a textbook.
Of course, Google knows
exactly who you are.
Yet, even they can’t explain
why you came.
Or,why you came to me.
After all,
why didn’t you go next door?
Find someone else to be
your magnificent host?
I’m not going to blame
my God of love
for all your hate…
my pain.

Yet,
the earth has turned
round and round
and I still don’t know
why you came.
I didn’t offer you tea,
let alone cake.
Yet, you stayed.
Now, you are I are bound
together as one.
I am the bride.
You are the groom.
A forced union,
I had no say in it.
No say in it at all.
I never vowed a thing.

So,
how can I break through
the chains which bind us?
Bind us together as one.
Until death do us part.
There is no divorce.
No escape.
We are fused.
Melted together.
This is forever.

Or,
So I thought.

Suddenly,
You were gone.

Your ring’s still on my finger
but your hands are no longer
wrapped around my throat,
squeezing out my very last breath
until my face turns blue, corpse-grey
while you somehow kept me alive
but only just.

Dare I ask you why you left?
Or, if you’ll return?
No. There’s no time to stop,
reflect or introspect.
I’ve changed all the locks.
Carpe diem seize the day.
I’ve finally reached
the other side of the rainbow,
basking alone in the sun
where even your shadow is gone.

I live inspite of you
but maybe even
because.

Rowena Newton
3rd February, 2016.

Written on the train to and from a dentist appointment at Kirribilli. I was fuming because it seemed that the dermatomysitis had affected my teeth. Not hugely but was playing silly buggers. Grrr!!! It set off yet another round of cannonfire.

 

David Bowie: Palliative Care Doctor Writes Letter

So much has been said about David Bowie since his recent death, that I didn’t think I had anything to add. While I certainly loved his music and associate Heroes, Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity with my inimitable years at university, there were people who lived and breathed his music and philosophies far, far more than I. I was more of a by-stander simply listening to his music in the bar.

However, I been intrigued by how people have reacted to David Bowie’s death and how the death of a 69 year old man who has lead an incredible life could be perceived as a tragic loss, when sooner or later we all die. No one is immortal, not even Bowie. That said,  I am starting to wonder about HRH Queen Elizabeth. I’m sure the not so young Prince Charles must be wondering as well.

Anyway, in my usual manner of meandering through Google late at night like a blindfolded goat eternally sipping on that last cup of decaf tea, I stumbled across a tweet by Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son. Duncan didn’t comment directly, but retweeted a link posted by the Marie Curie organisation to a letter from Dr. Mark Taubert, who wrote about how Bowie’s private cancer battle helped him ease the concerns of a dying patient.

A thank you letter to David Bowie from a palliative care doctor. http://bit.ly/1J73U4d  – thanks for sharing @DrMarkTaubert

 

Here’s a link to the letter.

For anyone living with a chronic or terminal illness, this letter raises some pertinent issues and gets you thinking.Then again, life has been described as a terminal disease and these issues are something for everyone to consider.

I didn’t know David Bowie personally or even from the perspective of analyzing and internalising his music and the meaning of his lyrics. I haven’t listened  to his last album either but it does sound like an effort to help people face their own deaths with less fear. He will be with them through to their very end, as well as his own.

Who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to die? Is there eternal life or do we suddenly stop…reach the end? I can’t imagine being nothing. Not existing. Can’t really imagine being a spirit either although I’d rather fancy being an angel so I could park myself back in my old chair at home and watch over the family. I might even be more use as an angel. Who knows?

Well, now Bowie does. He’s “up there floating in his tin can, far above the world”.

We’ve always known that he’s had the answers and I guess that’s why so many of us lament his passing. We still have too many questions without answers and now that the great Ziggy Stardust has gone, who is going to answer them?

Who knows?

As much as people lament Bowie’s passing, it won’t take long for someone to fill his shoes.

Anyway, I’m going to leave the last word to astronaut Chris Hadfield who sang a variation of  Space Oddity on the Mir Space Station:

Something to think about…

xx Rowena