An unanswerable question

Cancer has been hanging on the edges of my life recently like a grim reaper smog. Five people have lost their fight in the last weeks, long before it should have been their time to say goodbye. Senseless, is the only word for it.

What, possibly, on this merry earth, can be good about cancer?

If a miracle doesn’t happen, then the good news is small – actually imperceptible. But maybe it is still present; found in the tiny intercostal muscles of life. 

Family and friends.  They come together.  They talk, cry, hug and laugh without restriction – because what is the point in fluffing about the issue when life and death are staring you bang in the face? They simply spend time, which in busy lives doesn’t happen as often as it should. They support; they may mend broken ties and hearts. If nothing else, they think about one another – even with no contact, there is heart in this. 

Strangers.  It begins with doctors, nurses, or one anaesthetist who threw out a meaningful line that stayed with your cancer patient to keep them strong. It moves into your community – help with the kids, meals on your doorstep, fund raising, prayers from the local church, a volunteer at the hospital, a sudden hug from a complete stranger who has found themselves in your world.  How far the reach of your patient, how much they are loved and how much you are loved.

Personally.  Strength – born of a love so great you would do anything. If you’re a survivor, you’ve had strength to fight to stay for your family.  If you’ve been strong for your loved one in their illness and passing, has this, without anyone knowing, showed them you will be resilient so they can go in peace?  There is also strength in the legacy: Why wouldn’t you follow the simple procedures science has given us to avoid cancer? Why wouldn’t you live your life fully and with heart, be healthy and giving, and know what you have is precious? 

The tiny, imperceptible goodness in cancer seems to me to be that it shows us the most important thing is to love one another.  As much as you can.

cancer

 

 

 

 

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Tales from a Soccer Sideline: 2020

 

“I’m devastated, 2020 was going to be his first year to be graded into a good team,” says soccer mum, India, carefully placing her newly lifted face in her hands so as not to create any wrinkles.  “A hip replacement, can you believe it?”

“Try not to worry India honey, he’s young, he’ll bounce back quickly and be back on that soccer pitch in no time,” soothes her friend Sydney, via collagen lip balloons.

They sit in silence, watching their tiny younger son’s play in the latest technology Protein Infusion® compression wear, and helmets with inbuilt multi-directional Bouncepads® for headers.  The Bouncepad® was the same technology Nokey had tried out in their football boots a couple of years before, which had helped shoot China onto the world stage of soccer (in a deal whereby China supplied the children to manufacture the shoes and the Chinese soccer team would be the first to use the new technology. Chinese children would do anything for soccer, said Nokey’s Marketing Director).

“Yes, I know,” continues India, rearranging her hands to her knees and off her face, deciding it wasn’t a good idea to tempt fate on the wrinkle front. “It’s just, you know, all those years of training – 6 hours a week of development squad when he was 5 years old, all the 4am Crossfit strength and endurance training before school every day, the evening academy’s year round in the freezing snow and the 40 degree temperatures… The Christmases we gave up! The 100 hours a week work I had to do to pay for it all….. For what? A hip replacement at 8 years old.  I can’t believe it.  He’ll never get back to a decent level before the month-long sleep over camp where they assess them for grading…” India cries at the injustice of it all, gently dabbing tears away along her cheekbones – rubbing your eyes was the absolute worst cause of major wrinkling.

“Have you spoken to the club’s doctor? Maybe he has some supplements little Ronaldo can take to get him back in top shape before the grading?” suggests Sydney, careful not to smile in admiration and stretch her lips too much as she sees her wee 2 year-old scissor-kick then roundhouse a goal from the other end of the pitch.Baby playing football

 “Oh yes, absolutely, he’s got a full regime ready to go as soon as I give him the go ahead,” nods India.  “Thank goodness all that’s allowed because we’re still at the junior, amateur, volunteer club-run stage of soccer.”

“Good.  Oh look!” Sydney points toward a mother, who dared wear a tracksuit to a sporting event and is kneeling down cuddling her son.  “There’s that silly hippy who still believes sport is for fun! Ha!”

 

 

My crappy new look

The other week I pictured myself stepping back into the glamorous, highly strung world of fashion, as a fashion editor sitting in the front row at Australian Fashion Week. Result: Grey roots, a pink shell tracksuit and lack of understanding of the uses for handcuffs, did not serve me well. 

So I decided to stick to my mission to be a Fabulous Authoress. Your outfit and hair do not matter because you’re always holed up at home, and as for the uses of handcuffs – I can make that all up in my next book.

But every now and then the Fabulous Authoress type must extend her nimble digits and leave the house to mingle with other writerly types.  Lucky for me, the Sydney Writers Festival was on the week after Fashion Week. So I decided to take my crumpled style ego, don whatever was comfortable and warm, scarf my roots and toddle out to all of Sydney’s Pier’s to see how I fit in.

Turns out, the saying that everyone has a book in them, is true: 

colourfuloutfit3.jpg
Be careful who you sit next to

There were all makes and models of humans at this event. In contrast to the all-black, praying mantis’ of the week before, this event was bursting with colour – all on the one body, most of the time.

There were older couples, young grungy students, well-dressed women, and street-cred blokes.  There were young mums with babies on their front, some who looked dressed for a wedding, and others who looked as if they’d just crawled out of a marathon Game of Thrones session.  Red hair, green hair, brown hair (I hope Dr Seuss was there) and grey which is the new blond.  They all had two things in common: bright, wacky eye glasses were on just about every face.  And, they love to drink champagne – I imagine Sydney Harbour had a few writerly piss-heads sloshing about in its waters at the end of that day.     

And me? 

I’d been sitting at home all week writing about toilets.  Yes, someone paid me to. In a lovely matching coincidence, that beast that is a tummy bug came to visit our house, which gave me endless opportunities to research my topic. “Curvaceous ceramic bowl, pure as the white of an angel… Top of the range is the “Wind Tunnel” with an extraction fan for all those memories left behind…. Recline, relax, the Leatherette seat is as comfortable as your Nick Scali lounge…”  I was buried in literal crap, and I looked like it too.

Creative genius at an all-time high, and (bypassing the handcuff trend) bleach-scented yellow rubber gloves my look, the day of the Festival arrived.  Sick myself now, my husband rolled me out of bed like a hot dog out of its bun, and sent me on my way. I think I was out of my dressing gown, but I can’t quite remember.

Of course, there is no crappy ending. I forgot I was sick, and suddenly stepped into my element – completely ensconced in the atmosphere, the brilliant authors I was listening to, in taking notes for my own books, and in feeling like I was a part of an industry, a group, some form of the working world which I usually think everyone else is participating in except me. A day of unadulterated inspiration, surrounded by an accepting, champagne-swilling crowd, who’ve all been there done that crap and now wear the wacky glasses to prove it.

I must get me a pair.

toilet glasses1
Do I fit in?

Oliver Octopus and the Soccer Dilemma

Oliver Octopus storms off the field

Giving the ball a good angry peg

He is all crazy and cranky at soccer today

Because arms don’t work as well as their legs

blue ring octopus

Oh yes, he has eight, and you’d think that’s enough

But, as all of his friends always say

An arm has a hand and not nearly the strength

Of a foot in a boot during play

 

His blue rings burn bright in his firey anger

And everyone nudges away,

Because, although he looks pretty and beautiful

If you touch him you can call it a day

 

“Yo Oli!” yells Annie Anenome,

Waving glamorous red arms in the air

“I hear you, my friend, I’ve only arms too,

Plus my bottom’s stuck down, so unfair!”

 

“What about me,” cries Lawrence the Limpet

“You all whinge about too many arms,

But at least you don’t have only one slimy foot

And are as slow as a sloth on a palm”

 

“Oh I know,” says Oliver Octopus

“It’s so lovely you both understand,

But though using hands is allowed in fish soccer

These hands can’t thump balls like feet can.”

 

Slowly his 60 blue rings fade away,

As Oliver is calmed by his friends.

They all bask in the sun in the shallow rock pools

Just below Bilgola Bends

 

The next day comes round, it’s the Rock Pool World Cup

Oliver looks at his arms with great shame

Lacing stud-mittens on eight floppy hands

He doesn’t want to go to the game.

 

Blue rings start to glow in unhappiness

When along slides Stanley Starfish

“What’s wrong with you, sorry old sucker?

Playing soccer? Today that’s my wish!”

 

“Come on,” says Stanley in his don’t-argue way

Grabbing Oliver, a ball and some tea

“We’ll play right up here on this nice flat rock ledge.

Now you dribble the ball over to me.”

 

As he stands there a-waiting, his arms on his hips

Oliver wonders what on earth that he means

A dribble is something old Lawrence might do

With his foot, his slime-making machine

 

“It’s easy”, says Stanley flicking his hands

“Especially for ones such as us,

You see having good arms means that one’s good at dribbling

We can take it around just like thus”

 

And Oliver watches in pure amazement

As Stanley takes the ball from one end

He flicks it and flacks it between all of his arms

And right into the goal it is penned

 

“You see, my good friend, we play smart with our arms

Not hard like those crabs in their boots,

We can cleverly manoeuvre the ball on the pitch

Up sidelines, and passing to shoot.”

 

“And watch this – pass the ball please,”

So Oliver Octopus does

Stanley jumps up, a star jump we’ll say,

And blocks that ball, all arms a-buzz  

 

“So go, my good friend and win that World Cup!”

And our Oliver, he does comply

That soccer ball is his, the entire tricky game

The opposition were really fish fry

 

“You see,” says the Starfish, his arms round his mate

“You don’t have to be the goal shooting star,

Everyone’s important in a team game like this

And you were the best by far!”

 

Oliver comes out glowing, but not with blue rings,

“Boy that ball you really know how to dispatch!”

Said the opposition, shaking hands as they left the field

And Oliver is made man of the match!

 

 

Back from the brink

“If left, the bacteria Molly has, can kill in a matter of hours.”

I remembered, through a haze, that when we first arrived at Sydney Children’s Hospital at 1am that night which was to change us forever, they’d bumped a head trauma in order to operate on the pneumococcal infection in our tiny six month old baby’s hip.  Although we didn’t know exactly what evil it was at that point in time. In the depths of that night, the medico’s voices had a practised ‘let’s not panic, but…’ pace to it. Yet still, these words did not shock me into a state of clarity, or panic, or any other emotion.  It was just another thing to swallow, then keep going, breath by breath, sleep by baby’s sleep, missed meal by missed meal, day by day by week by month. It was the only way I knew to get through.

 

Then later…

“Miss Molly is one lucky little girl that you got her in there so quickly,” said our lovely doctor.  The saviour of our lives so far.  “There is not much time for error with this type of bacteria. But I think we’ve done well, and hopefully there will be minimal damage.”  Then he came over all Doctor’s Rules, and I knew I would get no more on the situation.  Not that they knew much more on the situation:  We were currently, after a month in hospital and two operations, still holding onto the cliff with just a few weak fingers, too find out if that bacteria would yet still take her, or if she would never walk.  

We moved to bed number ten of our stay. The moving around was getting to me. Pushed on by bossy mothers who wanted our window bed, or by the Noro virus sweeping through the ward  and closing it down, sending us off to Isolation.

It was in Isolation I hit what I know was the lowest point I’ve been at in my life thus far. I was so emptied, tested, tired and worried that I had the completely ridiculous thought I wanted to leave the hospital, which meant leaving my baby. onthebrink I asked my husband to come in, but he couldn’t breastfeed, so it was all just me.  Me and this enormous confusing thing. Me and a whole little person whose life might just depend on me.  I cried for 24 hours. I never knew I had that much crying in me.

When I wiped my last tear from that particular flood, my phone beeped.  It was my oldest friend, texting to say she’d just heard about Molly.  I’d resisted all conversation outside of nurses, doctors, and my husband.  I couldn’t talk about this.  I didn’t really know what was going on myself.  I didn’t know how I’d react if I talked about it.  I didn’t know if I could comfort someone else who was upset for me. 

Perhaps I didn’t want to really face up to that fact that all this was happening.  As it turns out, it took years for me to achieve such a thing. Maybe I even haven’t yet.

We texted back and forth for hours.  Her sympathy and friendship flooded into me.  Her ability to see the possible positives started working on me. 

Then another friend started texting.  She asked how I was going.  I mused, how was I going?  It suddenly struck me that my back was pretty sore from sleeping on a lopsided plastic chair for a month.   As I stood back and looked at what I’d just written, I actually found it pretty funny – so absurd that it was humorous.  I started to talk about whether it was better to have slept on one of the hospital’s fold-out beds which sported only half a mattress leaving my bum hanging off the end, or the lopsided plastic chair. It reminded me of our toilet rating system when I travelled Africa; where in some parts they didn’t really know what to do with Western sit-down toilets in terms of cleaning or plumbing, so we’d decided the long drop toilets won highest ratings.  I deemed the lopsided plastic chair a winner. A game of relativity.

This reminded me of my other friend who’d sent in nibblies and books to pass the time for my stay.  Others had sent in toys and little books for Molly, and even one very ugly snugly blanket, like a back to front dressing gown, to go with my plastic chair bed. It made me laugh like a madwoman.  Who laughs in a children’s hospital?  Not many – only me that day.  It made me think of the outside world, of a life other than the one I was so completely ensconced in at the moment. God bless my girlfriends.

And I began to fill back up with the wholesomeness of friendship.

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #2

“It’s just really important to Sam,” enthuses Marsha with a look of utter distress on her face about the whole situation, whilst simultaneously checking Facebook. “Soccer is a huge passion for him and he really looks up to the coach, sees him as the most important thing in his life during the soccer season – oh my gosh, Carolyn’s at it again with her status updates complaining about having no help at home, bor-ring….If no one else is doing it for you, get off Facebook and do it yourself woman,” mimics Marsha as she swipes Carolyn off the screen in disgust.  

“You know,” continues Marsha, back to the important topic of soccer, “when their coach doesn’t turn up, not only does the team fall apart during the game, but the boys don’t feel like they’re worthy of their “esteemed” coach’s time,” she sighs, withdrawing her French polished fingernails back to their phone typing.     soccermumsbagcoach

“Hmm,” agrees Beverly, mother of the star striker of the team. She’d not been happy since the beginning of the season when her division one son had been relegated back a level to division two. “This is what happens in the lower divisions, it’s just rubbish, no one commits, no one cares.  I think I’ll talk to the club director about it. See if they can give us a new coach – one who actually has the team winning as their top priority.  When he does turn up to coach he’s too soft, like they’re just there to run about and have a giggle.  Perhaps we can pay a coach?  Volunteers just don’t work.”

Marsha looks at her watch.  It looks so out of date now, she must get herself one of those hot new Marc Jacobs’ timepieces.  “Five minutes late again. This is just ridiculous, where’s the man’s commitment, I ask you?”

“Exactly.  It might as well be us out there coaching them,” spits Beverly angrily.  “We turn up with our kids on time, we put in all this effort when we could be at home in the warmth, feet up, watching I’m A Celebrity –”

“Oo, do you think Shane Warne will win?” asks Marsha getting excited.

“For sure – Oh, here he is, FINALLY!” says Beverly loud enough for them to hear in the next suburbs’ training grounds.

But coach Tim doesn’t hear the women.  His mind is still back in that hospital with his little girl fighting the whooping cough ravaging her tiny body.  On his wife who is falling apart and on his boy, slinking along beside him who is suffering on all fronts as his family dances with death.  He gives his little Matthew a hug as they walk up to the waiting team. His wife had said it would be good to get fresh air, try and do life as normal for a while.  Him and Matthew had missed last week’s game when their baby girl had been rushed to the Children’s Hospital – maybe a run around with his mates and a bit of his beloved soccer will make him forget for just a small while. He tries to remember how to smile: “How are my boys? I heard you played an awesome game last week, lots of great passing and marking, well done, high five!  I was really upset I missed it…”

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #1

I DIDN’T GET THE AWARD FOR SPORTSMANSHIP!” he spits at his mother, devil-red in the face, smoke pistonning from his nostrils. The 9 year old striker’s fists begin to crack closed forcefully, his tiny brain struggling to makes sense of it all, teeth grinding in fury.

“Yes, I was watching the award ceremony,” responds his mother, also seething with disgust.

He starts up again: “Little -”

“Now Brutus, darling, remember we don’t use the F word in public places like this, it doesn’t look good,” says Mother, ever responsible.  “I’ll talk to Ben Botson about it. Someone must have been in his ear.”  She walks out of the Man Untied clubhouse, confident in her promise. ‘Cheats’, she thinks – ‘the kid and the club director.

“I wanna smash that dumbass,” rages on the tall, wiry boy, possibly lacking in a wide vocabulary.  “How many goals did he get, huh? huh? He can’t tackle to save his life.  A back, a defender, who wants to be a stupid defender,” he wobbles his head in mockery, striding  after his mother, the usual two metre distance between them she keeps.  

“‘Pass, pass,’ he screams like a girl – no way I’m passing the ball to him, I’m the only one who can kick goals in that whole team. Sportsmanship – can’t play sport to save himself…” He kicks at a rock, his superb goal-kicking foot hitting the gutter instead, making him near explode. “Few teeth on the shoulder in a close tackle oughtta let him know who the winner really is,” he mutters.   

Mother smiles to herself, lowering her Lycra top neckline in readiness to see Ben. So competitive was her little Brutus.  Such a great quality to have – she couldn’t have written it into him if she’d tried.  But she’ll just be right up there and making sure that Director knows exactly who their family is:  Soccer royalty is who, an A grade player since he was 5, training with a personal coach four times a week even back then. He is lucky to have Brutus in his club.  No one forgets her children. No one. Brutus will be making international soccer headlines one day, just like his hero, Luis Suárez.

LuisSuarez

Suárez showing the true extent of his skill in the 2014 World Cup

This is a practice piece in writing character’s, and is the first in a series using the soccer season I’m about to be kicking around in.  I have never met Brutus, nor Shazza his Mother, they purely a figment of my nightmares. Luis Suárez, however, is a real life adult experiencing teething.