My elderly aunt fell over and cracked her 88-year-old skull open and had to be rushed to hospital, much to my sick mother’s horror. Neither of these wonderful old ladies who raised me is in the best of health and I am forever sweating on their well-being. Luckily, my aunt’s injuries were not as bad as they first looked and she was back home with my mum after a night of observation.
As I stated last time, there were a couple of spots on Lynette’s liver the learned doctors were convinced were cancerous lesions, known among the cognoscenti as “mets on the liver”.
The decision was made to do a liver resection.
But before that vast and incomprehensibly horrible procedure could take place, my poor wife had to undergo something called a “liver embolisation”.
We both blinked blankly at the surgeon when he informed us of this “trick”, as he called it. He then went on to inform us that had we been having this conversation 15 years ago he would have told her to put her affairs in order.
We continued to blink at him. We didn’t know what to say.
Finally, I found my voice and asked him what this liver embolisation entailed.
Apparently, it is a complicated operation that requires a specialist who is both adept at vascular surgery and is an expert with the liver.
A professor known as Wang was just such a man, we were told.
The procedure itself is altogether amazing. It consists of the good professor accessing my wife’s liver through a small hole in her side with a giant needle and another indescribable instrument, and while looking at a real-time Xray image of where the portal vein, and numerous other veins, that supply the liver with blood are, he then blocks these veins off with coils of a special resin. This causes the diseased part of her liver to atrophy and die, and simultaneously causes the healthy part of her liver to grow. This then gives Lynette a bit of liver and a fighting chance when it comes to resecting three-quarters of the bastard in early August.
As you can imagine, the potential for catastrophic disaster is very near when dealing with the liver. We were left with no illusions about this.
And thus began a very long and difficult week for my wife and me. She has felt “OK” since being off the chemo for the last month and to voluntarily surrender oneself to the knife when one is feeling OK is not easy – especially since there has been very little to feel OK about for her in the last six months. So it was almost possible for us both to shunt the cancer and the nightmare of chemotherapy out of our minds for a while.
Small and not so small kindnesses have continued to trickle into our lives. Which has been the case throughout this phase. Some people I have known for ages have simply ceased to have any contact with us. Obviously, my wife’s cancer is more difficult for them to deal with than it is for her. Other people, some from this website, have proved to be more genuine and steadfast as friends than anything I could have imagined possible. I am humbled and grateful to people like Klink, and Leigh, and Bly, and Scrambles, and Boon, and Crew, and some others who don’t want to be named, for their unwavering friendship and support. You really do work out who your mates are when your back is against the wall. Ian, Al, and Deano have been amazing. Their strength and concern is crucial to me staying sane. I will never be able to thank them enough. The others? well, I guess when Borrie ain’t supplying bikes for them to ride around on or pandering to their egos, he’s not very useful.
Thus I live. And thus I learn.
Anyway, we had been told the procedure was complicated and painful – more painful than the actual resection. So Lynette was quite spooked and very stressed out. I did all I could to distract her and keep her smiling, but as the day of the procedure drew close, neither of us did much sleeping.
Then came the day. It was the last day of school, so I took my son with us when we delivered her to the Westmead radiology department, where a series of idiot nurses spent half an hour misinforming my wife and I about the procedure…
“Oh, yes, they will be going through your groin for this,” said one.
“You’re here for an angiogram, aren’t you?” said another.
All of this was in stark contrast to what her surgeon had stated earlier.
When the wardsman came to collect her and wheeled her away to theatre, I felt a cold blackness cloak me.
“What are we gonna do now, dad?” my son asked.
“We’re gonna walk, mate,” I replied.
“How long will this take?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
And I didn’t. The procedure can take an hour, or it can take five hours. It all depends on so many different factors.
So at 2pm last Friday afternoon, my son and I started walking. And we walked and we walked. We walked all over Westmead’s vast hospital complex. When we got tired, we stopped and rested. Now and again, we would pause for a drink or a sandwich. And while we walked, we talked. I have a 12-year-old who can converse like an adult. In fact, he converses better than most adults and on a wider range of subjects.
We talked about Communism and how that came to be. We talked about the merchandise franchises that drive Hollywood’s movie-making. We talked about hot babes at his school and hot babes at my school. We compared our earliest memories. We talked about my father and the legacy he left us both. And we talked about how impossibly brave mum was.
By 5pm, I still had not heard anything. So we walked back to the radiology ward where I left her. A nurse, a new one I hadn’t seen before, must have taken pity on us standing helplessly in a corridor, wondering who to ask about Lynette. She made a phone call to theatre, had a brief conversation and five minutes later, they wheeled my wife out.
She was conscious and nodding at a tall man still wearing his surgical scrubs. This was the anaesthetist. He spoke with a beautiful English accent and seemed genuinely concerned and attentive.
“How’d it go?” I rasped, not even looking at him, but staring at my wife, who tried and succeeded in giving me and my son a weak grin. She was obviously still zonked to the eyeballs.
“It went quite well,” the anesthetist said and gave me a kind smile. “Professor Wang got 90 per cent of the blood vessels he wanted to get, so we’re quite satisfied with the procedure.”
I thanked him and I thanked the nice nurse and then followed my wife to the Acute Care Ward, where she would recuperate.
Except that the Acute Care ward is a stinking shithole of Third World magnitude where recuperation is very difficult and I would hate to see how bad a normal ward is. The nurses are rude and callous whores from Third World middens. Their English is halting. Their manner is appalling and many of them came from a nursing agency because our public hospital system is in meltdown. As I explained to one Filipina agency-cunt who made an attempt to snatch my wife’s chart from my hands as I was looking at it: “Do that again, cunt, and I shall personally put you back on a boat and shove you the fuck back out to sea.”
It was a difficult two days before my wife was allowed home. She feels “OK”, again and is only in a little bit of pain from the procedure. The bad side of her liver is allegedly dying and the good side is apparently growing. This is an assumption on the surgeon’s part, but that is why he gets paid the big bucks.
All I know is that I have her back home for the moment and I can minister to her as best I can.
Our lives have changed profoundly. Our diets have changed even more. I am doing nothing but cooking organic food (including vast quantities of vegetables) and juicing entire orchards of various fruits. As a result, my son and I have never felt better, and I know it is helping her as well. I remain astounded that there is dietary advice for all sorts of illnesses, but none for cancer patients. It is even more amazing when you consider how diet and lifestyle play a major part in getting bowel cancer and its subsequent horrors. And I’ll be fucked if I shall contribute to that disease ever again.
This entire nightmare has bonded us as a family to a degree I would not have imagined possible. You start to see your partner in a light you have never before beheld. Lynette’s courage is awe-inspiring. Amazingly, she tells me how she felt sorry for the people in the ward with her and how she thought the nurses could have been kinder or gentler, but understands the stress they’re under.
Mine is a more blinkered view. I want my wife well again and I want the people charged with her care to actually care. Failing that care, I want to pour acid down their throats and slash their eyes with razorblades.
That I do not do that is entirely attributable to my wife. She remains the only grace in my life.
I now have three weeks to sweat out before her liver resection. Another procedure that is fraught with indescribable peril.
And my fucken oven has blown up.
THE SIXTEENTH POST (Just after a forum member posted up about how much he respected me…)
“Mate, there’s nothing I write here that is worthy of your respect. I write this both to clear my head of the endless internal screaming, and as a way of somehow giving people an idea of what it is like (at least for me) when cancer comes to live in your world.
And I write here about it because I do not know what else to do about it.
For the first time in my life, I understand what “helpless” means.
I could also tell you a few stories about Lynette’s blood kin that would cause you to want to put big impact rounds into the back of their skulls. They are the most disgusting assemblage of humans I have ever seen.
Her illness is nothing but an excuse for these bottom-feeders to feel even more sorry for themselves; despite not speaking to her for years on end, they suddenly start carrying on like arseholes. It’s as if they have cancer and not her.
Not one offer of help has been forthcoming. Not one question of what they could do as a family to lighten her load. Nothing. Just yowling about how “awful” this all is and how “tragic” their lives are now that she has the Big C.
Disgusting cunts, the job-lot of them, who have been instructed at length not to approach my house or even the suburb where her hospital is located. I see one of these shitstains anywhere near my wife and I will maim them. Mother, father, brothers – the fucking lot.
THE SEVENTEENTH POST
You all remember how I said that when I saw my wife after her bowel operation, she was as sick as a person could be?
I was soooo fucken wrong.
After she had 70 per cent of her liver removed yesterday, her appearance now trumps everything I ever thought I knew about sick people.
The last few weeks have been harrowing for me in the extreme. She had undergone a liver embolisation after a scan had revealed several “cavitating lesions”” (cancer) that had appeared on her liver as secondary tumours from her bowel cancer.
Her doctor said she was fortunate as he examined the scans. As I mentioned, had this been her condition a decade ago he would have advised her to put her affairs in order – and no, I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around that bonny possibility.
Anyway, in many cases, liver cancer is inoperable and patients are treated with chemotherapy for the rest of their shortened lives. In Lynette’s case, all the surgeons appeared to agree that hers was operable.
The surgeon in question was a Dr Arthur Richardson. He is, apparently, the most senior and experienced and venerated liver and vascular surgeon (if you do some research on the liver, you’ll see why a vascular surgeon has a dog in this fight) at both Westmead and the SAN (big private hospital for rich people). And since Australia leads much of the world in liver stuff, this means he is right at the top of his food chain. For my part, I have never met a more self-assured and confident human. He is truly unique.
But he left us in no doubt that a liver resection of the magnitude he was planning was a “very big procedure”. The ONLY thing that recommends it, is that if it is a success, it offers a cure to liver cancer because it removes it totally from the body.
And thus my beloved wife, son, and I prepared for her next trial. We did this by screaming silently in our heads as we tried to come to terms with everything that can go wrong during this most serious operation. Shit like damage to other organs, discovering cancer on the diaphragm (which never shows up on any scan and can only be seen when the patient has been filleted on the operating table), massive blood loss, total liver failure… the list of horrors goes on.
This was the first time that I have ever seen my son stressed out. In the final few days before the operation, he clung to her like a limpet.
Each time my wife and I looked at each other, our eyes were full of unspoken realisations that this could be the fucking end of all things for my family. That is not something I can even begin to understand how to deal with.
The day of the operation I took my son to school, figuring it would be better than having him wander the streets of Westmead with me while I awaited news of the procedure. At least school would occupy him. If you don’t know, I don’t have a support network of family to mind my kid when I need that to happen. I suppose this is why I treasure my wife and son so much – I have no-one else except my ailing and aged mother and aunt who live in a retirement village and hover near death’s door on a constant basis.
After dropping him off, I drove my wife to hospital and helped her change into her surgical gown, while feeling my heart break as I looked at her frailty and courage. She smiled at me even though her eyes were saucer-like with abject terror. I almost fell down in the pre-op area and started to scream. The only reason I didn’t was I know full well that if I start, I will never stop. And no-one needs that from me at the moment.
Then at 8am the nurse took her away and I went to walk the streets.
Except this time, I included Parramatta Park in my trek. This proved to be educational for one predatory homosexual who obviously mistook me for a potential date as I stalked through the forested trails that run alongside one of the creeks.
After he had followed me for about 20-metres, I turned and said very quietly and evenly: “You need to back the fuck off. Now.” He was without a doubt the fleetest and most agile running man I have ever seen and watching him bound through the scrub like a startled antelope will stay with me forever.
At 12 noon, the surgeon called me and said that it was a bigger procedure than he anticipated, but he had removed most of her liver, found nothing of any consequence anywhere else in her abdomen, and was grateful that she didn’t bleed much (obviating the need for blood transfusions during the operation, which is a good thing apparently), and said he felt things had gone remarkably well, and she was now in Recovery.
I was elated. I texted people that my wife wasn’t dead. I was giddy with relief and hissing like a pressure valve. That changed as they kept my wife in the Recovery unit for the next nine hours (the normal stay is only one or two) because – cop this – they could not get a cleaning team to clean a room in her Acute Care Ward. Now, since you cannot visit in the Recovery ward, I was left to stand outside the doors of the Recovery ward for nine hours – four of them with my son after I went and got him from school.
Eventually, one of the nurses took pity on me and told me that she was fine (though in a great deal of pain) and at 9pm she was wheeled into the ward.
She looked…um, not so good, but she was still the most pleasing sight on earth to me. She had tubes in her neck, two drains coming out of her abdomen, and catheters from every orifice. her pillow and neck were splashed in Betadine (I told my son not to worry ’cos it wasn’t blood) and she was crazy with drugs, but she smiled and said: “I made it.”
Last night was the first night I had uninterrupted sleep for ages.
She is not out of the woods yet, and many things can still go to shit over the next few days. But since she is the bravest person I have ever known, I am convinced she will deal with it – whatever the fuck it is. And she will deal with it better than I ever could.
Fuck, I love her so damn much.
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Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.