A massive chunk excised from my left arm today. Eleven stitches to close the wound. My new personal best. Hopefully we got the whole thing. The bad news is there is another one to do tomorrow. Another positive biopsy result. The good doctor had to shuffle some appointments for me. I appreciate his sense of urgency.
I thought, having made it to 67, I was probably immune to cancer and it would be something else that took me out. Maybe it will be still, but the odds are changing. One thing I have already decided. After looking after my friend Jeff for his last couple of months, I determined then and there I would not be going quietly and meekly if it happened to me. The man suffered. I suffered with him. There shall have to be a plan B. B prepared.
I got the melanomas Melanomas in my skin I got melanomas, yeah Melanomas in my skin So I went to the doctor He started slicing straight in.
Said we gotta cut them out man Before they get too strong Said we gotta cut ‘em, yeah, Before they get too strong ‘Cos iffen we don’t cut ‘em Man you ain’t got long.’ *
I got the melanoma blues, From knocking around in Sunshine City Where the ozone layer’s thinner And the UV rays are stronger in the air I had SPF to use – but I didn’t use it, that’s a pity And those bloody melanomas Are popping up everywhere.
* Poetic licence. He’s Persian, and does not talk like that.
If you actually listen to the Blues, you’ll know a lot of the songs are considerably worse than this one.
Today was a day in which I learned, or was reminded of, several important things. It was intended to be a quiet day sorting out the van and disposing of things that are no longer needful, or that do not bring me joy. I am decluttering with a ruthlessness that would make David finally proud of me.
Having swum ninety minutes every day this week I thought I’d take a break, but then, in a fit of energy, and procrastination, I rationalised that I may not be able to swim for a while after the surgery tomorrow. So I should definitely go today. The truth is, I am becoming a swim junkie. I need my fix of weightless, fluid, pain-free motion with good music, the cool silky feel of water flowing over my skin.
Also I had spotted in the Target catalogue, a cheap, small microwave oven that looked as if it might fit into the space created for one in the caravan, a space currently filled with sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration. I decided I need a microwave, now that I am on mains power semi permanently.
I measured the space and recorded the dimensions on my phone. Then went for a swim. I forgot my walking stick. Emerging from the pool and feeling the return of gravity, I regretted my decision not to go back for it. I decided I need three. One always in the car, one in the bike trailer, and one at home. It is getting hard to do without it.
After my swim, I showered, changed and headed for Target. I stopped into the bargain shop first to pick up an extra walking stick.
In Target I found the oven I was interested in, pulled out my tape measure, and checked the dimensions of the front of the oven. It would fit. I picked up a boxed oven from the shelf below the display and headed for the checkout. By the time I got there, I knew I had made a serious mistake. The shooting pains in my legs and the grinding sounds from my knees told me both they and my back were buggered from this weightlifting exercise. It was only a small oven!
I left it by the checkout and went in search of a trolley. I had not limped far at all before I needed a rest. I leaned on my stick in the forward leaning pose that seems to give me relief. A young woman, who had been at the checkout behind me, came up to me, pointed at a bench and told me to sit there while she found me a trolley. She then headed down to Woolworths at the other end of the mall, returning with a trolley.
What a sweetheart. Her name is Tara. I felt so old. Especially when she patted me on the shoulder and told me that like me, her grandma was always trying to do more than she was now capable of. Hey, I’m father material, not grandad. But of course, I was her age when my grandad was my age.
Such people are the treasures of humanity as much as any great Nobel laureate.
Once I had a trolley to lean on, I was fine. I collected the oven and transferred it to the cruiser. Back at the caravan I unboxed it and carefully, if painfully, carried it inside. Of course it did not fit into the space available. Only the face had the right dimensions, and even then, only just. A short existential crisis until I realised I could remove the top of the cupboard, insert the oven and put the top back. A quick gathering of tools and the step-stool I call the standy on-thing.
First, I put insect screen over the ventilation hole through the wall of the caravan. That should keep out the ants and insects that might otherwise colonise the back of the oven.
It did fit though the cupboard top does not quite go back as snugly as before. I then reheated some cold coffee in a mug. No more reheating in a saucepan on the gas stove and forgetting it.
But I now need to find somewhere to put all the sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration.
I wondered at the marvellous technology before me that cost only $68. I remembered my first microwave and how expensive it was. This thing cost little more than a packet of 40 cigarettes, or an hour of my wages, back when I was earning them.
That made me think of all the man hours and material that went into manufacturing it. If the retail price is so low, how much do those who do the real work get? Then I felt guilty. This is why the world is in crisis.
Senior moment today. Fully aware that I had an appointment with the GP in Woodford at 11:15 I hurried off for my morning swim at 07:30. I was in the water well before 8 and swimming to the accompaniment of Mozart, Beethoven, Dire Straits, Ultravox, Pink Floyd, Clannad, Steeleye Span et al.
Ninety minutes passed quickly and just as I planned, I emerged from the pool at 09:30 for a shower before driving the 50 minute commute to Woodford. I like to always allow a little extra time. It is a habit you learn in the outback, where a four hour drive can sometimes end up taking a couple of days.
Except without even thinking about it, I had ridden the bike to the pool. Now I had to ride back to base camp to get the cruiser.
Today I found out how the bike performs on full assist. Really well.
I arrived in Woodford, without breaking the law, in plenty of time for my appointment, which was all about the latest blood and pee test results which are encouraging. I took the opportunity to raise the subject of my knees, now that the weight was coming down. Mehdi prodded and pushed, and wrote a referral for x-rays.
Three weeks ago he had checked me all over for melanomas. All clear. Today as I was about to leave, he pounced on a new spot on my forearm and examined it with his super magnifier. Not good. Worried frown. He took a photo with an attachment on his iPhone and showed me what it was about the spot that concerned him. He told me to make an appointment ASAP to have it excised. I go back on Monday.
A couple of hours later I was being x-rayed by a cheerful and chatty young radiographer at Caboolture Hospital. After a few poses and buzzing sounds, she pronounced that the images had come out perfectly,
Then, looking at the images, she said sympathetically, “I bet they hurt”.
I told her they do. Then added “You know, I used to go out with a radiographer”.
“Did you really?” She said.
“Yes, but she saw right through me from the start”.
“How long have you been sitting on that one?” She said, laughing.
“I composed it just then, for you”.
Next stop the Department of Transport and Main Roads Customer Service Centre Caboolture. I’ve been here in Queensland over a year now, and several times at road checks when queried about my WA drivers licence and how long have I been in Queensland, I’ve told the police I am passing through, hanging around only for medical reasons. I have already stayed over the legal time for using an out of state licence. The time has come to acknowledge I am not up to the Grey Nomad life in my current state. I won’t be moving on soon. Maybe I shall in the future, but for now, I’m probably in the best place I can be. Where I am. A very Zen thought.
The nice lady at the Customer Service Centre gave me a form for my doctor to sign, and checked the forms of ID I carry. She pronounced them satisfactory. All can be sorted once I return with the signed form.
So out of practical necessity I’ve made a decision. I’m staying here. I shall join a bowls club or some such for a social life, cheap meals and meat pack raffles, and see about a dinghy to fish from.
A foray into a new genre. I don’t know what it is.
Sometimes, when you are dead, you just don’t know it. Your mind continues to believe in your life, despite the irrefutable proof lying in a wreck on the roadside. You ignore the clues, carry on in a dazed trance, doing work that does not need doing, and which is never noticed. You raise imaginary dahlias and runner beans and children. You still believe in Love, Family, Friends. Hope. You believe in Truth and Balance and Justice. They are ideal, because they are not real. You take foolish risks for their sake, not realising it matters nought. For you have nothing to lose that is not already lost.
You edge sometimes towards an unwilling awareness of your sad condition, this seemingly human condition. When you do, you seek diversion. You lose yourself in fiction, for deep inside you know that only in the imagination is found the Happy Ending. Every book you think you read, is one you write yourself. Every movie you watch is no more than your own reimagining of all you missed while you were still alive. Your own mind sometimes produces that rare masterpiece, a dream so moving, so sweeping, with such an epic, tragic, sad or bitter-sweet finale, that you weep. You weep. You feel. Because despite being dead, on some unconscious level of your non-existential soul you are aware you have just realised the Truth.
Entropy rules. Decay. That is how you should know you are dead. There is no other condition.
And the only question for you, Zombie, is “When was it that you died?”
There, perversely, paradoxically, is your true immortality.
You were, you are, you shall be – always – nothing more – and nothing less – than a skin cell shed from the Universe as it searches for meaning.
Found in Woolworths. I bought it all. There were only six cans left. There must be a few kiwis here.
For those of us who grew up in NZ in the sixties it is a little can of nostalgia, and it still evokes happy beach memories, despite no longer being bottled in Paeroa, and despite the ghastly new can design.
It was on the Asian foods shelf, beside the Wattie’s tomato sauce, which I also snapped up.
Another crowded morning at the pool. Now the weather is hot, I think I shall swim in the sea on the weekends, and visit the pool weekday mornings only. I cut my swim short this morning after only 75 minutes, due to high demand. Three to a lane gets tricky. Instead I went for another long ride, which is how I ended up in Woolworths looking for kitchen tidy bags and green curry paste.
A change of routine today. Since I am up early I decided that now the weather is seriously hotting up, I’d go to the pool first thing in the morning from now on. I set off at 7:30 for an 8 o’clock start. It turns out to be the best time of day to go. The early lane swimmers have just left to start work. The youngsters haven’t arrived yet. I’m pretty much assured of a lane to myself. Best of all the water is cooler by a couple of degrees and very much clearer than it is towards the end of the day.
I had completed 90 minutes of my own peculiar stealth style of breast stroke and was out and showered well before the first droves of youth arrived.
I think the cooler water is better by far, this morning was really refreshing, but I heard people complaining that it “could be a bit warmer”. I’ve noticed this all over Australia. Despite their carefully promoted reputation as hardy rugged individuals, most Aussies are a bunch of wusses. They won’t swim if the water temperature drops below 24, some have an even higher minimum, and they can’t survive a warm day without air-con. Not that I haven’t been glad of air con, on occasion. I suspect I may be wishing for it myself, soon. It is really getting hot, and it’s only November.
There were police and a rapid response vehicle all over the place this morning. I don’t know what that was about, though no doubt it will come out. It wasn’t fire, at least.
Smoke is everywhere again. The winds must have shifted. The fires have shaken a lot of people’s complacency at last. They are suddenly the topic of conversation everywhere I go. An older couple were expounding on the value of steel or aluminium shutters today. Houses can be saved from destruction by using them. Most homes burn down because radiant heat from bushfires shatters the windows, allowing flying sparks to enter and ignite the furnishings. This should be a well known fact here in Australia, but apparently it is not. I have a shutter on the window facing the bush behind the caravan, but I doubt it will help much. The roof is plastic.
There is a new turkey staking out territory in the bush along the path I ride. That makes three that I pass each day, now. I must take them some food and try to make friends. Two new bird calls for me to try to identify, and I caught a brief glimpse of a kookaburra this morning. There are plenty around. I hear them, but don’t often see them. Ibis are poking around everywhere, earning their pejorative epithet “bin chicken”. I must be the only person around that likes them. Any bird that learns to exploit us as we exploit them is ok by me.