I wonder where and how to begin my story today. A story that I have locked away for eight months. There were many a times I had thought maybe I am ready now. But that maybe was put to rest soon after. I pluck up the courage today to write, just before I am embark on my next visit to the hospital for yet another surgery.
I should start right at the beginning, like how a story should start. This is a story of when things are bad and you think it can’t get any worse, it really can. Compared to the miseries of the world this is a drop in the ocean, a first world “Oh hurt my pinky hold my cup” kinda story, nevertheless it’s my story. It is still a gruesome story filled with a lot of Morphine and Endone. So stay put and continue reading. After the opening few words of inspirations and Kumbaya, I will get back to the story, I promise.
The purpose of this story is not for the pity vote but more to emphasize the importance of “today, right now”. We are all aware of it, however none of us take it very seriously. Your whole world can change within a Nano second. You may have heard the phrase “Live each day as it’s the last” there is an amended Aussie Version and I quite like that one.
“Live each day as it’s the last, as one day you may be right”.
This is the prequel to my story. 26 Dec 2019, We had guests over from interstate. The invention of the phone has been a darn thorn in my life. Wish we just had just had the Telegrams. Then it will be just the one telegram that would be the bearer of bad news.
“Your sister in Hospital (stop) very serious (stop) come soon (stop)”
And that would be it. One telegram. But unfortunately world has moved on from telegrams, to phones and mobile phones. Remember the days when phone calls were charged by the minute. You don’t chat, you hurriedly part important facts and hang up. You don’t have to yell through the phone, testing your vocals because its an international call anymore either. It appears that I am procrastinating.
The long and the short of it – my darling sister-in-law Ranji who we thought was the pillar of health was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Initial phone call came from my other sister-in-law, Jan in Canada. She had heard that Ranji had been admitted to hospital with fluid in her lungs. About then Ranji’s husband rang to advise the same. My initial thought/layman diagnosis was pneumonia. Ranji’s hubby explained that it was fluid coming from her ovaries/stomach region and it was not pneumonia. She was undergoing tests and fluid was being drained. Nothing had been confirmed at this stage however, it didn’t look good. I relayed all this back to Jan. We were all shell shocked. Unfortunately there was no prequel to this part of Ranji’s story. We met her in September 2019, just a few months before for their 40th Wedding anniversary. She even sent us a family photo on Christmas day on WhatsApp. There was no tell-tale signs of her ill health. In the coming days it was confirmed that she indeed had Ovarian Cancer.
It was a very hard pill to swallow. It just didn’t seem fair. She did everything right when it came to taking care of her body. She ate right and lived right. Why? How? Once again the universe was not ready to divulge any wisdom.
She gave it a good fight. We trekked through bushfires to see her as we had no idea how long we had with her. However, she defied everyone’s predictions and soldiered on. She wasn’t called the Iron Lady for nothing. Nov 2020 we celebrated her 60th, a grand zoom black tie event. We celebrated each of the family members birthday on Zoom. In between these grand events we had regular zoom catch up spanning across the Pacific and time zones with the 3 siblings, niece and nephews. We could never get this time back, I am so truly grateful, it was so special but it feels so much more now.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for her. However, she made it look so simple. There were so many moments where we thought this is it, but she would pull through. Many late night phone calls with Jan, the poor girl was stuck in Canada unable to come over due Covid 19 restrictions in Australia. A family member with Cancer is bad enough but Covid just made things so much harder. Even for us who lived in the same country but were not allowed to travel across the State boarders. So, okay I will give that, the phone was a great invention and whatsapp was god sent. Jan and I spent many a nights crying, being angry and then calming each other down on the phone. Thank god we had each other and we had the phone.
The cancer was taking hold in other parts of her body and in Aug 21 she decided to end all invasive treatments. She is just one class act. She rang us that evening, asked hubby and I to sit down and said “I have an update” update, yes that’s the exact word she used, then explained what was happening to her body and treatment options that was available etc. And she went on to explain that she doesn’t want that as it would be a painful procedure, her quality of life would not be great and would only give her a few more months at the most. She went onto explain that now her organs will start to fail one by one, it could take a couple of days or maybe couple of weeks before she passes away. She was not upset, she was calm, she had made a very informed clear decision. Grace and Poise till the end. We were bawling our eyes off and all I could get out was to tell her that she was so amazing and I love her. Not sure if I said that I love her, I kept repeating that she was amazing. My hubby was caught off guard. He was suggesting/stammering that surely there was something more they could do. She calmly told my husband that it was exactly what her son had said, but the cancer was everywhere and she was done. We know she gave it all, and we knew in our hearts she was done. We had to respect her decision.
My youngest started to look into ways to get across the boarder to see her under the “end of life” exemption. Our workplaces were great. They gave us time off without hesitation. Arj got all the necessary paperwork to travel across the boarder. We were all set to leave on that Saturday, however that Friday things got really bad in NSW, Covid had spread up to Dubbo. We were getting information from all who knew we were planning the trip up there and asking us to rethink. We had to abort our plans by Friday night. It was such a disappointment.
This was a very difficult time, I am not going to get into the emotional state of us as I don’t want to open that flood gates again. To say that we felt pretty gutted is an understatement. The next day Arj had this great idea that we could go on a holiday within the State. Since we had already taken time off and we were all feeling pretty awful. So take a break, blow off some steam and return, as life goes on, well life must go on.
So a plan was drafted – First stop Coober Pedy, an Opal Mining town 850Km from City about a 9.5hr drive. Plans were made to stay a couple of nights in an underground motel and then driving back down to Adelaide with a few more one day stops notably including at a place called Coward Springs which boasts a natural hot springs amongst other interesting titbits.
The journey started swimmingly. One of the things Ranji requested was that on our zoom meetings she didn’t want the conversations to be just about cancer. For her life was more than that and especially then. We followed suit. So our green machine started to plow through the land of nothing.
After 9 – 10 Hours of driving around 6.00pm we entered Coober Pedy. It was a quaint little town. All the working mines were quite visible from the road. It was as if we had entered the Flintstones lands. I was waiting for hubby my “Fred” to belt out yabba dabba doo. The used up mines were now converted to Underground Museums, Underground Serbian Church, Underground Art Gallery etc. It was really my cup of tea. This was all going to be added to my itinerary for tomorrow. We had Pizza for dinner from the famous Pizza place where Chopper Read had been, among other famous/notorious people. Loved our cute quaint underground apartment.
All my plans for the next day went up the smoke.
To be continued….