I made a cup of coffee and stood next to the dining table looking at the pile of letters. There had to be twenty of them, neatly stacked but with a slight twist towards the top of the pile; the start of a spiral staircase that went nowhere. Soft morning light angled in across the table, highlighting the fan of crisp white envelopes. I sipped my coffee and stared at the table. I felt warm. I was wearing my own clothes for the first time in a month. Being home again had taken some getting used to. Everywhere I turned there was light, perspective and colour. The angles weren’t regimented and shadows seemed to fall easily across the carpet. I spent some time just walking around, experiencing the freedom to move without having to push the chemo trolley along beside me. I’d find myself standing in the bathroom, holding a towel in front of my chest, dripping water onto the mat. After several minutes I’d become aware I had been staring at myself in the mirror. That happened frequently over the first few weeks. I could not walk past a mirror without looking at myself. The person staring back was a thinner, colourless impression of what I thought to be my real self. I doubted it was me, so I always looked again. I started opening the envelopes, making piles in front of me of invoices and the claim forms that had been sent with them. Torn envelopes I put to the side. I recognized most of the names. Hospital, pathology, radiology, x-ray, CT scan, ambulance, specialist; they all asked politely for attention. Besides the names, everything was written in a language I did not speak or understand. The codes and shorthand meant little to me. I knew what x-ray and CT meant, but little else. There was not one complete sentence in the whole lot. At the bottom, though, it was pretty clear what things meant. I had no idea how to go about paying for it all. I tried to complete a Medicare claim form, but gave up. Two way claims, in- and out-patient services, components of hospital and medical charges, out of pocket charges. And there were some invoices I did not recognize at all. I had never been to Monash Medical Centre. Why did I get a bill from them? And what was Southern Health? It was too much. The disconnect between how I felt being home again and how I felt sitting in front of thousands of dollars worth of bills was extreme. I left the pile on the table and walked away. I rang the health fund. The polite, friendly voice seemed to speak to me from a great distance away. I explained that I had just returned home from a month in hospital and been confronted by a pile of bills. I heard sympathetic murmurings from a long way away. So I went for the jugular… I have cancer…not a lot of energy…feeling a bit confused…don’t know what… “Look, just sign a claim form and put the whole lot in the mail, attention to Jane. I’ll do it for you, OK? Now sit down and have a good cup of tea, won’t you. Just relax.” As I put the phone down I realised I had just commenced playing a completely new game. It seemed I would be a quick learner.
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Regular Contributor
Hi Harker, Out of curiosity - are your writings works of fiction or do they stem from this crazy life we have been led into kicking and screaming? Either way, I always seem to be able to identify with some aspect of yout musings and thoughts. I too went for the jugular when I had recently returned to work (high school teaching) and the rotten sods wouldn't give me a seat on the bus to an excursion.My rather terse language soon had 2 kids feeling very guilty and offering me their seats! I did feel a bit bad aftewards, but I was still a bit wobbly on the pins and din't want to stand in a bus! Keep up the wonderful "stories". Samex
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Deceased
G'day Everybody It was an ordinary train. An ordinary Sunday morning. The train was full. I had managed to get a seat - one of those with the sign "This seat is reserved for the elderly or those with a disability". I figured that I scored on both counts. I was two days out of one of my unanticipated visits to hospital, I felt crook, my back was killing me, I had an indwelling catheter and a bag that was filled with fluid — bright red with blood. The train pulled into a station and before the automatic doors opened everyone could hear the roaring on the platform. An indigenous man forced his way onto the train roaring that he needed a seat he had a bad neck. For whatever reason he decided that I was the person to give up a seat for him. Next to me was a lady, much younger. Did she have a disability? I don't know. Opposite me, also in a seat marked- reserved for etc. was a young mother, one toddler sitting next to her, one in a pusher in front of her. He towered over me - "I need a seat, I have a broken neck". No neck brace, head thrown back. Not the way you would expect someone with a broken neck to hold their head, but I'm not an expert. He kept repeating his mantra, occasionally throwing in the word please. Why was he picking on me? Embarrassed, I struggled to my feet, everyone looking at me as if I was somehow socially unacceptable fro not leaping to my feet. He sat down, throwing his head back - not the posture for someone with a broken neck. The carriage heaved a sigh of relief, and I felt the blood fill my bag. Sailor The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness. Joseph Conrad
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Frequent Contributor
Hi samex Thank you for your feedback. There is no better compliment a writer can receive than for someone to say they identify with what you have dragged out of your gut and arranged on a page in a way that (you think) communicates. I've expressed it like that deliberately to indicate that it isn't fiction that I'm working on. What I am doing is indeed a review and reflection on my direct experience. I have found over 20 years that my best writing has been autobiographical. You've encouraged me to continue. There's a group of us sharing such reflections and stories. We call it expressive writing and we're hiding under the groups button. You are most welcome to join us. We are all exploring this because we think it's a healthy thing to do. I couldn't find a writer's group for cancer survivors, which I thought might be good for me, so I approached the Cancer Council and they suggested we try it on this site. Send Kate a message and she can give you more details. We seem to be sharing really well and are not interested in correcting each other like in an English class or a creative writing group. It is creative writing, because it interprets and challenges, but that is not our principal purpose. And, since it seems that today Sailor is in a Conrad mood: "Art is long and life is short And success is very far off". H
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Regular Contributor
Hi guys, When I was intreatment I promised myself that I would keep a Journal but never did - fear? Too ill and tired? Who knows? Anyway, the idea of writing has tweaked my curiosity and I feel may well help me to come to terms with all of this. I am going to be very busy with work for the next two weeks but I feel that the group may be one that I would like to be involved in, so when I am back in "normal" land I will take your advice and contact Kate. By the way, one of my hats is an English teacher and I PROMISE not to do corrections! Also I am nowhere near as clever as guys with the quotes. Just keep them coming. Thanks for the invite, S
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Deceased
Hi Samex Please do join us - it would be great. An English teacher, personally, I would welcome some professional input. I don't know about the others, but there is one illiterate scientist, with dyslexic fingers, trying to come to terms with a lot of things through writing. Cheers Sailor I start from the premise that no object created by man is as satisfying to his body and soul as a proper sailing yacht. Arthur Beiser, The Proper Yacht


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