I couldn’t move for days. I lay there under the saline bag and prepared myself carefully before every breath. But most of them hurt anyway. Broken ribs are painful. Then I couldn’t move because of the morphine. They gave me another drip line and a bag of dreams. I could pump as much as I wanted into myself. I had no reason to move. Bad news was waiting: kidney failure; spinal disintegration; chemotherapy; hair loss; gout; a stuffed immune system; and a few other things besides. All ready and waiting for when I returned to earth. So I decided to stay away as long as I could. I would reach my hand out for the drip line and feel my way up the tube till I got to the plastic dial. It was like adjusting the electric blanket before lapsing into sleep. ‘Lapsing’ is not the right word, though. With morphine the fun was only just beginning. It’s the slowly floating down that’s so good. You forget you can’t move. You transcend movement; levitate on the spot. And when you think you’re about to land you suddenly take off again for another circuit. Another frolic. Just for the fun of it. High-jacked. That seemed to go on for some time. In between flights it wasn’t so pleasant. I felt a weight on my chest, pushing down, squeezing me into the mattress, constricting my breathing. I thought of the two miners trapped underground for two weeks in Tasmania, waiting to be rescued, with the rocks squeezing them and a dead body beside them. I scared myself awake with these imaginings. Not knowing when it would end. Not knowing how it would end. Would I be rescued from beneath these rocks? I’d reach out and feel for the tube again. The questions were always there, though. How do broken ribs heal? And if they heal, how do kidneys heal? And my spine that’s made of Swiss cheese, how would that heal? And, anyway, how does cancer heal? Does it heal? I lay there in the departure lounge thinking of these things. Thank God for the morphine.
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