Giddy up

It’s a lovely sunny day, and I’ve just returned from a visit to BBQs Galore to pick up some fixings for the coming barbecue season – firelighters, briquets, a rub and some metal skewers. Nothing speaks of summer more than that. As a bonus – for me – it’s also a great sign of getting back to normality.

I didn’t have a barbecue all last season because my ability to eat was compromised, as were my taste buds. I still have some challenges, though not nearly as many as before. As for my taste?

For a while, everything tasted awful. I reckon it wasn’t until February/March that my tastebuds recovered to something like before. It’s not the same, unfortunately, but it’s not far off. Things like chocolate taste different, and generally, I miss out on the rich flavours. I’ve been making favourite dishes all through winter, and they’ve tasted different to me – not as good.

For a while, I wondered if it was my cooking, but I accept now that it’s my ability to taste. I used to wonder at people who weren’t into food. How could that be? I would wonder. Food is one of the great pleasures of life. I understand better now. I don’t get the same pleasure from food as I did before, but it’s still pretty good. I realise that people taste things differently – it is, in fact, subjective.

Still, I reckon a nice char-grilled steak will get me salivating once I get the barbie fired up, which may be as soon as this weekend. Life can’t be too bad when you’re cooking good food over a flame, and the sun is shining.

Time passes

Restless in spirit today, if not in body. I feel slightly off – physically, I mean, a tightness in my head and around my eye. It’s so quiet otherwise, like in the aftermath of some fantastic event. It feels as if time has paused, or slowed at the very least. It will come in a rush tomorrow.

All of this has combined to make me feel a trifle discombobulated. I’m not sure what to do, or what I want to do, though there are plenty of things to be done. At the top of the list, normally, would be to sit at my desk and write. It’s something I look forward to, even if I wasn’t impelled to do it. But not today. I don’t think I could. My head’s a mess.

I woke this morning having slept well, but with many dreams. The dreams were interesting: thought provoking. I remember little now, but that a friend I haven’t seen for many years featured prominently. The question it provoked is why I let him slide from my life. I thought there was significance to the memory – as if in my past there were things worth revisiting and, perhaps, reclaiming.

Yesterday was a big day in Melbourne: grand final day. I reluctantly attended a function in South Yarra. I knew hardly anyone, and half the people I met had no interest in the game. That’s not unusual. The event is a great excuse to party.

The other half were mostly vocal Geelong supporters. They won the day handsomely, so they had plenty to crow about, and crow they did. I was with a Swans supporting friend who had a harder time of it. He was gracious about it in his self- effacing way.

Sitting there I felt a little outside of things and it seemed in many ways a contrived and artificial occasion. It probably is. There were probably Romans in their togas partying hard after a big day at the Colosseum a couple of millennia ago, and it’s been happening ever since.

Tomorrow is a workday again, after four days off. It’s been pleasant, and I managed to get things done, though not in the way of writing. I’ve been cleaning out the garage – sorting things out, throwing out some, repacking others. I’ve invested in tubs to make it more orderly, and can admit to a secret passion for storage items.

It’s dull now, very much a Sunday. Tomorrow is work, though I’ll be here still. Then more time passes.

Until January

It’s a beautiful spring day. The sun is warm and the sky a soft blue, corrugated by widely spaced clouds. As I do most mornings, I went for a walk to get some exercise.

In recent times, I’ve been going further and in unfamiliar directions. It has surprised me that it’s taken so long to properly explore the extended neighbourhood, but I guess there have been extenuating circumstances.

Today I walked as far as Royal Melbourne Golf Course. The borders of the course are relatively close by – perhaps a 15-minute walk. The streets around the course are full of lovely homes with little traffic passing through. There are trees everywhere and people walking dogs, and it seems a tranquil place to live – and a charming place to walk through.

Peering at the houses as I walked by, I was reminded of the neighbourhood where I grew up. Though quite different in ways, there was a similar feel to it. I felt a kind of regret that I had given that up – though lost, it seems more apt. And, as often, it spurred me on. Don’t give up on it, H!

I’m in an odd space right now, a sort of limbo. The cancer is gone, and generally, I’m much fitter than I was. There are still issues to deal with, and I’ve actually been in more pain lately than previously, but it feels like I’ve got a handle on it. I may even have a dog soon. I’m not in the next stage yet, but it’s probably only months away.

Work is a mess – a man-made mess – but I’m reluctant to go into the details just now. The upshot is that until the mess is resolved, I’m left with only half a job. That puts my position in peril, as I always suspected might happen. It would do me good to get out of the place, and if I am to progress, I must – but I’d prefer to do it on my terms. There’s a bit to play out yet.

I’m coming to the point where I have to make a call on which direction to take. Getting cancer gave me a mulligan, but that expires soon. Ironically, if not for cancer, I may not have faced the choice.

I have until about January, I figure. By then, I should be fit and well enough to fully commit to full-time work. My eye will be fixed, and perhaps other things also. It will be a new year and, with it, a new opportunity.

The question now, as always, is where does the opportunity lie? And what will please me? It’s something I have to start thinking about now, I figure, and begin preparations for. The next month will tell a tale.

Forward planning

When I was on holiday, I spent several hours over a few days constructing a complex set of spreadsheets to map out my financial situation and project into the future. I’m at the stage, particularly given my recent illness, where I have to consider how I live in retirement.

I mapped out several different options based on income, with variable factors such as the annual return on my superannuation, CPI, and standard of living.

To a degree, I was pleasantly surprised, though there are plenty of caveats on that.

To start with, I’ve accepted that I have to work for the next 10 years at least to build up my super balance. To be safe, I’ll need to develop a side hustle I can continue into retirement – I’m looking at $10K annually, but hopefully much more.

I’m lucky to be with a super fund with the highest growth over many years. That has a huge bearing on the outcome – more so than gross salary. They’ve averaged over 9% returns over the last 10 years, and that’s despite virtually zero growth over the previous financial year. The difference between 8% and 10% of annual growth equates to years of income when I’m retired.

I’m not sure generally how the pension factors into this. As someone with few assets, I’ll likely qualify, though I’m unsure to what extent. It’s changing all the time, regardless. For the moment, I’ve left it off. Anything I get from it will be a bonus.

It’s hard to see myself becoming a homeowner in the next few years, so I’ve assumed I’ll continue on as a renter. That’s a bummer. I want to live reasonably well and have factored in a decent holiday overseas every three years.

As for expenditure, I’ve mapped out what is likely to be the major capital items I’ll need to buy – a new (preferably electric) car, a replacement TV, washing machine and fridge, all of which are over a dozen years old currently. In addition, I need a new couch, and I’ll look to replace the current TV unit and coffee table – big, heavy items in solid wood – with something lighter and smaller. There will be other bits and pieces, including a dog, which I want sooner rather than later. What I know is that these are purchases I need to make before I retire and while I’m still earning a salary. That’s where the salary becomes essential.

I’ve projected my lifestyle and savings based on my current salary, a midpoint about 20% higher (which I should be able to achieve and which I should be entitled to currently) and 50% higher, CPI adjusted. It sounds like a lot, but I’ve earned that much before and, in fact, much more. I know it’s possible to achieve that, but I wonder if I want the responsibility to go with it.

I finished the novel I’ve been writing while I was away. The next step is to get it professionally edited and look at getting it published. Worse comes to worst, I’ll self-publish to Amazon as an ebook. I think it’s pretty good, however, as do others, so I’m hoping for more than that. I look at any income I get from it as a bonus, though it probably won’t amount to much more than beer money – which is okay. I like beer, and I might even earn enough to afford champagne instead.

I’ll shortly move on to writing my second novel, for which I’ve already completed the first draft. Writing is hard but easy if that makes sense, and I have plenty of ideas. I expect I’ll never stop doing it, and maybe that’s where the $10K will come from. I’m considering setting up a Patreon account, though I’m wary of it. It feels too much like charity.

I visited the office yesterday, which was a novel event and cause for reflection. The offices have been renovated and re-opened, and there was an air of celebration.

I’ve been thinking about work a lot, obviously. My intentions remain unchanged. I hope I make it through to January when I qualify for long service leave. If I depart then with that, and about 7 weeks of accrued annual leave cashed in, I’ll have a handy cash amount to alleviate some of my liquidity issues. I may even manage to sneak a holiday – though, thanks to the eye surgery I need, I’ve downgraded that from 6-8 weeks in Europe, as I hoped, to maybe two weeks in Japan. Europe can come later.

Ideally, I will find another, better-paying job. I don’t know how prospective employers view cancer survivors, but the market remains buoyant. I get a lot of enquiries, though mostly for project management roles, which I hate. Now is not the time, though, neither because of my LSL nor my health, which I want properly stabilised before I take on another role.

I was asked yesterday by a supporter of my work what I want from my job if I were to continue. The easy part of that is a fair salary. I despise them for their pragmatic cheapness. But when I thought about it further, other things came to mind.

I’ve proposed an ambitious roadmap for development over the next 18-24 months. The recommendation is to move from the on-prem to a cloud application, with a list of functions to be configured within it over that period. In terms of salary, I’m a minion, but I’m also the sole architect of what will be a transformative business project if approved. The person I spoke to yesterday is the advocate for it, taking it to the steering committee. I provide the IP, and she does the sales job.

I realised that if the proposal was rejected, I couldn’t continue. I’m chips-in on a new, cloud-based platform. By comparison, the current platform is a dog (no offence Rex). To continue unchanged when the benefits of shifting are so stark would make my position untenable. For the record, I expect it to be approved, more or less, despite conservative apathy.

Then, though I said nothing, I thought I couldn’t continue in the current structure as it is. I need to get away from my TL, who seems more like a duffer every day. In any case, what I do doesn’t logically fit in his team, and it shows. I was always the guru at this – live chat and chatbot – and I brought it with me when I took the role in his team.

The problem is that he knows a fraction of it but ultimately can decide what we do with it. I need separation and autonomy. He’s already stuffed it up enough and has been clagging up attempts to develop it. They’re my three conditions if I was to remain.

It’s probably 50/50 if I do stay. A new manager started yesterday, and a re-structure is very much on the cards. And I have some influential supporters and advocates. I was off 6 months with cancer and returned part-time, yet I gained some gloss with stakeholders because I managed to save something from what had become a bin-fire of a project commenced when I was away.

There are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes. That’s life, I guess. How my health – cancer – plays out is another question mark. As I tell my friends, I’ve got to figure another 30 years at least.

For the moment, unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel my cataract surgery because I can’t afford it. It’s situations like that I have to get beyond.

Before the fact

Tonight, I can’t sleep. It’s just on 1am, and I’ve just turned on the light after more than an hour of lying in the dark. I slept wonderfully well when I was away. There was probably a range of reasons for that – fresh air, plenty of exercise, a good bed, not to mention a psychological relaxation at just being away from home.

For all that, I’ve slept well since my return also. Until tonight.

I visited the ophthalmologist this morning to get the lowdown on my cataract. There were no surprises. At the end of the session, I paid just under $500 and had been booked for surgery in October.

I need the surgery and am glad to have it organised, but I’d much rather it had never become necessary. A month ago, I had no idea I had a cataract. I was planning the annual upgrade of my glasses when quite abruptly, I realised my eyesight had markedly declined. That’s continued; even with my glasses on, everything is becoming fuzzy.

I have no real options but to get this done. The cataract is growing quickly. I don’t know if I’ll be able to drive in a month. But it’s just another thing I have to deal with. Another thing taking me away from the hope of some return to normality.

Now it’s keeping me awake. It’s not fear or trepidation or anything like that. After all I’ve been through, a small procedure on my eye seems almost minor. It might seem a bit crass, but it’s the financial impact that concerns me.

Last week it was confirmed that I must pay about $1900 to the ATO by March next year. My car is currently with the mechanic, and I expect a bill of around a grand (actual $1683). Now, this. I don’t know what it will cost yet, but I expect it will be many thousands. I will get much of it back through Medicare, but I still expect to be out of pocket by over a thousand ($3,500), and quite likely more.

I can afford bits and pieces, but it’s getting a bit rich for me in combination. Add to that the climbing cost of medication – that’s heading towards a thousand for the year also – and I fear I’ll never get ahead. And it seems such a waste.

I’m frustrated and weary. I have to stump up the cash somehow, and I’m sure I’ll manage somehow, but it doesn’t keep me from stressing over it. It’s the sense of helplessness that’s most challenging, but that’s a common feeling when you have a severe illness. I just hoped I would be past that by now.

The good news is that afterwards, I can ditch my glasses. Maybe I should focus on that – though focussing on anything at the moment with my eyes like this is a tall order.

What it means most crucially is that my concept of what ‘regular’ life is put on hold. I envy people who go about their lives with barely a care. I was one of them once. I don’t know when I’ll get back to that or ever will.

I did a lot of productive thinking while I was away. It occurred to me that this was the first time in many years that no one was waiting for me to return home. I missed that, even if it was ‘only’ a dog previously.

Part of regular life for me is having a dog around the house. I realised I had to get onto that, but it’s unlikely now, if not impossible, until sometime next year. I have to endure longer. It seems the mantra of the times. I just have to do it and somehow find a way. You don’t know how tiring it is to keep at that day after day, week after week. But that’s the deal.

I wish people understood. I think that most know who know me think I’m wickedly resilient. I get lauded for my supposed strength. And maybe it’s true – but it takes a lot of effort, and that’s what they don’t see. They see the outside. That’s H, they think; he’s a survivor. In a way, it absolves them of any responsibility.

I shouldn’t complain. I’ve made it my life’s work to be independent. I’ve pushed people away, unwilling to admit to need. I’ve proudly proclaimed my self-reliance. In the end, it becomes habitual, and when people see you, that’s all they see.

I’m having a moan, I know. I want it both ways and can’t. I want to be independent and be seen to be independent, but I also want people to understand it’s not as easy as it looks. I’ll accept help to a certain point, but no more – but then will feel aggrieved when no more is offered. We are complex beings.

I write because it makes it easier for me to manage these things. Writing slows me down. It brings clarity, insight, and perhaps some raw self-awareness. These are the things that allow me to continue – not the brute strength that others might imagine.

Ultimately, I have to manage and deal with a set of conditions. It’s easier when you know what they are. I’m lucky that way – I’m honest and can see. It’s the sort of honesty I could be more open with if I were smarter.

I’ve survived. I’ve come through. I think back to last year when I was in a bad way and marvel at how I did it alone. I know now that I probably needed a carer, but I made it without one. It’s easier now. Not over yet, and maybe not for a while, but I’ve dealt with worse. That’s what will happen now. I’ll deal with these challenges one way or another, and in a year, I’ll look back and wonder what the big deal was. Perspective. It comes easier after the fact.

Now it’s 1.41am, and time to have another shot at sleep.

P.S. The morning after. I got the quote. I can’t afford the surgery. I’m doing my sums and looking at other options, and I’ve told them that I’ll confirm by Tuesday, but unless I pull a rabbit out of my hat, it won’t happen.

Where it started

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been busy tidying, reorganising and downsizing. I’ve got a garage full of boxes and other paraphernalia I’ve wanted to consolidate, and slowly I’ve whittled it down.

I’ve replaced some things with smaller, lighter versions – my old dining table that seated 8-10 has been replaced by a table seating 4-6, for example, and the old table sold. I did similar with a desk. Other things have been sold off – a bedside table, a punching bag I barely used, other odds and sods.

I’ve emptied about a dozen boxes. About 7 boxes of books have been relocated into bookcases. Other boxes, I’ve reviewed and rid myself of stuff I didn’t need anymore, rehousing what remained into fewer boxes. Other stuff – mainly dining-related – I’ve placed where it belongs, into the buffet unit (though the buffet unit sits in my office because there’s no room for it elsewhere).

Some stuff I have to keep but in storage. I’m looking to shift those things from random boxes into more permanent and accessible storage solutions. For example, I’ve got a bunch of hand-written journals covering about 20 years preceding this blog. Yep, there’s more.

I’ve shifted them from a tatty old box into a proper container with a lid that I’ll label. I’ll be doing the same for other things. By the end of this process, I hope not to have anything extraneous and a garage I can navigate.

Regarding the journals, some of the stuff in them is cringeworthy. I started writing when I was about 19, and it has a lot of callow stuff. I was a typical boy in a lot of ways. I had extravagant expectations and was no stranger to hyperbole. There are bits in there describing – in excruciating detail – my first experiences of love and a regular litany of lustful goings on. There are also detailed descriptions of sporting events I attended or watched.

Occasionally, there are reflective sections and parts where I comment, much as I do these days, though my thinking wasn’t as developed or sophisticated then.

I can’t bring myself to read much of it, though I’ll probably get around to it one day. Otherwise, it’s rich and embarrassing material for any biographer to latch onto. Oh, well, to get here, you have to go through that first. It’s the journey.

What lies ahead

So much has changed in recent years, in the world and in my life. By necessity we’ve been made to adapt. I don’t remember more uncertain times than those we live in now, with Covid, climate change, and political turmoil becoming the standard we must bear up against. In so many ways, the outlook is bleak. The carefree days of my youth seem far away. But then my youth is past too, and besides all the global currents swirling about us, there is the personal. In my case, it’s cancer, though it goes beyond that.

Life is forever changed and I don’t know when or if it will settle into a new way or if it will remain forever changing. The best we can do is to shape our life to find pleasure and comfort where it still remains.

This morning I woke without having to rush out the door to the cold and dark. I had my coffee, then I read in bed. This is a small thing but gives me pleasure. It feels civilised and even normal. It’s good for me.

I feel myself very much in a state of transition because of my health. As I get better, the demands on me will become less and I will be able to do more. My outlook has shifted, though it remains unclear which way satisfaction lies. My claims are small for now.

I want to live like this, I know. I want to wake leisurely and approach the day slowly. I imagine a life where I read more, not just for pleasure, but for elucidation. There’s so much I don’t know and I want to expand into the space that reading opens to me. With reading comes thought. They are intertwined. I want to read and I want to think.

There are other things and they are similarly small, and familiar. It’s been years since I travelled properly. I must get back to it. It is another way of being opened up, and another way of thinking.

I’m sure writing will play a part. For the last couple of months I’ve been hard at it after doing nothing when I was ill. It serves an important purpose for me. It’s a way of exploring my mind and of bringing the things held inside me to the surface. It’s easy to argue that it’s another way of opening up. Though it’s hard work, and sometimes torturous, it gives me pleasure.

I don’t want to be alone doing this. I feel ready and able to open myself to that also, and there appear possibilities. What makes it difficult is that I’m not one to compromise. I don’t need companionship. I’m independent and self-sufficient without even trying – perhaps, too much so. It must be a meeting of minds and hearts, as well as bodies. It must be true and real. I want, as one long ago girlfriend described it, someone to steal horses with.

I can be assure of that when I get a dog again. I missing having a partner in crime.

Work, career, money – that’s more difficult. I may want something different, but I’m not in the position where I can change careers so easily. I have to figure this one out. So much of it is banal to me, but I need to make a living – and it’s more important now than ever before.

On the way back from the hospital yesterday I passed by a terrace house for sale in Greville street. I stoped to check it out. It appeared lovely – just my sort of home. I had a moment of sadness knowing I was on track for this until everything turned bad. Now it appears far out of reach – it is far out of reach.

I walked away refusing to accept that. I couldn’t stomach the melancholy reality of that defeat. I must find a way, I thought. And that’s true in many ways. I’ve been corralled by circumstance towards a certain path, but I refuse to take it. I must find a way of changing that, and I’m clever enough to do that.

There’s a lesson in that my illness has made me see more clearly. What makes me different? If you prefer, what are my strengths?

This was one of the party games we played the other night. Describe yourself in three words. Initially, we started with one. Mine was ‘formidable’. After some thought my three words were intelligent, independent and resilient.

Others may see it differently, and it’s hard to narrow it down to three words when each of us is an admixture of attributes all blended together.

These seem the essence of me, however. I might say I’m kind and generous or Im thoughtful and sensitive, that I’m strong or I’m proud, imaginative and creative, articulate and inquisitive, and so on. I think it boils down to this, though: I will keep going, and keep going my own way. And I’m smart.

These are the attributes I have to exploit. I can’t just accept them – I have to use them.

There’s not much I can do about the world about me except lend my weight and my voice when it’s called upon. To find a way forward for myself is a matter of finding pleasure where I can and designing a life around it. To make that possible, I must position myself as a thought leader. I’ve done things all my life, but now it’s time to guide others to do things.

All of this is conjecture still. There’s a lot to play out, and much dependent on my recovery. I’m approaching the last quarter of my life, however. If not now, then when?


For the last couple of days, I was at an offsite session with work. It was a very instructive period.

On both days, I got there about mid-morning as I was coming from my hyperbaric treatment. It was held at a plush venue in one of the office towers in the city. The last time we did this was about March in 2019, and then Covid struck.

It was the usual mix of activities – strategy sessions, games, presentations, guest speakers, team exercises, and reviews. Back when we had it last time, it made for a change from the daily humdrum, but these days it’s quite novel. We hardly see each other anymore, and any gathering is unusual. On top of that, so much has changed, the department has grown, and there are many new faces.

Typically, these events are upbeat and self-congratulatory, and even a tad gung-ho. I’ve never been a great fit for this kind of event because I’m of a different nature. Bear in mind I’m an IT person working in Marketing, and we’re pretty much oil and water. I can tolerate the happy-clapping, but I will never be passionate about making money for other people. That’s the subversive in me coming out.

That was true again this time, though more pronounced than previously because of my recent experiences. Where before, I might have shrugged my shoulders at it, I saw it more cynically yesterday. I was there, slightly damaged, feeling a bit of an outsider, looking at it all as if through a pane of glass.

I actually do well at some of the activities because, by nature, I’m more direct. I feel too cool for school sometimes, but then I get impatient and intervene. Sometimes – previously – I’m coercive, working with people to draw out the essence of their idea and gently coordinating until a solution is achieved. Yesterday, I was more strident.

Later I wondered if my cynicism was unfair. People take meaning from their work, and they’re lucky. It’s not for me to judge that. I may have loftier notions, but who am I kidding? To each their own. I was always out of step – happily so – but I feel foreign to it now. My own is different.

This was only the second time I’ve been with the extended team since I got sick. I’m healthier than before and, in many ways, seem roughly normal. I don’t think about it a lot, but it becomes awkward at times.

To start with, I don’t know what people know of my recent trials. When they ask how I’ve been, what do I say? It’s a real downer to tell them I’m recovering from cancer, but I don’t want to lie either, and if they know and I say nothing, aren’t I being disingenuous?

It pisses me off there was no official notification back when it all started. They said they would but never did. Had they done so, the sting would have gone out of the tail long before. People would be curious, but they may just as likely be happy to see me up and about.

I have no problem with people knowing. It’s the truth, after all, and I’m alive still, so it’s a better story than it might have been (I wonder sometimes what story work would have come up with if I had perished from this?). And, I’d rather be open about it than hiding it away. It actually does me some good to talk about it.

It turns out that some people knew, and others had no clue. Many had noticed my absence and thought something was amiss but didn’t know what. For me, nothing could be worse than rumours and innuendo, but in the absence of hard information, that’s what happens. I can’t tell you how pissed off I am about how it was handled. All the pressure was put onto me.

And so, it came up yesterday, and I faced the dilemma several times, not knowing exactly how to respond. In every instance, I was honest – but you don’t know how much to say, and you’re conscious of what the other person is feeling and how awkward it is for them to respond, which becomes difficult.

What’s ironic is that we had sessions about exclusivity and accessibility on Thursday, some of which felt personally relevant and was a reminder of how none of that happened with me.

We had drinks last night, and it was another interesting and instructive experience. I found it hard because with my diminished hearing, I had to lean in hard to make out what people were saying amid the background noise.

The other side of that is that I found myself having to try extra hard to make myself understood. One guy had earlier told me how much my speech had improved since the last time he spoke to me a few months ago, which was gratifying. I’m probably overly self-conscious about my ability to speak clearly, but in the noisy environs of a busy bar that becomes very relevant. I could see people struggling to understand what I was saying, and a little bit of me died each time.

What happens? You begin to disengage. You don’t put yourself in that position of embarrassment. It runs counter to the articulate and social person I’ve always been. I feel diminished.

Shortly before I left, I got talking to one of the women there, someone I’ve always liked, a thoughtful, sensitive person with great depths. She knew I’d been away, but not why. I told her. The bar had emptied a little by then so I didn’t have to strain so hard. I sensed that she wanted to talk to me, but in the end, I walked away.

As I walked to the train afterwards, I regretted that. You know how sometimes you think of things you should have said after the moment has passed? Generally, I say those things at the time, but they’re in the way of wit. Last night I regretted not being more open with her.

I have this great idea of being more transparent and authentic with others. It appears one of the great lessons from this experience – and yet, with a sympathetic audience, I failed.

At the time, you feel awkward. I’ve experienced the hardship, but I don’t want to make it about me. I know how tricky it is to respond to something like that, and I don’t want to burden others with my story. Yet, I feel there are some people happy to learn.

I had the chance to be quite honest last night with someone I respect and who has the sensitivity to accept and understand, and I walked away. When it comes down to it, I feel embarrassed, which is not something I deserve.

The week before

I’ve had my next surgery confirmed for next Wednesday. It won’t be much fun, but I’m looking forward to it. They’ll be removing the plate and other fixtures from my cheek and mouth and patching the exposed bone with skin grafts from I know not where. I should be out of hospital on Friday and on a liquid diet for the fortnight after.

I’m hoping this will be the end of the pain; that, after this, I’ll be able to open my mouth to it’s full extent; and that there’ll be no more nasal infections. I’m just about at the end of my tether at the moment – more impatient than anything else, but then I did wake up this morning half-closed because of swelling.

I’ve done about half an hour of work today and am now taking the rest of the day off. This is to make up – just a tiny bit – for all the extra hours I’ve been working. And because I’m worn out.

I’ve had problems sleeping lately. Every second night on average, I don’t get to sleep until the wee small hours. The other night it was after 4am. The main reason for this seems to be an overactive mind.

I turn the light off and my mind is full of thought. Some of it is current stuff, thinking about work and the things that need to be done, and so on. Some of it is random memories that return to me for no apparent reason. Some of it is the usual wonder about the state of my health and the journey that has led me here. And some deals in possible futures, most particularly, future conversations word by word.

Yesterday, I tried meditation for the first time since I was about 27. I’ll have another session today.

And tomorrow, I have the long-sought-after, long-planned, ritual steak for lunch.

This was to be recognition that I was well again, but I’ve jumped the gun because I was so impatient. I’ve invited the same crew who were intended for my last supper – a steak – booked the weekend before surgery to remove the tumour. That lunch was cancelled because of Covid, which was unfortunate and somehow poetic.

It won’t be the same tomorrow, but I look forward to it. I’ll have to cut my steak into itty-bitty pieces to fit it in my mouth, but it will be worth it. Good to see the guys again for what will surely be an afternoon of many laughs.

Out in the world

Since I was diagnosed with cancer 10 months ago I don’t think I’ve been busier than I’ve been the last week and a half. I’m weary, but I’ve enjoyed it.

It’s been a time of reunion as much as anything else. I had a friend from Mullumbimby down visiting his family. He was here for about nine days and visited three times. We had breakfast together twice and went on a drive in his EV the other time. We walked down the beach deep in conversation. Just as we used to, we discussed politics and ethical dilemmas and the morality of social media (so okay, we never used to discuss that).

He’s a gentle soul with a generous spirit and a quirky sense of humour. I was very grateful for his time and attention. He’s a great bloke.

Today, I had brunch with a mate visiting from Coolum with another mate from across town. We spoke of old times and how our lives had diverged. It was cool but the sun was bright and once more we walked along the beach afterwards.

It was Easter last weekend, and on Saturday I went with a friend to Sorrento. This was quite a trip for me. For the previous ten months, I’ve barely gone anywhere. The places I’ve gone – to and from the hospital, the city a few times, and the local area – have become repetitive. A trip down the coast to a summer hotspot on a sunny day was a great change.

We had lunch at the Sorrento Hotel, which was full but pretty average.

I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance joining us. While everyone else was off somewhere else, she told me how she had been following my cancer commentary on Facebook. She hadn’t commented but thought it was great. It was surprising for a man to be so open, she said: I was very articulate.

I’ve wondered what people think of my rambling posts, but some positive feedback lately has reassured me. I knew what she was saying. I’m conscious of how much I’m revealing but it doesn’t worry me. That by itself is quite a change to my pre-cancer self, and I’m very comfortable with it. I said that to her. I told her how I had come to realise that you can be vulnerable without being diminished by it.

Things happen to everyone. It’s a part of life. Things may happen to me but I don’t become them. They’re real, like the weather, and like the weather, I must take account of them. But, sunshine or rain, I remain the same man.

While I was down there I arranged to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen since before all this. They’re now living down there permanently.

The sun was shining and the streets teeming with day-trppers when I found them sitting outdoors at a cafe with a bottle of wine. I was with them for half an hour and it was lovely.

Part of it is me opening up to the world again. They set eyes on me and reckoned I didn’t look too bad. They asked questions, and I told stories, and at the end of it, we kissed and shook hands, and then I was off home again.

Then there’s been work. Ironic after what I wrote last week that this week I’ve had to step up and do some of the things I described and said I wouldn’t do. I’ll write about it another time. Suffice to say, I’ve worked double the hours I was scheduled to. I didn’t mind.