Showing posts from 2016

The new question at the heart of our political divide

1968 was one of them, and so was 1989. 2001 is seared into the memory, and now 2016 will join them. What made each of these years so powerful was not just that they were filled with dramatic events, but that those events upended our existing assumptions about the way the world worked.

It is easy to be an expert in hindsight, but each of those years mark the time when the tensions that had thus far been subterranean finally broke through the surface. Each of these dramatic events were not contrary to the narrative that came before, but were a graphic manifestation of it.
For 1968 it was the swirl of racial tension, military adventurism and state repression that motivated people to hit the streets. In 1989 the gradual crumbling of life behind the Iron Curtain became impossible to mask in country after country. Twelve years later the seething resentment in much of the Middle East at American supremacy manifested itself unambiguously in New York. And throughout this year the growing frust…

One year on

Last Sunday was my birthday. The plan was to spend a fair chunk of it at a picnic in leafy-green Yarralumla, getting some sun on my face as I ate imported cheese, quaffed sparkling white and threw soft toys at my baby daughter in the naïve hope that she might make some motion to catch them.

It didn’t quite go to plan (a public yoga presentation and a howling gale put paid to that) but it was still a whole lot better than last year’s birthday. That was spent in the cardio-thoracic ward of The Canberra Hospital, awaiting the results of the biopsy on the huge mass that had been found in my chest.
There was a small part of me that feared that last year’s birthday (documented here) might in fact be my last one. Or at least my last one in the carefree happy-go-lucky life to which I had become accustomed.
But a year on, I remain largely free of care (perhaps sometimes too free of it for my own good), still chugging along much as I was before my cancer struck. The biggest change by far in th…

Looking beyond cuteness

Every time I meet a new baby the sequence is the same.

“Oh look,” I say, raising my eyebrows as I gently tickle the infant’s tummy with my index finger, “isn’t this baby…” And then I pause for a second, restraining myself from inserting the usual adjective. “Isn’t this baby bright,” I utter, praising any eye contact the baby can achieve and even just the ability to limit its own dribbling, if that’s what it will take to establish my contention that baby is, indeed, bright.

I know I’m kidding myself, but I just can’t make myself offer the usual praise for a baby – isn’t this baby cute?

Now that I’m the father to a newborn – 12 weeks old and going strong – I’m as tempted as most other parents to offer up that usual description whenever I’m asked about my daughter. Sometimes I hold back, but often I yield to it.

Why do I dislike “cute” so much? To me, “cute” is a celebration of docile conformity. Cute is cherubic cheeks and fluttered eyelashes. Cute is knowing one’s place in the world ra…

Out the other side

“So, does that mean we’re in remission?” asked my wife hopefully.
“Well,” said my haematologist, leaning back in his chair thoughtfully, “yes, I guess so.”
Exhale. And so it was that I found out I had beaten cancer, with a whimper rather than a bang.
It was a suitable bookend to my experience in October, when I found out my body was afflicted with this wretched disease with a rather underwhelming encounter with a distracted doctor.
It had been about six months since I’d felt the effects of the lymphoma, and three months since the last of the chemotherapy washed through my body. I knew there was a fair chance I was in the clear, but it’s very comforting when that observation is made by a medical professional with a PET scan of my body at his fingertips.
As the doctor explained, it doesn’t mean that the mass in my upper chest has disappeared entirely, but that the tumour that does remain is small and innocuous. Those cells may never disappear from my body entirely. A further PET scan…

Much in a name


The joys of new life

As I sit writing this post my soundscape is filled with the contented murmurings of my daughter as she sleeps in the bassinet beside my bed. During a point in each sleep cycle she becomes quite animated, her breathing quick and irregular, her little palms flailing in front of her face and her lips letting out wordless utterances of agony or ecstasy. Such is the way with the dreams of a newborn child, where the realness of the experience manifests itself in the physiology of the dreamer.

Just what a newborn dreams about is hard to imagine - perhaps a pleasant dream about the cosiness of the womb or a nightmare about her sudden exit from it.

My daughter Amelia entered the world just two weeks ago. Every moment since then has been one of bliss for my wife Melanie and I, even the moments when Amelia's contented murmurings metamorphosise into pained screams from deep in her lungs.

As parents of a newborn we can quite happily while away the hours with Amelia, cuddling up and talking t…

Life as a cancer spouse (or chemo groupie)