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Showing posts from 2016

The new question at the heart of our political divide

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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 growin

One year on

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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 na├»ve 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

Looking beyond cuteness

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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 w

Out the other side

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“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.

Much in a name

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Naming a child is one of the greatest responsibilities a parent has. Short of some dramatic action by its bearer, a person is stuck with a name for life and all the nominative determinist consequences that flow from it. While opening it up to the whims of the democratic process was one option ( Baby McBabyface? ) and engaging the services of a baby name consultant was another, Melanie and I opted to take on the responsibility ourselves. Our criteria? We wanted a name that suited a child as well as the adult she will become. We wanted a name that conveyed both warmth and gravitas. We wanted a name that carried some broader meaning, within our family and beyond it. We wanted a name that was easy to say and easy to spell. And we wanted a name that sounded good, in its entirety and when each part stood on its own. For us, it wasn’t just the given names that needed to be chosen. With Melanie and I each keeping our family names when we got married, our daughter’s family name also

The joys of new life

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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 talk

Life as a cancer spouse (or chemo groupie)

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Since my diagnosis last year I've shared my reflections on this blog. Now it's time for Melanie, the woman who has been by my side throughout, to have her say. October 2015 was a memorable month in our household. We were in the early stages of a much-anticipated pregnancy and digesting the news of a possible job offer overseas. And Ari was rapidly becoming unwell with what turned out to be a primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma. Fast forward six months and with treatment over it seems like the right time to look back on the experience of being a cancer spouse.   1. Listen when other people say it's more important to be at the hospital than in the office. There are always going to be other people who can write articulate and persuasive documents (although usually not the people who assert that this is their skill set), but not many people can hug your husband before surgery. I deeply appreciated having a boss who supported me using my accumulated carer's leave and