This

Life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Jen­nifer Brad­ford Robert Brad­ford

JEN­NIFER sub­mit­ted the piece be­low last year, un­suc­cess­fully. She was very dis­ap­pointed. Since that time many events have oc­curred in Jen’s life. She died re­cently from throat can­cer. She was only 52, a ded­i­cated and lov­ing mother, mother-in-law and grand­mother, a true friend to many. Her faith in a bet­ter life be­yond this world helped her through a ter­ri­ble jour­ney of pain, surgery, ra­dio­ther­apy and chemo­ther­apy, none of which pro­vided re­lief or cure. Jen re­mained a fighter un­til her last breath but was dev­as­tated when she was no longer able to sing. How did she feel when her hear­ing went?

An an­i­mal lover, if able she would have had all the an­i­mals from the ark. She de­vel­oped a wicked sense of hu­mour. One of her doc­tors asked: ‘‘How old is this lady, about 35?’’ She quickly replied, ‘‘I like you, you can stay.’’

My ear­li­est mem­ory of Jen is be­fore we dated. I gave her a lift home one night. With much courage she asked me if I would do her a favour and take her to her grad­u­a­tion ball. I said yes with­out hes­i­ta­tion. There be­gan a friend­ship and love last­ing 36 years.

So if you are read­ing this, Jen’s sub­mis­sion has been suc­cess­fully pub­lished. OK, so I’ve wo­ken up in ICU with a nurse at­tend­ing to my ev­ery need — things I could do my­self be­fore my la­ryn­gec­tomy. Even though I was told what to ex­pect af­ter the surgery it’s still a bitch to see what’s go­ing on. And now I’ve got tubes and drips com­ing and go­ing from just about ev­ery ori­fice (plus the odd one or two the sur­geon has made). The body that was mine is now def­i­nitely theirs. But the worst thing is the big M word — yes, mor­phine. Lordy, the hal­lu­ci­na­tions . . . and, an­noy­ingly, I can’t re­call them. Ex­cept the duck. I re­mem­ber the duck. I re­mem­ber a few tricks of mine: pulling off my ECG cords and oxy­gen mon­i­tor. The nurses didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate it one bit — not rec­om­mended be­hav­iour for those who don’t know what they’re do­ing. I fi­nally get to the ward. How won­der­ful!

Do I sound a bit snarky? It’s true what they say about the nurses be­ing mar­vel­lous, even if — from hu­man na­ture — there’s a clash here and there (from frus­tra­tion when an ac­tive per­son like me is grounded). It’s all for­got­ten when the jokes be­gin with the night team — it’s amaz­ing how vo­cal you can be with a white­board — and you for­give them for what they have to do to you at two in the morn­ing.

The whole crew are gems, the meal ladies and the clean­ers too; God bless them, they take time to have a lovely one-sided con­ver­sa­tion. And last but not least — how can I re­phrase that? — the other part of the A-team, the doc­tors who got me this far and the speech pathol­o­gists (‘‘speechies’’) show­ing me that even though we were not born to breathe through a hole in the neck, with prac­tice we can mas­ter the tech­nique. Maybe I can’t blow on a hot cuppa any more, or my nose for that mat­ter, maybe I can’t smell in the old way or spit when I want to spit (a bug­ger when clean­ing my teeth). It’s oth­ers, not la­ryn­gec­tomees, who find the big­gest dif­fer­ence. The way I see it, I’m miles bet­ter off than some. I’m still alive, and look­ing good. That’ll be some­thing worth talk­ing about when I can.

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