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.